by E. Photo by Mario Tama.
I woke up at 4 am London-time to check the results. Scrolling through the news in the pale dark of almost morning, my face lit up as I read the headlines declaring historical firsts. The youngest woman ever elected to Congress. The first openly gay representative. The first Muslim women elected. The first Native American women elected. At that moment, I felt a beaming, near-euphoric pride for my country—a feeling that had previously been all but consumed by the misery of Trump’s dystopian administration.
There were, however, a significant smattering of grave losses for the Left last night—Beto O’Rourke was defeated in the Texas Senate race (#Beto2020 please), Stacey Abram’s landmark gubernatorial race in Georgia is still too close to call, Florida unsurprisingly elected the openly racist Ron DeSantis, and my own home state of West Virginia passed a deliberately confusing ballot initiative to eliminate access to abortion.
Despite these setbacks, although substantial, there are many wins to celebrate. The Democrats won the House, and a record number of women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks have taken seats in the halls of the US government. Bolstered by the progressivism of the new elects, a renewed priority will be given to immigration concerns, the environment, preventing gun violence, and protecting reproductive rights. There are bold, new voices to challenge the president.
They’re calling it the Rainbow Wave: a younger, queerer, more racially diverse Democratic party. The Rainbow Wave is a culmination of two years of activism, grass-roots efforts, and no small amount of righteous anger that led to the upset of the Republican-controlled Congress.
Here are some Rainbow Wave midterm highlights that have me feeling optimistic:
Letitia James (D) became the first woman in NY elected as attorney general and the first black person to be attorney general.
Veronica Escobar (D) and Sylvia Garcia (D) are projected to be the first Latinx Congresswomen from Texas.
Rashida Tlaib (D) of Michigan and Illhan Omar (D) of Minnesota became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Deb Haaland (D) of New Mexico and Sharice Davids (D) of Kansas became one the two first Native American women (with Davids being openly gay as well!) elected to Congress.
Ayanna Pressley (D) became Massachusetts’s first black congresswoman.
Chris Pappas (D) will be the first openly gay representative in Congress to represent New Hampshire.
Jared Polis (D) of Colorado is the first openly gay man to be elected as governor. (Remember the major Supreme Court case that ruled in favor for the homophobic Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple? Polis now governs that state. I’m looking forward to many more gay wedding cakes, personally.)
Gerri Cannon (D) and Lisa Bunker (D), both of New Hampshire will join Danica Roem (D-Virginia) in being the only transgender women representation in the House of Representatives.
And my personal favorite candidate of this election cycle: working-class, Bronx-born democratic socialist, red-lipstick-wearing goddamn Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. At 29 years old, she is now the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. (We featured her shade of lipstick in a fashion profile in Issue 04, by the way.)
As America watches her sunrise, I hope even more firsts have been counted. Learn their names; they will lead us into this rainbow era of more diversified and progressive American politics. Let’s keep this momentum all the way until the 2020 presidential election. And please, remember what a difference was made last night with your voice, your energy, your vote. To quote Beto, I’m as hopeful as I’ve ever been.