Record Breaking Wins for Women in the Midterm Elections
On Tuesday, November 6th, America voted in the 2018 midterm elections, and saw a record-breaking turnout of 113 million voters. With Republicans holding the majority of the seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Democrats looked to reclaim their power in a “Blue Wave.” With results still trickling in, Republicans have held onto the Senate with a total of 51 seats, leaving 44 to Democrats, and two for third party. However, a major overturn in the House proved a victory for liberals with a 28 seat lead.
For the past few days, media channels have debated the question: was this indeed a blue wave? True, snatching more than the necessary 23 seats that were needed to control the House was indeed a crucial feat. But with the Democrats’ inability to gain the defining two seats needed for the Senate, as well as major candidate losses like Beta O’Rourke to Ted Cruz in Texas and Andrew Gillum to Ron DeSantis in Florida, this feels a bit more like a blue ripple than anything else.
Regardless of where you stand on the left/right spectrum, one thing is for certain: these 2018 midterm results have been a turning point for women. According to a USA Today analysis of the elections, women had a historical win of 121 seats and counting, surpassing the previous record of 107. With 23 female members of the Senate, and 98 members of the House, women now make up 23% of Congress.
The pool of elected female Senators and Representatives proved to be a record breaking bunch as well, as expected. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at the age of 29, became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. We also elected our first two Muslim women. Rashida Tlaib is a Palestinian-American from Michigan, while Ilhan Omar is Somali-American and a former refugee. Additionally, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, from Kansas and New Mexico respectively, will be our first Native American congresswomen. Congress also holds a new record of 38 women of color, 35 of whom are Democrats. Many other candidates, such as Jahana Hayes and Ayanna Pressley, the first elected black women of Connecticut and Massachusetts, were ‘firsts’ as well.
CNN exit polls were also indicative of the rising unrest in our country regarding issues that effect women. Close to 50% of voters did not support Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation to the Supreme court, while about two-thirds said that they want to see Roe v. Wade remain intact. Additionally, over 80% of voters regard sexual harassment as a serious issue.
Yet despite many of these progressive changes, women still have a long way to go. The increasing polarity among the women of the two parties, as well as the still-daunting gender gap remain disheartening. Of the 98 women in the House this year, 85 are Democrats, while similarly in the Senate, Republicans make up only three of the 13 female seats. If women cannot reach across the aisle and work together, we will never be taken seriously, and we will continue to be overlooked. It is not enough for only one party to knock a crack in the patriarchy; a broken hammer can’t shatter glass.
The government is the platform by which, theoretically, the concerns of the people may be addressed. If not all groups are represented, or if they only comprise a small minority, issues that uniquely affect them are much less likely to change. Even with the changes we have seen this week, our country’s political gender gap is alive and well. Men still make up the vast majority of both the Senate and House. According to the CNN exit polls, 80% of voters think that it is important for more women be elected into office, with only slightly more women than men agreeing on this position. Additionally, about seven-in-ten voters think that it is important for more minorities to be elected as well. But while the polls seem to hint at progress, the numbers that came out of the midterms still need work in order to truly embody these ideals.
However, the work that we still need to do in order to reach political parity does not negate the pink wave that washed through our nation last week. Clearly there is a change in the air, a change which many attribute to Donald Trump. In a CNN exit poll, two-thirds of voters said that they were voting because of him, with the majority expressing opposition rather than support.
The important point to take away from this midterm is the value of unity in the face of oppression.
Donald Trump may be racist, sexist, and homophobic. His crooked agenda may be designed to disenfranchise the majority of this country. But his actions and policies have undeniably brought women and other oppressed groups together in unprecedented ways. We must continue to fight back every day. We must continue to march, to throw rallies, to run and vote in elections. Because as we saw this week, women will be heard.
(Illustration: Sophie Lee)