What Was Won on Tuesday

Important victories to celebrate and lessons to learn for the Democratic Party

Tuesday was a monumental achievement.

I know that a lot has happened already, but just for a second, don’t listen to that voice in your head saying ‘but it wasn’t enough…

Like many progressive democrats, I have spent the past two years working hard to stay awake to the horrors, old and new, at work in our fragile democracy. Our vigilance has kept us fighting and helped us not be lulled, or pummeled, into submission by disappointment and fury. This fight has led to a coalition of grassroots organizations and campaigns (led by Women, People of Color, and students), great progressive candidates across the country, and a more cohesive definition of who we want to be as a party. Some rising progressive stars may have lost, Andrew Gillum, Beto O’Rourke, and possibly Stacey Abrams, but Tuesday was an important victory — one we deserve to savor and cheer before we return to the long fight ahead.

Here’s what we won:

The House of Representatives: This is critical and should not be underestimated. Congress can now provide checks (not perfectly) on Trump and his agenda. Obamacare is protected, meaning millions of vulnerable Americans will keep their healthcare. Congress can do more to protect the Muller investigation, which is now under fire. Congress has subpoena power to investigate corruption further. A majority of representatives in favor of gun control. The list goes on…

16 Governorships: A majority of Americans now have Democratic Governors. This could mean expanding healthcare, working on climate change, and defending voting rights for millions.

333 Seats in State House/Senate races: Further to the point above — state houses can work with democratic governors to achieve more progressive agendas. Big win.

Historic wins

There were many on Tuesday, but here are just a few:

Criminal Justice & Voting Rights Victories:

  • 1.5M people with past felony convictions had their voting rights restored in Florida — the largest voting rights expansion since the Voting Rights Act in 1965
  • Louisiana passed a measure requiring felony convictions to have an unanimous verdict — Read more about why this is so important here
  • More NRA funded candidates than ever lost their election — 38 of them
  • Lucy McBath, a gun control activist, whose teenage son Jordan Davis was shot and killed at a Florida gas station for ‘playing his music to loud’ — will be the next Congresswoman from Georgia’s 6th district. (At the time of writing, she has declared victory but it’s not official)

Important Ballot Measures:

Flipped seats, houses, governorships

  • Democrat Laura Kelly won the Kansas Governorship. Kelly beat Kris Kobach, an ardent Trump supporter and architect of many racist voter suppression laws in Kansas
  • Abigail Spanberger will be the first Democratic to win her Virginia district in 47 years
  • Tony Evers beat Scott Walker, the union-busting GOP Governor of Wisconsin, in his bid for a fourth term as Governor
  • Jacky Rosen beat Republican Dean Heller in Nevada’s Senate race
  • Maine flipped its Governor, as well as both state house and senate. Janet Mills becomes the state’s first female Governor
  • Kim Davis, the Kentucky Country Clerk who refused to sign gay marriage licenses in 2015, lost to Democrat Elwood Caudill jr. who is openly gay

And many more…

Important points and lessons

  • A Majority of Americans voted democrat
  • Democrats won 57% of popular senate vote
  • Highest turnout for a midterm since 1960’s
  • Youth turnout was way up and leaned heavily towards the left

We saw that running a truly progressive campaign, even in deeply conservative states, like Texas or Georgia, works. Sure, Beto didn’t win, but he was much closer than his middle of the road counterpart Phill Bredesen in Tennessee; an important lesson for 2020.

Andrew Gillum’s progressive campaign also came painfully close — all the more painful knowing 1.5 million Floridians just had their right to vote restored, many of whom may have voted democrat. But Gillum showed us that speaking truth to power, unabashedly calling racism racism, pushing hard against the NRA, and building a coalition of many different kinds of people, really works — even in Florida.

One of the most inspiring campaigns was that of Stacey Abrams. She is still fighting to have all the votes counted in her state — the person in charge of counting the votes is her opponent Brian Kemp, who refuses to recuse himself from the process. Courts struck down several of Kemp’s voter suppression laws weeks before the election, but some 300,000 Georgians are still thought to have been kept from voting, most of whom are black. If she wins, she will be the first black woman elected Governor in US history. The vote is so close that it may go to a run-off election on Dec 4th. Only time (and good lawyers) will tell.

And while Beto and Gillum’s losses are tough to take, recent McCarthur ‘genius grant’ recipient Rev Dr. Barber reminds us that these near victories show that The South is not the impenetrable conservative stronghold we think it is. It’s a place that has systematically kept many of its people’s voices from being heard. These near victories are all the more inspiring in the face of what they overcame, and how they point us towards our next fight.

There is so much to celebrate about this election, and much to lament, but I encourage you to take the time to think about how many people’s lives will be made better because of what happened on Tuesday. It is monumental — and it is not enough. It can be both at once. This is just step one in a long and hard fight; one we must all push for with everything we have.

I’d like to leave you with this from author Rebeca Traister who speaks to something larger than what these victories mean individually. She talks about what it means for us going forward, who we should listen to, and who should lead the party. I couldn’t agree with her more.