2018 Midterm Elections Recap

The 2018 midterm elections have officially come to a close and the winners have been named. While many saw this election cycle as a referendum against the Trump administration, it also became a brilliant display of the power of grassroots mobilization especially for those progressive candidates Ocasio (NY), Hayes (CT), Polis (CO) and Omar (MN) who each broke historic records in terms of age, racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious representation. What they each had in common was a campaign that prioritized principle rather than policy as well as an effective community management strategy that nurtured their bases and gave them the fuel they needed to head to the polls.

In spite of this newly won success, one question still remains: how can progressives keep up this momentum for future elections and win over new voter segments, where they currently fall short? Or maybe the first question to ask is what’s really stopping progressives from winning over these segments in the first place? History has repeatedly taught us that people vote in accordance with their identities and not necessarily in accordance with their economic or political interests, especially in times in which they feel their identities are under siege. This approach to politics, which is fueled by deep-seated ideologies and a desire to control or preserve a certain way of life, is extremely difficult to upend. How do you convince someone to vote against measures that historically and for the foreseeable future have only served to benefit them and vote instead the interest of the greater good? Perhaps in time, but not in the immediate future.

Therefore, the initial task for these candidates is not to work against the ideologies of these segments, but instead to mitigate their apathy towards the greater good. Who knows how that will happen, but it probably requires reconfiguring notions of what self-preservation actually looks like for these segments, and sparking within them an altruistic behavior change, which is a task that goes far beyond the scope of just politics.

Despite these lingering concerns, the progress that was won is indicative of a watershed moment in American politics that has the potential to change the fate of this administration. That is indicated not only by the victories, but also by legislation that was passed concurrently to the election like Amendment 4 in Florida, which will now allow 1.4 million ex-convicted felons (excluding sex offenders and murderers) to vote, as well as the numerous attempts of voter suppression that were stifled in key states. One night brought us a more diverse group of political representatives as well as a more diverse eligible voting population, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to get complacent. We should continue to stay informed and involved, but until we get another chance to exercise our right to vote, I am counting on one thing for now: Robert Mueller, where you at?