I don’t know about you, but election night was a stressful time. Everyone I knew had some type of self-care going on in the face of a very important and very stressful midterm elections. I personally decided to have a glass of very cheap Trader Joe’s wine and “watch” SVU while obsessively refreshing the New York Times. That’s my self care.
There were big wins and losses across the country, and I’m going to go through some of the ones I find most interesting (and the ones my friend Elyse directly asked me to cover).
Good news out of New York. The Democrats took back the New York State Senate, winning against five incumbents and picking up three new seats. This means Senator Andrea Stuart-Cousins is poised to become the first Black woman, and indeed the first woman ever, to lead a New York legislative chamber.
It also means the Democrats now firmly control both houses and the governorship. My hope is this will allow the Democrats to finally pass legislation that’s been stalled in the Senate for years. For example, New York still doesn’t have statewide protections for transgender people because the Senate has never passed GENDA. And Roe v. Wade isn’t codified into state law, which means if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, New Yorkers aren’t guaranteed the right to a safe and legal abortion. The Assembly has passed the Reproductive Freedom Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into state law, but, you guessed it, the Senate hasn’t passed it. We could even see single payer healthcare, another bill the Assembly passed but the Senate hasn’t.
Single payer healthcare actually brings us to the challenges progressives will face. Well, not challenges. Challenge. Singular. And that challenge is Governor Andrew Cuomo. If you listen to my oft-touted conspiracy theory, Andrew Cuomo facilitated the rise of the Independent Democratic Conference, the group of Democrats who caucused with the Republicans, preventing progressive bills from passing and from landing on Cuomo’s desk. Because Cuomo isn’t actually a progressive. He talks a big game, he acts like he’s the forefront of the resistance to Trump, but when the rubber meets the road, he could put a lot of pressure on the legislature to not pass big expensive bills like single payer healthcare. Hopefully, Cuomo’s desire to run in 2020 will prevent him from outright vetoing bills that can really benefit the state. At this point though, what bills we see depend on how much elected officials are influenced by the governor.
Legal weed? I think it’ll be tough even with two houses of the legislature. Voting reforms? I doubt it, I think making it hard to vote benefits Cuomo and others too much for them to change it. I also don’t think we’ll see a millionaire’s tax at the state level. Maybe I’m being a pessimist, but I don’t think Cuomo is going to allow that many progressive proposals to pass his desk.
In boundary breaking New York news, John Liu won an election in Queens to become the first Asian-American state Senator. And Alessandra Biaggi took Senator Jeff Klein’s seat in a beautiful moment of comeuppance for the alleged sexual harasser.
Turning to my home state for a moment, New Mexico had a truly incredible night, turning the entire state blue. Every statewide race was won by a Democrat. For the first time in American history, the governorship will pass from one Latina (Susana Martinez) to another Latina (Michelle Lujan Grisham). And from my cursory research, it appears this will be the first time a state has ever had three Latino governors back to back to back. Or three Latino governors at all. There’s been 12 Latino governors (13 counting Michelle Lujan Grisham) and seven (eight with Michelle) have been governor of New Mexico.
New Mexico is also sending three Democrats to Congress, all of whom are people of color. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan was re-elected in the North, Xochitl Torres Small in the South, and Deb Haaland who will become one of the first two Native American women (member of the Laguna Pueblo) to serve in Congress.
Speaking of Native American women going to Congress, we’re all in love with Sharice Davids now aren’t we? Sharice Davids, member of the Ho-Chunk nation, won her election in Kansas. She’s a former MMA fighter and a lesbian and from what I’ve found she’s single so those of you living in Kansas, please pass my number along.
2018 was a rough Senate map for the Democrats and it was unlikely Democrats would be able to flip the Senate. A full ten Democratic Senators were up for re-election in states Donald Trump won in 2016. Three of those Democrats, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill and the great Heidi Heitkamp, lost their seats. To editorialize (as I so often do on this blog) North Dakota didn’t know what they had in Heidi Heitkamp and they shouldn’t be surprised if some other state snaps her up.
The map was also tough because far more Democrats were up for election than Republicans, due to the way the Senate splits up their elections. Only a third of Senators are up every two years, and this year there were just more Democrats. All this considered, things went as well as they could have. The Democrats lost three seats, but picked up one in Nevada, so we only lost two overall. Several states are still under consideration, with Florida moving into a recount in both the Senate and gubernatorial elections and Arizona yet to be called.
The biggest win of the night was the Democrats taking control of the House. Many people seem excited because the House is the government body with the power to demand Trump’s tax returns, documents about his dealings with Russia, and information about ethics scandals. Which, sure I guess. I personally believe that Mueller and the Russia probe will not save us, so I’m not very interested in speculating when or how Trump may or may not be impeached.
However, the Democrats can do a lot in blocking Trump’s agenda. It may be very challenging for the Democrats to pass anything that becomes law, but on the flip side, it will be near impossible for Trump to pass his bills either.
Unless the Democrats decide to be collaborators but my gosh I hope they don’t.
I think this is something to be hopeful about. It’s good for the progressive agenda to have control of a House of Congress to at least minimize damage that Trump can cause. The massive turnout means the Democrats have an energized base that led to massive wins in state and local politics, which is never a bad thing. Sure, some very great candidates lost (Beto, we hardly knew thee) but some incredible Democratic infrastructure was built, which will help us not just in 2020, but for many elections to come.