Women Made History in the Midterms

by Maddy Forbess

Real women. Real power. In this year’s midterms, women broke records on numerous fronts. Over 90 women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Individual female candidates also made history, with the first Muslim women ever to be elected to Congress: Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Tennessee elected its first female Senator, Marsha Blackburn, in the state’s history. Native American women were elected to Congress, yet another historical first. Democrat Deb Haaland defeated Republican Janice Arnold Jones in New Mexico’s midterms, becoming not only New Mexico’s but also one of the United States’ first Native American Congresswomen. Democrat Sharice Davids, Kansas’ newly elected Congresswomen, will join her as a trailblazing woman in leadership. Davids will also be the first openly LGBTQ person to represent her state, setting an example for young women and the LGBTQ community everywhere.

Women of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds saw many historic firsts in the 2018 midterm elections, and it is a testament to the tide of change in the United States. Ayanna Pressley became the first black Congresswomen to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives after she defeated 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary in September and did not have a Republican challenger in the midterm election for Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District.  She ran on a distinctly community-centered vision: “In Congress, I will be focused on lifting up the voices of those in the community, partnering with activist and residents, and ensuring that those closest to the pain are closest to the power, driving and informing the policy-making.” When Congress convenes in January of 2019, Pressley will be there to help construct an agenda that encompasses a wide range of issues and promotes equity for all. She is committed to being an advocate for the people of her district and will use her leadership position to focus in on the key issues facing communities. Pressley is not alone in her inclusive vision of America, and, as a woman of color, she brings a new and much needed perspective to one of our nation’s highest forms of elected government.

On November 6th, our country was on the precipice of change—something monumental—and citizens across the country got out the vote to determine the results of the midterm elections. The outcome was a net positive, with a record number of women achieving leadership positions in government. It was a victory that women in this country desperately needed. However, it does not mean the work is done. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the country by pulling off an upset in the primaries and defeating establishment candidate Joe Crowley, later to defeat a much older Anthony Pappas in New York’s 14th Congressional District election. As a 29-year-old from the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez and her activism compelled Americans to vote in her favor. Interestingly, she campaigned on a Democratic Socialist platform, advocating for Medicare for All, housing as a human right, and much more. This term democratic socialism attracted much attention in the midterm. It is certainly not conventional nor expected, nor is it the principle this country is currently operating on. This is not to say democratic socialism, in itself, is the answer.  But, perhaps, the new perspective all of these powerful women will bring to Congress are just what  the United States needs to spark a positive change.

Almost a week after the midterms, life continues. Students continue with their classes, adults head to work every morning, and Trump is still president. Yet, a huge shift occurred on November 6th, and it assumed the form of a blue wave. As Democrats flipped competitive seats and won in many suburban districts, a blue wave flooded the country. College-educated voters, and women in particular, came out in record numbers to vote against president-backed Republicans. With this shift in momentum, Democrats gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives. More women were elected in this year’s election than ever before in U.S. history. Both these factors combine to bring a degree of gender parity to Congress. Republicans still control the Senate and, in fact, tightened their grip on the majority in the midterms, but Democrats experienced a huge victory by regaining control of the House. On January 3rd, 2019, the 116th Congress will meet with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. It is up to elected officials, and women in leadership especially, to see agendas into fruition and to foster a sense of government that truly reflects the interests of its people.