The 2018 midterm elections come at a crucial point in US and international politics as the world becomes more and more divided on key issues that range from local minority rights to global, extinction-level climate change. In an atmosphere increasingly ruled by fearfulness, Trump capitalized by playing to his base’s emotions against immigration and in favor of fear-driven gun ownership. On the other hand, Democrats attempted to rally against current conservative policies and labelled the midterms as a referendum against Trump’s administration. As a result, the House was painted blue, although the senate remained tightly in Republican hands.
As such, the election results came with several surprises, plenty of fortunate barrier-breaking firsts, and several interesting or noteworthy facts. Here are some examples.
First, the firsts
Massachusetts gets its first black woman in Congress.
Democrat Ayanna Pressley defeated longtime incumbent Mike Capuano in the primary election and ran unopposed afterward to become the member-elect of the United States House of Representatives for Massachusetts 7th congressional district.
Connecticut also elects its first black woman to Congress.
Democrat Jahan Hayes, a Connecticut teacher and winner of the 2015 John F. Kennedy Teacher of the Year award, defeated Republican candidate Manny Santos by 11 points to gain a seat in Congress for Connecticut, the first black woman to do so.
Tennessee elects its first female senator.
Businesswoman and Republican politician Marsha Blackburn became the senator-elect for Tennessee after closely defeating former governor and Democrat Phil Bredesen by 10 points. Closely aligned with Trump’s policies, Blackburn has served as representative for Tennessee’s 7th congressional district since 2003 and in the Tennessee senate during four years before that.
(Marsha Blackburn. Photo by Gage Skidmore)
We saw an openly gay man elected as Governor for the first time
Jared Polis served as the US Representative for Colorado’s 2nd congressional district since 2009 and has now become the country’s very first elected governor to have admitted to being gay before being elected. Sure, former Governor Jim McGreevy was also homosexual, but he came out while already in office; and Oregon Governor Kate Brown is bisexual. So, Polis’ win over republican Walker Stapleton to become the Governor of Colorado is a great step in the right direction.
First Native American Women in Congress
Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, both members of the Democratic party, made history during these midterms when each defeated their corresponding opponent by a good margin (considering the respective states). Haaland is the former Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, and defeated Republican candidate Janice Arnold Jones by a whooping 22 percentage points. Davids, on the other hand, is a lawyer who also happens to be Kansas’ first openly gay member of Congress, and managed to win by nine points in a state that has historically been strongly and consistently Republican.
(Deb Haaland at a Stop Kavanaugh Rally on US Capitol Grounds. Photo by Ziggyfan23)
Texas elects its first Latinas to Congress
The ceiling was shattered and progress made when Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar, both Democrats, became the first Latinas elected to seat in the US House of Representatives for Texas’ 29th and 16th district, respectively. Texas has over 10 million Hispanics and Latinos, about 40% of the state’s population, so it’s a good thing that they’ll (hopefully) be better represented.
First Muslim women in Congress
It can be difficult being a Muslim woman. Fortunately, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have overcome prejudice and managed a historic win. Talib, an attorney, was already a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, and took a successful and uncontested step towards the US House as a result of the midterm elections. Ilhan Omar is also a wonderful success story: as a Somali-American, she was elected as member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, making her the first Somali-American to become a legislator in the country.
Somali-American member-elect Ilhan Omar. Photo by Lorie Shaull)
New record: America’s youngest woman to have been elected to Congress
Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez generated the buzz of a rising star in June 2018 after she pulled off a surprising upset when she defeated incumbent Congressman and Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in the Democratic Primary. She kept her momentum going by seizing the title of member-elect of the US House of Representatives for New York’s 14th congressional district. At 29 years of age, she is now the youngest woman ever elected for that position.
South Dakota gets its first female governor
Republican Kristi L. Noem has served in the US House of Representatives since 2011, and became governor-elect for South Dakota after defeating Billie Sutton by four points, on a political platform that refused to center on the candidate’s gender.
