Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Triumph of Diversity in the "Blue Wave" Election of 2018

Readers, I have been away from this blog a long time. It is partly that I have been very busy, with academic and political involvements, but is it more so because I have been too depressed and dispirited by the unending cruelty, venality and inhumanity of the Trump era. I have never felt so afraid that America might devolve into a brutal, Fascist state as I have been this year, in light of  the Trump administration's disregard of law and ethics, and racist obsession with demonizing and abusing immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants, not to mention various expressions of hostility toward African-Americans and Muslims. But as of Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018, when the results of the 2018 midterm election started to come in, and the evidence of a Blue Wave of Democratic party victory across the country began to mount, my spirits have lifted, though I was heartbroken by the defeat of the truly inspiring Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke as well as the apparent losses of two very impressive African-American candidates in southern states, namely Stacey Abrams running for governor in Georgia and Andrew Gillum for governor in Florida. It now seems that Abrams and Gillum might yet emerge victorious as the final counts and possible recounts proceed.

In my own home region in New York State, I saw a racist campaign against a highly qualified African-American House of Representatives candidate, Antonio Delgado, fail to derail Delgado's ascent to victory, and a progressive State Senate candidate, Jen Metzger, prevail over a Republican candidate who in the past would have been a shoo-in, this being a generally conservative-leaning part of the state. This kind of Democratic victory at the state level was part and parcel of a vast Democratic surge nationwide, with 350 Democrats elected to state legislatures and 7 states opting for Democratic governors, shifting the balance of governorships from 32 Republican vs. 16 Democratic to 26 Republican vs. 23 Democratic, with one of those Florida not entirely certain, and Georgia still to be decided.

Overall, the election shows a real triumph of diversity over the Trumpian preference for white male leadership and possibly also white supremacy. Consider how many barriers were broken, how many "firsts"  were registered. In Colorado: the country's first openly gay governor, Jared Polis. The country's first two Native American women  were elected to Congress: Debra Haaland, in New Mexico, and Sharice Davids in Kansas, who is also the first lesbian congresswoman elected in the state. The nation's first two Muslim women were also elected to Congress: Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. In Massachusetts, the state's first African-American female was elected to Congress, Ayanna Pressley. In Texas, the state's first two  Latina congresswomen: Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia. In New York, the youngest ever congressperson was elected, Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There was just one such "first" on the Republican side: Tennessee's first female Senator, Marsha Blackburn. Overall, the Republicans had their best showing in white-majority, economically struggling, rural areas, while the Democrats prevailed in urban and suburban areas with more diverse populations.

I believe that this nationwide embrace of racial, ethnic and religious diversity represented by these Democratic victories shows the tolerant, open dimension of the American national character coming to the fore, and demonstrating that it can stand up to and indeed face down the specter of ethno-national Fascism offered by Trump and his ilk.  This may be the start of America waking up to its "better angels," in the phrase made famous by Abraham Lincoln, the American leader who chose to stand up against the slavery of African-Americans rather than acquiesce to it, which would have been the easier path, which the pundits of the time might well have assumed was the logical, pragmatic course. Lincoln stood up for the more idealistic option, choosing to embrace diversity rather than deny it, and on Nov. 6, so did America.

There is hope!

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