For most progressives, the midterm election results of Tuesday felt perplexing. Were they to feel relief or stabbing conquer? The Democratic Party took the home, and with it some crucial oversight over the Trump government; it flipped seven state chambers and won gubernatorial races at Michigan, Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin. Nevertheless its biggest-ticket, sky-high-hope applicants - Texas' Beto O'Rourke and Florida's Andrew Gillum, and possibly Georgia's Stacey Abrams - failed to win their hotly saw races, as well as the defeats of Claire McCaskill, Joe Donnelly, along with Heidi Heitkamp contributed to a grievously poor showing from the Senate.
But as perplexing as it may have felt for those watching Steve Kornacki frantically banging on his huge screen on MSNBC, Tuesday's results were in fact perfectly coherent, very much in line with the combat we have long been immersed in. This fight is - as it has been since this nation's founding - a struggle over two concepts fundamental to our nation's origins, its progress, and its potential: the claims of and constraints on political ideology and political enfranchisement.
Progressives yearned for a clean wave last night, the speedy correction of what lots of liked to imagine as a flukey clerical error two decades ago. After all, there have been so many factors - Comey, Russia, the Clintonness of it all, Jill Stein - that might have explained away our descent into openly bigoted authoritarianism. The harder thing to consume has been the simple fact that Donald Trump, and the party that created and sticks , is not a fluke. He and they are the living, powerful embodiment of an aged American theory about who should get to engage, who should get to have power, whose voices should be heard, whose votes count. This isn't a fluke. That is the civic, political, legal, and social American debate - the one that at its core circles around the question of who one of us is counted as completely human.
When Trump won in 2016, his campaign was powered in part at fury over the early presidency of Barack Obama and presumed inevitable presidency of Hillary Clinton. Subsequently, his success provoked a tide of furious political participation from women, thousands of whom ran for office, many of these for the first time. Plus it was their participation - their response at not having been symbolized, at not having been heard, and thus deciding to run and work for different women running - that powered last night's Democratic victories.
A historical number of women on the Democratic side won their primaries in House, Senate, Gubernatorial, and State legislative races. A record number of these arewomen of colour, that have been the dependable - yet terribly underserved, under-recognized, and underrepresented - foundation of the party. Once more, on Tuesday, black women were the Democrats' most reliable voting block, while white women voted at chillingly high majorities for white patriarchs and the party they represent; at Georgia, according to exit polls, 76% of white women - shockingly, a higher percentage than white men - voted for Stacey Abrams's opponent Brian Kemp.
Nevertheless, when it comes to representation, Democratic Party leaders are finally beginning to look like its own voters.
Of the 29 districts turned, up to now, from Republican to Democratic control, 17 of these were flipped by women candidates, including Lauren Underwood of Illinois, a first-time offender and African-American woman who had beat six white men to win her principal race and defeated Randy Hultgren in the general; at Kansas, Sharice Davids, a lesbian former MMA fighter that unseated Republican Kevin Yoder, will become - along with New Mexico's Deb Haaland - one of the earliest two Native American women elected to Congress. Ayanna Pressley is now the first black woman to serve in Congress from Massachusetts; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will turn into the primary two Muslim women to visit the House, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia (and probably Gina Ortiz-jones) will become the first Latinas to represent Texas in Congress.
In Georgia's Sixth District, where Jon Ossoff failed to win exclusive election in 2017, Democrat Lucy McBath (an African-American gun-control urge whom the governmental media didn't treat seriously entering this election year ) appears poised to pull out a success. In Michigan, each statewide office up for grabs went to Democratic women: attorney general, secretary of State, senator, governor. It's not just the women that are changing our models for who might run, triumph, and lead this country: In upstate New York, Antonio Delgado beat John Faso, becoming his district earliest non-white representative, after a race where Republicans depicted Delgado as a"big-city rapper;" and Texas Republican Pete Sessions, a long-serving member of Congress (and a key mastermind of the GOP's 2010 takeover of the House), was defeated by former NFL player turned civil-rights attorney Colin Allred.
Additionally, even though they dropped their Tuesday races by tight borders, Gillum and O'Rourke - along with incoming New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,and Abrams, that appears poised to challenge the Georgia results for a runoff - became national stars this year; these are the candidates of the Democratic Party's future. They are young, they are innovative, and they do not look like applicants of America's past. This is a portion of the narrative of Tuesday: explosively successful - and in some cases, only brief of powerful, in districts and states that have been inhospitable to Democrats - attempts by new kinds of applicants to forge new kinds of paths toward governmental power.
