Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The Times They Are A-Changing (Slowly but Surely)

So, as it turns out, democracy was indeed on the ballot during the midterm elections, and so were women's rights. Prior to the elections, numerous pollsters and pundits predicted a "red wave," but it never materialized. The Democrats held onto the Senate, and while Republicans were poised to take over the House, it would be by a very small margin. Millions of women voted, and so did a surprisingly large number of young people. Exit polls showed that voters from both parties disliked the idea of the government telling women what they could or could not do with their bodies. (Pundits had said the Dobbs decision would not be a factor, but they were wrong: it was on the minds of many of the voters, even in red states.)

For me, one of the biggest headlines was that voters from both parties overwhelmingly rejected some high-profile candidates with extreme views: candidates who had denied the results of the 2020 election; or defended the January 6, 2021 insurrection; or insisted that unless they won, the election was rigged and they would never concede. Some very well-funded Republicans with those views were defeated, and while a few managed to win, the majority of election-deniers in the battle-ground states lost. 

I was sorry that some of the Democrats I liked didn't win-- for example, Tim Ryan ran an outstanding campaign in Ohio, but he still lost to J.D. Vance. On the other hand, many people--even some who would never have voted for him--were inspired by John Fetterman, who overcame a stroke to win his race against Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. (Rather than being alienated by his speech problems during the debate, voters said they could identify with what he was going through, and they commended him for his courage. On Twitter, partisans mocked Fetterman, but in Pennsylvania, his supporters cheered him on, and he did not disappoint.)

Another noteworthy thing happened in a number of states: after the elections had concluded, the losing candidates (from both parties) offered their concessions and congratulated their opponent-- just like candidates used to do.  Of course, a few sore losers refused, but I was encouraged by how many candidates acknowledged their defeat, and did not claim something nefarious had happened.  

It's easy to think that a large number of Americans are bigots and haters because on cable TV and social media, those folks are given far too much attention. But here in the real world, in states all over the country, there were a number of "firsts" that suggested America is changing for the better, showing signs of becoming more diverse and more inclusive. Consider this: more women, from both parties, were elected to governor and lieutenant governor positions: Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Oregon were among the states electing a woman governor. Among the many other women from diverse backgrounds who got elected, Maryland now has a female lieutenant governor--she and her family immigrated from India when she was a child; and Massachusetts elected its first Black female attorney general.  

Some men also made history: Maryland elected its first Black governor, while California elected a Filipino-American attorney general. California is also sending a Latino, the son of Mexican immigrants, to the Senate; another Mexican-American man is now the first Latino secretary of state in Nevada.  Locally, New Hampshire elected its first transgender man to the New Hampshire state legislature. And it was also a good night for some candidates who were gay or lesbian.  I could go on with the many other "firsts" from coast to coast, but I do want to give a shout-out to 25-year old Floridian Maxwell Alejandro Frost, the first Gen-Z candidate elected to congress.

And as I look at what happened, both the good and the bad, I am comforted to know that we do still have a democracy, that some folks still believe in the right to privacy, and that in both red states and blue, people voted for the candidate they thought would get the job done-- even if that person was a minority, or gay, or trans, or from a party they'd never voted for in their life. Yes, a lot remains to be done before this nation can heal from some of the traumatic events of the past several years, but I see some positive indications that we really are more united than some pundits might think. To all who voted, thank you. To all who believed in our democracy, thank you. And to all who rejected the negativity and partisanship, and trusted our system of government, I thank you most of all. 

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