2018 Midterm Election was full of historic firsts

Image courtesy of pewresearch.org/PEW RESEARCH CENTER
In the past couple decades, the amount of women voted into Congress has been on a sharp rise.

Image courtesy of pewresearch.org/PEW RESEARCH CENTER In the past couple decades, the amount of women voted into Congress has been on a sharp rise.

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Caleigh sowder
Copy Editor

Many were anticipating the 2018 midterm election results, biting their nails late into the night on Nov. 6. As the results started to pour in, many began to rejoice all over the country not because of who won what position, but the overall change that occurred.

More than 100 women were voted into the House of Representatives (HOR). That may not seem like much until you realize that there is a total of 435 seats in the HOR, women now holding about a quarter of the seats.

Not only that, but there was an amazing number of historic firsts for states across the country. According to NowThis Politics, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia are Texas’ first Latinx Congresswomen. Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota are America’s first Muslim women in Congress. Jared Polis from Colorado is the first openly gay governor. Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts and Jahana Hayes from Connecticut are their state’s first black Congresswomen. The list, wonderfully, goes on.

Many are extremely happy with the diversity now in our House of Representatives, including Dr. Sarah Salter, an assistant professor of English at TAMU-CC.

“I was glad to know that the House of Representatives,” said Salter, “will be the … branch/section of the federal government to reflect the diversity and complexity of United States citizenship.

“It is perhaps unsurprising, if also a disappointment, that this election of historic ‘firsts’ comes in response to, and at the price of, increasing limitations on the civil rights and personal freedoms of millions of U.S. citizens and others who contribute to the health and vibrancy of the United States as a collective and a nation.”

People in this country are still persecuted every day because of their race, religion, sexuality, gender and more, meaning that even with this increase of diverse identities, newly elected officials can still face pushback while trying to make changes within our government.

“I hope that this election bodes well for the continuing diversification and egalitarianism of the political landscape in the U.S.,” said Salter, “but I am more pessimistic than not about the near future. There is no doubt that the sheer fact of more female and more minoritized voices in the House chamber will change some of the potential conversations and legislation in this country.

“However, we students of U.S. history know well the tenacity and cruelty of U.S. white supremacy at the highest level of U.S. government, and the centuries of oppressive policies, both formal and informal, that limit free expression and equal access to freedoms in this country.

“Thus, I am wary of the types and virulence of pushback, backlash, obstruction,” continued Salter, “that many of these individuals, a ‘first wave’ of representative diversity, will face as they seek to do their jobs and represent their communities.”

However, this doesn’t mean that we should give up. This election is a key indicator that changes are occurring within our political systems, even if it is painfully slow.

“As a professor of 19th-century American literature and culture,” said Salter, “I am aware of, and hope to help my students recognize, the long history of U.S. white, masculinist hegemony. That history is what makes the historic firsts of this election so exciting!

“But it is also what makes it essential that we continue the work of raising awareness about civil rights and their histories, and that we continue requesting, demanding and fighting for those rights on behalf of those who cannot do so, or who are always already doing so. The promise of greater representational diversity, and the increasing social equality that should come from such diversity in governance, is a powerful and exciting one.”

This means that we must continue to be politically active as the next election rolls around. Two years may seem like a long way away, but the 2020 elections will come faster than you think. We must stay informed and involved within our communities as, like Salter said, we push to make this a better, safer, freer and more equitable place for all.