Post-Election Pep Talk

Yes, it’s a bummer that Beto didn’t win in Texas, and the voter suppression that went down in Georgia should infuriate anyone who believes in representative government, but if you’re disappointed in Tuesday’s election results and you’re not a Republican, I strongly suggest you take a closer look at what went down this past Tuesday.

Start off with the voter turnout. All across the country it was huge for a midterm election. I was a poll worker in West Tisbury from 7 a.m. to noon. When I voted at the end of my shift, I was #1,089 — this in a town with about 2,500 registered voters. When the polls closed at 8 p.m., close to 75% of us had voted.

According to news reports, national turnout was, at more than 47%, a 50-year high for a midterm election. Notes NPR: This “might not sound impressive. But for a U.S. midterm election, it’s a whopping figure. Compare that with just 36.7 percent in 2014, and 41 percent in 2010.”

Next, when the 114th Congress is sworn in on January 3, Democrats will control the House of Representatives. If you’ve been following the abysmal performance of the GOP-controlled House the past two years, on everything from health care to budget to the Russia investigation, you know how big this is. And it’s even better than that: the incoming Democratic caucus is more diverse than ever: more women, more people of color, more younger people, more scientists.

No, Democrats didn’t take back the Senate. They even lost a couple of seats. But this was not unexpected. The Dems were defending 26 seats, including several in red states; the Republicans only 9. It’s hard to lose Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Donnelly (IN), and especially Heidi Heitkamp (ND), who displayed conspicuous courage by voting against the Kavanaugh nomination. (Suppression of the Native American vote in North Dakota was almost certainly aimed at reducing Heitkamp’s chances for re-election.)

Note too that there’s to be a recount for both the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson (D) and the governorship in Florida, for which Andrew Gillum seems to have lost by a hair to Ron DeSantis. Democrat Mike Espy heads for a Nov. 27 runoff with the top GOP finisher in the race to fill the remainder of Thad Cochran’s term as U.S. senator from Mississippi. (I’m already writing Postcards To Voters for Mike. Didn’t I say that PTV wasn’t planning to go into hibernation after the midterms? Now’s a good time to sign up!)

In fact, so many races were so close that though the compaign-related email in my inbox has definitely dropped off, I’ve already received several fundraising requests to support recounts. My campaign-related credit-card debt is already pushing my limit, even though I swore off buying beer so I could give more to various campaigns, so we’ll see if I can squeeze any more bucks from my (already blown) budget.

There’s more encouraging news out there than I can do justice to here, but here are a few of my favorites:

    • Near the top of my list is Democrat Laura Kelly decisively defeating Kris Kobach for governor of Kansas. Kobach is a notorious vote suppressor; he headed Trump’s commission on (alleged) voter fraud, which foundered on bipartisan opposition by the public and many states. Not only that, as Kansas secretary of state he was supervising the election in which he ran for governor. Brian Kemp was pulling a similar stunt in Georgia, where the voter suppression was outrageous. As secretary of state he’s declared himself the winner of the governor’s race. Stacey Abrams hasn’t conceded, and the jury’s still out on that one. And before we leave Kansas, Sharice Davids, a Native American lesbian, handily defeated four-term congressman Kevin Yoder in KS-03.
    • Another fave: Democrat Tony Evers evicted Republican Scott Walker from the governor’s office in Wisconsin.
    • Going into Tuesday’s election, there were 26 Republican governors, 9 Democratic, and one independent (Alaska). Democrats picked up seven governorships, the Republicans won Alaska, and the tally is now 26 Republican governors and 23 Democratic ones. No matter what happens in Georgia, which is, as noted above, still undecided, this is a major change.
    • Emerge America trains Democratic women to run for office and manage campaigns; it now has affiliates in 25 states. Emerge Massachusetts announced earlier this week that 68% of its alumnae won their up- and down-ballot races.
    • The Collective PAC, committed to increasing the number of African Americans in elected office at all levels, also had a great night. Elected to Congress for the first time were Lucy McBath (GA-06), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Colin Allred (TX-32), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Ilhan Omar (MN 05), Joe Neguse (CO-02), and Steven Horsford (NV-04). There were plenty of victories in other races as well. I got to meet co-founders Quentin James and Stefanie Brown James at an event last summer and was impressed enough to become a contributor.
    • 40 candidates supported by Emily’s List were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and Jacky Rosen pulled off an upset to become a U.S. senator from Nevada. Emily’s List supports pro-choice Democratic women running for office.

    John Lewis, congressman from Georgia and hero of the civil rights movement, speaks at an iVote fundraiser on the Vineyard in August 2017.

    • iVote, which since 2014 has been fighting on several fronts to secure voting rights for all Americans, had a great night, winning in three of the four campaigns they supported in key swing states. In Colorado, Jena Griswold became the first Democratic secretary of state elected since 1958. Jocelyn Benson was elected secretary of state in Michigan. And Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to bring automatic voter registration to the state. In Arizona, iVote supported Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs, whose race for secretary of state remains too close to call. iVote has just launched a campaign to elect John Barrow secretary of state in Georgia– a state whose electoral practices badly need cleaning up.


  • Locally, I’m sorry that Jay Gonzalez and Quentin Palfrey didn’t manage to unseat Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and that Question 1, mandating safe nurse:patient ratios in hospitals, didn’t pass, but the other results were pretty damn good. My state senator, Julian Cyr, took every town in the district, even the purplish ones in the mid-Cape area, for a total of 62%. My buddy George Davis became clerk of courts in a landslide. Elizabeth Warren was elected to a second term in the U.S. Senate with 60% of the vote, and Maura Healey was re-elected attorney general with just under 70%.

    Millions of people took Trav’s good advice on Nov. 6.

    Setting out to canvass for Democrats in Vineyard Haven in the waning days of the campaign. Our state rep, Dylan Fernandes (who was running unopposed) is at left, State Senator Julian Cyr is at right, and I’m kneeling in front. (Travvy stayed home.)

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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5 Responses to Post-Election Pep Talk

  1. Juleann VanBelle says:

    Hope is beginning to come out of hibernation . . .


  2. You know, I’m ok with Beto losing…it frees him up for the presidential ticket, don’t you think? Not to mention Stacy Abrams…We DO need two, after all — especially if we don’t have any idea who to put on that ticket by now!


  3. Margaret Emerson says:

    Great recap! I’m impressed that 40 candidates on Emily’s List were elected. On to the next big step.
    Margaret Emerson


  4. cvw7 says:

    i’m encouraged by increased interest in government, in voting, as well as renewed activism on behalf of democracy.
    I’m thrilled by the new diversity across the board in state government as well as federal, especially women including many women of color. One new MA rep, Becca Rausch, won her seat by beating a 5 term conservative incumbent . She showed a photo of what will be her local staff – all women! Not really allowed much power previously, women are coming to the table. This is one examples of dozens and it gives me hope.


  5. Agree with your bilan, Susanna. We hoped for a blue tsunami and got a smaller wave, but it’s still clear to me that blue was the color on many people’s minds. And yes, let’s wait for the recount.


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