But all of of those paths end across theoften determinative question of who gets to vote for these candidates - a question that has plagued America from its beginning, once the franchise was denied to all but white men. The expansion of voting rights - for African Americans, for women - has turned into a project that has stretched over centuries, and happened in painful pieces, and has always been met with backlash and reversals.
And possibly the most crucial project of a modern home has been the push to re-restrict who will vote in this country, targeting especially black and brown and poor inhabitants. Over the past decade, with Republicans in power in so many state legislatures and at the Supreme Court, that project has been quite profitable. Gerrymandering, voter purges, and suppression, all permitted by the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act all surely contributed to - possibly determined - the declines of Gillum in Florida, in which 500,000 African Americans were ineligible to vote due to the state's felon disenfranchisement law, and Heitkamp from North Dakota, in which Native-American voters were effectively suppressed by means of a provision that barred those with P.O. boxes from registering. Around the country on Tuesday and during early voting came tales of Jim Crow-style reduction tactics: Researchers telling voters that their registrations were void because of spelling mistakes, machines that didn't operate, long lines where the older, infirm, and pregnant - combined with those who couldn't afford time away from occupations - couldn't stand.
There was perhaps no greater showdown than in Georgia: Abrams, who for decades has worked tirelessly to reach out and enroll African-American voters, was running against Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a cartoon-style villain who - while presiding over the equity of the same election he had been competing in - has made it his gleeful, punitive assignment to purge black voters from the rolls and to keep them from casting votes for his enemies.
And the consequences on Tuesday - those that were in the control of the voters - fell quite much on the side of expansion of the franchise. This felon disenfranchisement law was overturned with the passage of Amendment 4 Florida, an election result that may renfranchise 1.5 million voters and efficiently flip Florida from an ever-swinging purple state to blue the next time around. It represents the biggest single enfranchisement event because the Voting Rights Act. In Maryland, same-day voter enrollment passed with a huge margin, which scientist Sam Wang tweeted may bring 7 percent of the nation's voting-age population onto the rolls. The next part of the left's project is more of the arduous, ceaseless work of rebuilding, brick by brick, and which was torn down with the Voting RIghts Act's rollback.This is the struggle going forward: involving expansion and restriction, liberation and containment, the push and pull between the few of those at the top to control the mechanisms, and of the masses to resist and buck against them. The best way to vote - completely realized - would be the most important instrument in the innovative arsenal in future elections, and so the weapon that has since the beginning been hotly contested.
After all, Democrats led the vote for the Senateby 12 million, a 57 percent majority, but lost three chairs anyway, as they won the 2016 presidential election three million votes yet still are governed by a small-thumbed autocrat. And with the Senate, the party that knows how to utilize the courts to enact further manipulation and correction of the electorate will keep federal judicial control. There might be no more stark illustration of the stakes, and the brokenness of the present system.
But in fighting and hard - in marshaling the power of volunteers and candidates and protesters, the investment in left politics and leaders and strategies - progressives not only scored big wins on Tuesday, toppling men - Kris Kobach! Pete Sessions! Scott Walker! - who have long lived on the incorrect side of history, but they laid a path for the future. Had Democrats won bigger, or smaller, there could have been danger that that struggle could ebb, either out of satisfaction or conquer. Rather the results made ever clearer what should by now be sinking in: that this is our own lives, this fight.
And so there is an aptness to the speech Stacey Abrams gave in Georgia in the early morning hours of Wednesday, that wasn't a success speech, but a refusal to concede, and a call to gift, everyday, unflinching action.
"We still have a few more miles to go," she explained, in reference to what she had been promising could be a recount, possibly a runoff. "But that also is a chance to show the world who we are. Since in Georgia civil rights has always been an act of will and a struggle for our souls." As soon as we struggle for it. As soon as we require it. And today, once we stand in lines for hours to meet it at the ballot box." Ayanna Pressley echoed this sense of a continuing competition in what she insisted wasn't a success speech, despite her apparent success. "When we realize equity, justice, and equality, these rights for everyone, then and only then can I deliver a victory speech."
After all, the idea that we might have adjusted course so quickly is like the fantasies that we could put our racism supporting us with the election of one president, our misogyny from the rearview mirror with the nomination of one woman. People were pernicious lies, fed to us that we'd stop being mad, stop fighting, resisting, hard.
So in a couple of days - for a few, a few hours - after there has been some sleep and a few tallying of wins and losses, we will be back at it, this project of will and operate and needs; we will go back to our attempts, over two centuries , to fulfill the democratic claims made at our beginning, not yet met within our present.