Everyone is basking in the moment. After two years of Donald Trump, Republican-controlled everything, many dangerous setbacks, a rollback of protections and a toxic environment, Democrats finally got a win on Tuesday! After securing control of the House and garnering several governorships, Democrats got a semblance of a check on this President. But before you start popping bottles, going on a shopping spree or doing a victory lap, take a moment to pause and look at the entire picture. Was this a ‘blue wave’ as many had predicted? Or was this a mild current that was met with brute red force that included voter suppression, gerrymandering and other schemes? The truth is, we should honor the victory in the midterms, but keep in mind that there was no clear referendum against inciting hate and division. In other words, people better wake up to the reality that the real fight has just begun.
In the state of Georgia, the race for Governor is still on. Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is
running to be the first Black female governor in the entire country, has called for a recount and said she expects a runoff after what can only be described as utter madness. First, her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp (who is also the Secretary of State and therefore overseeing the election), disenfranchised around 53,000 voters (70% of whom were Black). Then on Election Day, some voting machines were down, creating extremely long lines in several predonomantly Black areas. At one polling place in Snellville (which has a higher percentage of Blacks) , people were unable to vote for hours because there were no power cords for the machines. Yes, you read that correctly. At press time, Kemp has about 50.4 percent of the votes, and Abrams has around 48.7 percent; which translates to a difference of approximately 63,000 votes. Kemp’s campaign claimed victory on Thursday, even though many absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted. Abrams is still pushing for a recount.
Florida had an opportunity to elect its first Black governor with Mayor Andrew Gillum. Instead, they picked Republican Ron DeSantis who early on in his campaign went on Fox News (where else) and said that electing Gillum would “monkey this up.” No dog whistle here – it’s just a straight bullhorn. There were racist robocalls that referred to Gillum as a ‘negro’ and stated that a ‘monkey’ is making the rounds in Florida (a chimpanzee noise was also played in the background at the word monkey). A reminder: it’s 2018.
Meanwhile, voters in Florida’s Broward County said they were blocked from a polling site that was moved inside a gated community. Long lines, confusion and confrontations ensued. There were also about 1.6 million ex-felons, including 500,000 Black folks, who did not have their right to vote restored in the state. As of publication of this article, DeSantis won with just 49.7 percent of the votes to Gillum’s 49.1 percent – just over 50,000 votes. That’s it.
In North Dakota, after the systemic disenfranchisement of thousands of Native Americans, people scrambled to obtain new IDs ahead of the midterms. Then on Election Day, there were reports that many tribal IDs were still rejected. Over in Kansas, there was other reporting that thousands of ballots were tossed, and the list of voter suppression goes on and on. According to Jon Cooper, Chairman of The Dem Coalition, Democrats could have flipped TWICE as many seats were it not for GOP voter suppression and gerrymandering (manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency).
It’s a lot to take in, I know. As we keep up our resolve, it’s important to remember that it isn’t all doom and gloom. Voters in a half dozen states approved ballot initiatives on Tuesday that will either restore the right to vote for ex-felons, make it easier to register to vote or reduce partisan gerrymandering. These states are both red and blue. Also, two Muslim women were elected to Congress for the first time ever; Colorado elected the nation’s first openly gay governor; Texas is sending its first two Latina women to Congress and New York elected its first Black female state Attorney General. Then of course, there is the House victory which shouldn’t be discounted at all.
If Donald Trump’s Presidency has ushered in anything, it’s a renewed urgency of now. With so much on the line from our right to vote and legal protections against discrimination, to affordable health care and a social safety net for those who need it, we can’t take anything for granted. It’s ok to celebrate Tuesday’s election for what we should, but it’s important to remember that they weren’t all victories. The midterms may be over, but now the real work begins. Get ready.