Maine also gets its first female governor
Democrat candidate Janet Mills will succeed Republican Paul LePage as Governor of Maine to paint that office blue! Mills, Maine’s current Attorney General, defeated Shawn Moody by nine points and will become the first woman to ever govern the state as soon as she takes office.
First Women in the US House for Iowa
Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne managed to narrowly defeat their Republican counterparts, Rod Blum and David Young respectively, to become the first women to represent Iowa—which is a Trump-supporting state, mind you—in Congress.
Over 90% of black people under the age of 45 voted for Democrats.
Most people with moderate beliefs (who are somewhere in the center between liberal and conservative) voted blue.
This means mostly explicit conservatives leaned towards the Republicans. Similarly, people who tend not to favor either Democrats or Republicans mostly voted for Democrats.
The population’s alignment hasn’t changed much since the 2016 presidential vote.
In spite of recent scandals and controversies coming from the Trump administration, people are still voting along party lines. 94% of people who voted for Clinton in 2016 chose the Democrats during the midterms, and of those who originally elected Trump, 91% chose red this time. Since Clinton actually won the popular vote, this is more significant for Democrats than for Republicans.
Most American citizens believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.
54% of constituents think the US is on the wrong track, in contrast with the 42% who explicitly support current policies.
(Photo by Rob Kall)
The majority of those who believe America is becoming more divided voted for the Democratic Party.
60% of those who believe America’s inner divisions and tensions are getting worse sought the Democrats. In contrast, people who voted for Republicans tend to think this division is either improving or staying the same. Just for reference: 76% of the country worry that divisions are increasing, whereas only 22% think otherwise.
Most people who think that the most important issues facing the country are immigration and the economy voted red.
Those who think it’s health care and gun policy voted heavily in favor of Democrats. Yeah, no surprise there.
(Photo by Boss Tweed)
Most of those who voted red tend to think it’s not too important to elect ethnic minorities or women into public office.
Also, red voters seem to mostly believe either that minorities are favored in the US, or no group is (they don’t believe there’s white privilege), and that sexual harassment is not such a serious problem.
Most people with a college education voted Democrat.
And the majority of Americans without education went for the Republican Party.
The devil’s in the demography
The exit polls also show interesting results that illuminate the demographic state of the 2018 elections. It’s always important to keep in mind who is voting for what or for whom, just to realize how much different groups are actually represented in the results. Here’s a brief summary of the most significant differences across age, gender, race, education, income, and religion.
Gender: Women leaned mostly towards the Decomcratic Party, whereas the majority of men voted Republican. Specifically, 59% of women voted blue, and 51% of men voted red.
Age: The youth belongs to the Democrats. 61% of people aged between 18 and 44 voted for the Democratic Party, while about 50% of those aged 45 and older went for Republicans. This figure corresponds mostly to white constituents, as a significant majority from any other ethnicity or race went blue regardless of age.
Race: Unsurprisingly, most white Americans voted red (54%), and among them, the majority were men (white women were more evenly divided between parties). On the other hand, the vast majority (76%) of non-whites voted for Democrats.
Education: The considerable majority of people with a college education and above voted for the Democratic Party, and the margin in favor of Democrats increases the more advanced the degree is. Specifically, 52% of those with some college education, 55% of those with a Bachelor’s degree, and 65% of those with an advanced degree voted blue. In contrast, 51% of those without college education voted for Republicans, almost all of them white. (Significantly, most white educated people voted Democrat.)
Income: The wealthy clearly favor red. As soon as the income goes above $100k per year, the margins become clearly Republican, with over 52% of wealthy constituents preferring them.
Religion: Protestants and other non-catholic Christians voted mostly for the Republican Party. Catholics were torn, with about half of them voting blue. The rest of the religious denominations significantly (over 70%) went for Democrats. 55% of those who attend religious services at least once a month favored Republicans, whereas less orthodox religious people preferred Democrats.
In many ways, the results were historical. In many others, however, they simply perpetuated unfortunate contemporary tendencies that might be more harmful in the long run than we can afford. There’s still much to do, both on public as well as private fronts. For now, let’s take the good with joy and the bad with measured vigilance.
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