We witnessed President Trump’s hallmark delusion as he tweeted “Tremendous Success Tonight” in response to the results of the mid-terms. The Democrats comfortably took control of the House of Representatives with over 30 “pick-ups”, and some “toss-ups” still to be called once absentee ballots and provisional ballots are counted. As anticipated, the Republicans retained the Senate, but there are many other positives to take from Tuesday’s vote.
Taking control of the gavel in Congress ensures the Democrats have the means to stop any Republican legislation put forward by the President or the Senate, effectively putting the brakes on Trump’s future plans in office, for example, the dismantling of Obamacare.
But this shouldn’t be the endgame. The Democrats can propose legislation too and with new members of Congress elected on progressive platforms, the party can advocate policies such as the expansion of Medicare, reform of the criminal justice system, and delivering secure employment, while also opposing the racial politics of Trump. Voters across America bought into the platform of hope once again offered by the Democrats, and it is imperative they spend the years ahead presenting a radical alternative.
Looking beyond the legislative majority, there are also many other great milestones from this election too. The House of Representatives will have greater gender balance than ever before with 35 new women elected, bringing the total up to 100 women in the lower house. The election also saw the first Native American and Muslim women entering the House, a truly brilliant landmark in the face of such a divided nation and a rejection of the hate and Islamophobia peddled by Trump.
Without doubt, it is women and ethnic minorities who are the new face of the Democrats, and they must spearhead developing and articulating a radical policy alternative. Political outsiders such as former US teacher of the year, Jahana Hayes, winner in Connecticut’s 5th District; 29-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York; and Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman to represent Massachusetts who captivated our watch party in Boston on Tuesday night with her “this is not a victory speech, this is a vision” speech (seriously, look it up!).
Away from DC, the Democrats have also made great progress at the state level, gaining seven new Governors, and 300 seats on state legislatures too. With these gains, the Democrats will now be able to fight back against the rampant gerrymandering that has existed across many states and will level the playing field against Republicans. Our team of Labour activists campaigning in New Hampshire and Boston were taken aback at the barriers to voting, which make it hardest for minorities and under-represented groups to cast their ballots. Democrats in State Senates can tackle voter ID laws and electoral processes that disenfranchise minority groups across America.
Giving President Trump the massive rebuke that many wanted was always going to be difficult given the prospect of gains in the Senate. But despite this, the Democrats are energised, having still made great in-roads across the US. What’s important now is how they use their new position. With the firing of attorney general Jeff Sessions, it’s tempting for Democrats to focus on the threat to the Russia investigation, but they need to be bold in their approaches on domestic policy. While it is important that they protect Robert Mueller’s work as best they can, they must be ambitious in their vision looking forward to 2020.
The results show that progressives are winning the fight. It is Democratic candidates who are the faces of the new politics. It is Democratic candidates who offered a platform of hope and inspired millions of voters. Democrats must now follow their lead, stand up to Trump and offer the progressive alternative that so many Americans have been clamouring for.
John Lehal is a Labour activist.