As election results across the country continue to be reported, one thing is very clear: Democrats have won the House, and Republicans have expanded their majority in the Senate. Regardless of political affiliation, it is important to keep something in mind: everything will be okay. I’m disappointed, as I’m sure my left-leaning peers are as well, by the performance of Senate Democrats. I’m also excited at the prospects of a Democratically controlled-House which the country has not seen since 2010, and I’m sure my conservative peers are disappointed. Our country has a long way to go in reaching a point of mutual respect and bipartisanship, but it will not fall apart because of these elections.
Republicans have effectively bolstered their Senate majority by taking three seats held by Democratic incumbents in conservative states: Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, and Florida’s votes are still being counted as of press time. Paired with this Democratic shortfall, the greatest disappointment liberals face is the increasingly conservative makeup of the judiciary.
The GOP majority in the Senate allows Republicans to continue to pack the court and potentially shift the Supreme Court from a 5-4 conservative majority to a 6-3 majority, should a vacancy arise.
It’s important to note, however, that it is doubtful certain landmark cases, such as Roe v. Wade, which made it illegal to restrict access to abortion, or Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage, could be immediately overturned. While true that these decisions could be partially reversed, like how the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013, this is reasonable given the nature of politics and courts that are increasingly flexible and bound to public opinion.
I have faith that the judges and justices appointed will uphold and apply the law as written. This is not to mention that 2020 elections are fast approaching as well, and Democrats have the opportunity to flip several Senate seats. Though I feel that the outcome of the Senate races are disappointing, hope should not be lost. Republicans lost the Senate in 2006 and failed to retake the chamber until 2014; the natural course of politics is to trade off control with the opposing party.
Without the House of Representatives controlled by Republicans as well, the GOP will be limited in the amount of legislation they can get to the President’s desk, and policy pushed by Democrats in the House may force vulnerable Republican senators up in 2020 and 2022 to vote more moderately.
Democrats won the House and the popular vote for the house by around eight percent—a margin one would only see in a wave election—which means they’ll effectively be able to block much of Trump and the Republicans’ legislative agenda.
On top of this, Democrats will take control of certain important sub-committees and the speakership, where they can control which legislation goes for a vote in the chamber. Democrats will also be able to pass meaningful legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia, should Trump choose to fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and end the investigation.
Along with winning the majority, over 100 women, including the first two Muslim women, were elected to the House, the largest number in United States history, and the new Congress is filled with a greater diversity of races and religions.
Democrats also had a good showing in governor’s races, winning seven races, with possible runoffs in Georgia and Florida as votes are still being counted. Governors will be able to control the passage of local legislation, as well as block any unfavorable new redistricting maps. Besides electoral gains, important ballot initiatives passed in many states. One of the most notable was Amendment 4 in Florida, which allows those who have served their time the right to vote; an approximated 1.4 million felons will have their rights restored. This has large implications in the fight for Florida in 2020 and future elections because it restores voting rights to 21 percent of Florida’s African American population, a demographic that tends to vote Democrat.
In Michigan, Colorado, Utah and Missouri, voter-initiatives passed allowing for the creation of independent redistricting commissions. This is important for future anti-gerrymandering efforts, especially as the 2020 census nears. Along with electoral progress, several right-leaning states voted to legalize marijuana and expand Medicaid access. The night was filled with wins and losses for both sides; such is the nature of politics. These ebbs and flows are natural and have occurred throughout our entire history as a nation.
The beauty of American democracy is that it’s characterized by constant change and competition between opposing forces, where losers of an election relinquish their position of power to the winner, and life goes on. We should not live in fear and anger because the course of our politics will naturally shift between both sides.
We should not get discouraged because of one bad performance; we should keep fighting for what we believe in because our voices matter. Our history is fraught with conflict and disappointment, but also with change for the better and hope for the future.
We should not quit now because our democracy and nation is far stronger than hate-filled rhetoric and poor policy: it will survive.