New Faces of Democracy

This year’s midterms brought a new wave of diversity to the United States Congress. This November there was record turnout for voters, over 100 million showed up for the first time in American history and according to CBS News exit polls 17% of them were first time voters, whereas the last midterm election only 3% turned out to vote.

Not only did this race turn out a record number of voters, but also a record number of female candidates and the largest number of women elected to congress. Not just women won seats in varying states for the first time ever, but specifically women of color. In Kansas and New Mexico, the first ever Native American women, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, were elected into congress. In Minnesota and Michigan the first Muslim women, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, were elected into congress.

Ilhan Omar is already beginning an initiative to repeal the ban on head coverings in congress that has existed for 181 years. In Rashida Tlaib’s home state of Michigan voters decided to legalize recreational marijuana, making Michigan the first Midwestern state to fully legalize its use.  Additionally, Texas elected its first two Latina congresswomen, Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar.

Perhaps one of the most popular incumbents to win their congressional race was the youngest woman ever voted into Congress, 29-year old American-Puerto Rican Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

As a millennial, Ocasio Cortez enjoys posting endearing videos on Instagram, such as her congressional freshman orientation where she referred to the Capitol Building as “Hogwarts” and discovered the “underground tunnels” in Washington.

Ocasio-Cortez even posted a story about a protest she attended outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office where young people were demanding action against climate change and to implement a Green New Deal. After raising some eyebrows with this endeavor, she addressed it on her Instagram, stating, “it’s definitely an unusual thing to do, but these activists have been putting themselves and their bodies on the line and I felt that their cause was important and needed to be supported.”

Another woman, Abby Finkenauer, was also one of the youngest people voted into congress in US history, although she will turn 30 by the time she takes her place in office.

There were also many victories on the LGBT+ front that some are calling the “Rainbow Wave.” The largest victory beginning with Colorado electing the first openly gay governor in US history.

Sharice Davis, mentioned previously as one of two of the first Native American women elected to congress, is also the first openly gay woman to be elected in Kansas, and Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodward were also the first LGBT+ members elected to the Kansas state legislature. Additionally, Chris Pappas was elected as New Hampshire’s first openly gay congressperson, along with two transgender women who were elected to the House of Representatives, Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker.

Angie Craig, a lesbian Democrat, unseated her opponent, anti-LGBT+ Republican congressman Jason Lewis, who publicly compared gay people with “rapists”.

Perhaps one of the most entertaining victories for the LGBT+ community was when Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk who refused to give marriage certificates to same-sex couples, was ousted from her seat by Democrat Elwood Caudill.

Many students at SNC were emotionally invested in the 2018 midterms, such as Ronan Hill, a Freshman majoring in Environmental Science. Ronan requested an absentee ballot for his home state of Vermont.

Hill stated that he decided to vote in Vermont because he really wanted to vote for an openly transgender woman who was running for governor for the first time in US history. Even though she lost, Hill remained positive.

“The fact that a member of the LGBTQ community has the right to run for a position in our government is growth. It is a testament to the new country in which we are becoming.” Hill said. “That’s what the Vermont election represented, the first of what’s to come.”

When asked whether or not he believed that the US political climate would shift as a result of this year’s midterms, Hill replied, “if anything, the midterm only adds more questions (for the next election).” Hill said.

“Forty-four out of our fourty-five presidents have been white men. That represents only one view of what it is like to live in this country. How can we equally speak for every demographic when primarily only one has been in power. A healthy wave of change is coming. We must equally represent all ethnicities , religions and genders of this country,” Hill said.