The Democrats' rainbow coalition
With vote counting ongoing and recounts or runoffs likely in some races, Democrats are still sorting out the size and scope of their 2018 victory. While they did take control of the House of Representatives, liberals suffered some painful defeats, especially in the Senate.
But one striking aspect of this victory is the huge diversity of the Democratic victors. It has long been the party of all Americans, but especially women and minorities, and that fact is beginning to be represented in their elected officials. The Democratic "rainbow coalition" of Jesse Jackson's aspirations has become a reality.
For starters, this will be the most female Congress in history, with at least 117 out of 535 seats held by women — and of those, 98 will be Democrats. It's a telling representation of the fact that, as The Intercept's Ryan Grim writes, the last two years of fervent anti-Trump organizing have been "largely led by women in support of women." Women won at the state level across the country as well — in gubernatorial races, Laura Kelly beat notorious vote suppressor Kris Kobach in Kansas, Gretchen Whitmer beat Bill Schuette in Michigan, and Michelle Lujan Grisham beat Steve Pearce in New Mexico.
Of those congressional women, two — Rashida Tlaib in Michigan's 13th Congressional District and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota's 5th District — are the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress. Two others — Sharice Davids in Kansas' 3rd District and Deb Haaland in New Mexico's 1st District — will become the first Native American women in the chamber. Such representation is particularly marked when President Trump has made flagrant anti-Muslim bigotry a key part of his political rhetoric, and some state-level Republicans are attempting to disenfranchise Native Americans en masse with Jim Crow tactics.
But that's not all.
The new Democrats are also disproportionately young — especially by America's gerontocratic standards. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who cruised to an easy victory in New York's 14th District, will be the youngest member of the House at age 29 — but only just behind Abby Finkenauer, who won in Iowa's 1st District and is also 29.
However, it's important to remember that quite a few white dudes also ran and won as Democrats. Conor Lamb won easily in Pennsylvania's 17th District. Jason Crow won on a gun control platform in Colorado's 6th District (which includes the site of the Aurora theater shooting). Tony Evers beat Scott Walker in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race. Joe Cunningham won a stunning upset in South Carolina's 1st District — remarkably, running on climate policy and against offshore drilling.
This demonstrates that despite the fact that women and minorities are clearly waxing within the Democratic Party, and that Caucasian men have been trending quite strongly towards the GOP in recent years, the Democratic coalition still has a place for white dudes. After all, white men need health insurance, good jobs, quality education, and so on just as much as anyone. Indeed, perhaps more than some — life expectancy for whites without a college degree has been falling for two years straight.
It remains to be seen whether the new Democratic House (and its state-level affiliates) will be up to the challenge of confronting Trump's wild abuses of power and constructing a policy agenda to heal the massive problems besetting America on all sides.
Let us just hope that the party's elected officials coming to look considerably more like its voting public is a positive sign.