Record LGBTQ+ Wins, an expansion of the ‘squad’ and a mandate for change… there’s still hope in the Divide States of America
UK commentary on this election has been resoundingly negative. We have focused on the growth of Trumps base. some have said America is beyond recognition, that we should cut ties with a country where 70 million people can readily elect a man on the verge of Tyranny. But they haven’t elected him. He has lost, the flame of democracy continues to burn, and progressive coals still have a chance of catching fire. In fact, they’re beginning to take.
75 million Americans voted to oust Trump and a wave of progressive congresspeople, senators, legislators and lawmakers have been elected or re-elected. The crusade of the progressives continues and the chance for change is better than ever.
Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez’s ‘squad’: a quartet of progressive female politicians: Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, Ayana Pressley in Massachusetts and Rashid Tlaib in Michigan, has not only been re-elected, but expanded, with Cori Bush of Montana and Jamaal Bowman of New York making the political group a sextet. All ran campaigns championing racial-equality, high taxes for the rich, less student debt, battling climate change and universal healthcare. The Squad now has a combined total of 14.9m twitter followers. Their reach and influence are significant, and the US population has just given them a mandate to continue the crusade for a better world.
Omar’s achievement in particular highlights the genuine desire for progressive politics in the US. She withstood a barrage of abuse from the President, with accusations that she was ‘not American’ and that she hated the country. Just last month, Donald Trump fabricated a link between Omar and terrorism during a rally in Minnesota: “a 700% increase in refugees coming from the most dangerous terror hot spots in the world, including Syria, Somalia… Where Omar is from… that’s the reason I’m going to win. Ilhan Omar” Omar won Minnesota’s 5th district by 39 percentage points. The people of Minnesota’s 5th district resoundingly ignored and disbelieved the president, in favour of a progressive candidate.
Like progressive commentators in the UK, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lay down her arms during the election, calling a truce on her quarrel with the democratic party leadership, recognising that real change was not possible under Trump. With the win confirmed, she has now broken that truce, saying democracy has won, but the left hasn’t. But AOC and her squad’s influence is far-reaching, their re-election and expansion in congress is a win for the left, and for progressives across the country.
Joe Biden recognised this truce, saying in today’s victory speech: “I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history. Democrats, Republicans and independents, Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American. And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest – the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.” Biden understands the influence of the squad and their agenda, and a betting man would be sure he’ll listen to them again.
While we can also criticise an election where the two presidential candidates were old white men and get lost in thinking this is who rules America, the elections this term have done far more to represent the increasingly diverse demographics in the nation at state level.
There has been a record number of LGBTQ+ wins across the nation. Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres became the first openly gay black and black-latino men to be elected to congress. Jones won New York’s 17thdistrict by 12 percentage points. Torres won the 12th district by 70 points. Both resounding victories, both representative of a city embracing equality, and championing the virtues of character and competence over sexuality and race.
Todd Gloria became the first out-gay mayor, winning election in San Diego.
Sarah McBride was elected to the State Senate in Delaware, making her the first trans-gender person to be elected to any senate in the US, and also, the highest ranking trans in the country. Stephanie Byres also became the first state-house transgender person, winning in Kansas.
These are all signs, not of a fractured nation fighting to maintain the status-quo, but a country embracing the age we live in.
Oregon just legalised all drugs. That is a big move in a country who has spent 5 decades criminalising users nationwide under federal law. This is a win for medical progress and for science. The failed War on drugs has long been the route of a number of America’s ills including mass incarceration and racial inequality. A whole state has voted to try the other way, the way which has been proven to work in Europe: to treat users, not imprison them.
And lastly, we should take a moment to appreciate how momentous Kamala Harris’ achievement is. To regurgitate what we already know is fruitless. She is a sign of opportunity and progress and will surely help lead the new era.
There is in no illusion that the Republican Party was on board with Trump, and it will never be easy to transition this bureaucracy from criminal sympathiser to effective government, but in the same way one man could coup d’état a whole political party, a team of legitimately elected, law-abiding progressives, with monumental followings can gently lead another parties discourse into a new era. The squad and newly elected progressives across the country can continue, with even greater effect, lobbying the Democratic party into further change.