2018 Midterms: Turning Gains into Lasting Victories

With the election behind us, we assess what the results mean for our legislative aims.

November 8, 2018

On Tuesday, the midterm elections culminated in the Democrats retaking the House of Representatives and the Republicans retaining, and gaining seats, in the Senate, as well as a flurry of activity in gubernatorial races and state legislatures.

In the wake of the election questions remain over whether the Trump administration can act out their legislative agenda, and if opposition can offer effective pushback. We deeply invested in the answers to these questions. Therefore, it’s worth taking stock of how the midterm results impact our strategic focus.

First and foremost, we should acknowledge the important progress made Tuesday evening. The 116th United States Congress will be the most diverse in American history, with over 100 women elected representatives for the first time ever — two of whom, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, are Muslim. Ilhan Omar makes history as a Somali American former refugee, while Rashida Tlaib does so as a descendant of Palestinian immigrants.

Controlling the House was a great coup for Democrats, as was flipping several state legislatures and winning some key governorships in swing states. We recognize where these developments will play a key role in how we serve our community. Democratic-controlled state legislatures, six of which are new, may make good partners in trying to facilitate engagement between law enforcement and local communities. Democratic state attorney generals will also be fighting on the front lines against issues relating to the Muslim Ban, immigration and refugees. Since governors have veto power over redistricting efforts in many states, those races will have lasting implications for future elections.

Still, elections are the beginning of a political process, not the end. Now, more than ever, we should feel emboldened to call on our representatives to serve our communities. Issues such as voter suppression efforts, which played a key role before and during the election, will be incredibly important focuses moving forward. We see the impact that civil rights expansions may have on the electorate in states like Florida, where the passage of Amendment 4 restored voting rights to 1.4 million people with a past felony conviction, the single greatest expansion of voting rights since the Voting Rights Act.

These are the sorts of issues for which our communities may find willing partners in the new Congress. The burden is on organizations such as ours to make our representatives responsive to communities’ concerns. We will stay away from the horse race, rather focusing on bringing potential allies to the table on issues such as mounting a substantive opposition to Trump’s Muslim Ban, convening a hearing on the threat posed by white supremacist terrorist groups, and drafting legislation to overturn the proposed repeal of the Flores Settlement and the newly proposed public charge rule, both of which are published in the federal register and may pass into law later this year.

While Tuesday offered a substantive victory for opposition to Trump’s legislative agenda, it was no panacea. There is still much work to be done to ensure that any gains made on election night turn into lasting victories for our communities.

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