5 takeaways from the midterm elections

November 30, 2018

On Tuesday, Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Mike Espy, a former congressman and Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Clinton, in the state’s hotly contested run-off election. Espy would have been the third Black candidate to be elected senator or governor since Reconstruction from a former Confederate state. Hyde-Smith’s win stretches the Republicans’ advantage in the Senate — 53 seats to 47 — even as the Democrats regained control of the House. And last week, in a defiant speech, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams admitted that she could not win against her Republican opponent Brian Kemp in the state’s gubernatorial election after a fierce recount effort.

Race took center spotlight during the midterms. Here’s what we learned.

Racism wins

Don’t let anyone tell you its going out of style, racism made great strides this mid-term season. From Brian Kemp’s promise to “round up illegals” in his big truck, to Hyde-Smith’s endorsement of “public hangings” as a crime deterrent, candidates openly embracing explicitly racist agendas and rhetoric didn’t stop them from winning their races.

The media still doesn’t know how to talk about racism

After Cindy Hyde-Smith’s run-off win, outlets like Bloomberg announced that she’d “overcome race controversy,” proving once again the level of linguistic gymnastics many editors will employ to avoid calling a white person’s actions racist.

If someone makes a comment about wanting to attend to a public hanging and dresses up in a confederate hat calling it “Mississippi history at its best,” it’s probably a safe bet to describe those actions as racist.

Stop scolding Black people about voting. WE DO!

We sat through people chiding Black folks for not voting and how we are shaming our ancestors if we don’t make it to the polls. Not only does this overlook the very real systematic barriers that make it difficult for Black voters to cast their ballots, but, guess what? We actually *do* vote. In fact, the 2018 midterms had the highest Black voter midterm turnout since 1914. If there was any kind of so called Blue Wave, it was spurred by Black voters.

Winning is harder when the other side cheats

There was a surge of absentee ballot requests from Black voters in Georgia the likes of which haven’t been seen since Obama’s 2008 election, but the energy generated by Democrat Stacey Abrams’ bid to be the country’s first Black female governor was no match for good old fashioned cheating. Kemp purged 340,000 voters, mostly Black, from the voter rolls though “exact match” legislation that he helped architect as Secretary of State.

Abrams, after admitting she could not win the Governor’s race, filed a lawsuit over how Kemp ran the state’s elections. “I’m not suggesting that I know I would have won, but I am saying that the results were unalterably made less safe and less secure because of the actions taken by the secretary of state.”

White women still haven’t gotten their shit together.

As a whole, a higher percentage of white women cast votes for Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections than they did in 2016, but in key races white women continued to vote white. In Georgia, 75% of white women cast votes for Kemp over Abrams and in Florida, 51% voted for Ron DeSantis over Andrew Gillum. And in Texas, 60% of white women voted for Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz over Beto O’Rourke. And when issues that have a disproportionate impact on women like reproductive healthcare and education are on the line, white women’s strategy of voting with white men, most of the time, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

But, it’s not all bad!

There were key wins that should give even the most jaded among us a little hope.

32 year-old registered nurse who had never held public office Lauren Underwood won her race in Illinois’s 14th congressional district in a stunning upset. Her district is 86% white and she won on a progressive platform highlighting the importance of protecting health care and strengthening paid family leave. After her win, she told her supporters, “Look at what we have done. You stood up and declared that this community deserves better. Together we have built a movement. That is democracy.”

Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley made history to become Massachusetts’s first black woman elected to the US House of Representatives after defeating 10 year incumbent Michael Capuano in the primary.

And of course, Rep.-elect Lucia “Lucy” McBath won her race for Congress in Georgia’s 6th District after her son Jordan Davis was murdered by a racist after he instigated an altercation about a car stereo in 2012. McBath, a Delta airlines flight attendant, became involved in gun control activism after her son’s murder, won a district that had been held by Republicans for four years. “I’m risking my son’s legacy for the people of this district.”

“What I’m doing today is still mothering his legacy,” McBath said in a speech. “I’m extending what I would do for my son to my community.”



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