John Sims and David A. Love
Before the elections we wrote an open letter urging America to vote. You voted in record numbers, they counted, discounted and recounted in record confusion, so now what? The results are a reckoning, a mixture of all that is good and awful about America. There were very important and historic victories, disappointing upsets, threats, counter-intuitive voting trends, gross conflicts of interest, claims of voting suppression and even a lawsuit. This election exposed that race still matters, white women still vote against their interests and a nationalist president will disrespect the media without shame. The election also showed that a white pimp in Nevada can win even though he is dead, while a smart black candidate for governor can lose to a candidate with white nationalist associations. It also showed that America is very much divided along the lines of Democrats vs Republicans and that Trump has a grip on the minds of millions of Americans in a way that might be borderline religious. But there are also the deep division lines within the people of color community and amongst women, producing a political sectionalism that secretly favors Trump. With all of this in mind, and some space and time to reflect, we would like to address the winners, losers, recounts and post election revelations and critical concerns as we begin to prepare for 2020.
The winners in the 2018 midterms were many, as Democrats, progressives, people of color and women elected the most diverse Congress in history, and fought off the forces of American-style Jim Crow fascism in earnest, in what Rev. William Barber calls the third US Reconstruction.
It was an election of many firsts, such as the first black Congresswomen from Massachusetts and Connecticut, the first Muslim American and Native American women in Congress, the first black top prosecutor of New York State and in Boston, and the first Latina members of Congress from Texas.
There were victories for Black Lives Matter and the anti-gun violence movement, as Lucy McBath, whose son Jordan Davis was gunned down in an act of racial vigilantism, won a Georgia congressional seat that no Democrat, much less a black woman, had any chances of winning. In all, 38 NRA-endorsed candidates were defeated in Congress. Wesley Bell, a black man from Ferguson, Missouri, replaced the white prosecutor who refused to indict the killer cop who shot Michael Brown, and the former Staten Island district attorney who ignored Eric Garner’s cries from the grave lost his congressional reelection bid. And Floridians voted to overturn a felony disenfranchisement law that restores voting rights to over 1 million formerly incarcerated people. Mississippi — a state with a legacy of the most lynchings in the US at 654 — has the opportunity to elect Mike Espy as its first African-American senator since Blanche Bruce was elected 140 years ago. Espy hopes to best Cindy Hyde-Smith — who joked about attending a “public hanging” — in a runoff election.
In Texas, Colin Allred — a black former NFL player and political newcomer — unseated 21-year incumbent congressman Pete Sessions. Democrats flipped Texas’ exclusively conservative 5th District Court of Appeals. In Harris County, the state’s largest county, Democrats won nearly all of the 70 judicial contests, with 17 black women elected as judges — running the table in a perfect example of “Black Girl Magic”.
While it was expected that Republicans would retain Senate control, one of the biggest losses was the defeat of the dynamic Beto O’Rourke — the vanilla Obama — in his bid against incumbent Ted Cruz in Texas.
Ultimately, the real loser in the midterms was democracy, which never has had a chance to flourish in the land of the free — a nation whose founders owned Africans, massacred indigenous nations and intended for only white male landowners to vote, and whose high court has eviscerated a Voting Rights Act enacted with the blood of civil rights martyrs. Gerrymandering and voter suppression by the Republican Party — the party of US white supremacy and neo-fascism — allowed them to win the Senate and maintain minority rule, even as 4.5 million more people voted for Democrats than the GOP. Trump and other Republican officials have made unfounded charges that Democrats committed voter fraud, and have demanded that Florida and Georgia stop counting the votes, presumably lest these states elect a black governor in the process.
The success of progressive multiracial coalitions this year notwithstanding, substantial numbers of Latino, Asian and Muslim immigrants assisted white supremacy and supported GOP candidates this election season, and nearly half of white women delivered for the party of Trump.
Confederate Ueber Alles: Florida, Mississippi and Georgia.
Civil War Reloaded
When you look closely at the state flags of the Florida, Mississippi and Georgia, with the Confederate references, you see the signs of the Civil War in continuation. This is why the campaigns of Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida, and Mike Espy from Mississippi were so important. They have run brilliant campaigns with very impressive numbers, especially considering widespread gerrymandering, voter suppression and old white boy southern politics. Even as Kemp and Desantis prepare for their “victories” and Espy for his senate runoff in Mississippi, the message is loud and clear; every vote must count, Trump’s Confederacy is on notice and a new day is coming.
Stressful competition can bring out the best or worse, or most importantly, the truth about what we really feel. We saw this play out especially around the issue of race during and after the election. First we had Ron Desantis of Florida, with his “monkey this up” statement made in reference to Andrew Gillum — his black opponent. Then shortly after the election, Trump insulted three black women reporters Yamiche Alcindor, Abbey Phillips, and April Ryan in a span of three days. He called Alcindor’s questions about white nationalism racist. Then recently, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), the first woman senator in her state, was caught on tape saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” She has yet to acknowledge and apologize for the insensitivity of her statement.
This free use of racially insensitive and inappropriate language points to an emerging confidence of a pre-civil rights era posturing in line with the attitudes of the Alt-Right, white nationalism and most probably Trump himself. This new found openness and Trump induced honesty around race is not only coming from the right. It is also coming from the left. Bernie Sanders chimed in to defend hesitating white folks with:
“I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American.”
In this statement Sanders maybe be right about white folks’ comfort levels regarding voting for black candidates, his willingness to give the benefit of the doubt to people who are practicing good old American race based discrimination is very problematic. Because the last time we checked, “uncomfortability”, aka fear, is the very component that drives the emotional process that makes white privilege and supremacy sustainable.
Moving Forward to 2020
This midterm election was indeed dynamic and brought many victories and revelations about the complexity around race and democracy. It also shows that Americans are complex, conflicted, reactive and even self-sabotaging as we move to define what makes a country great under a Trump Administration. The results also showed that there are two different Americas, cutting across gender, race, class, education- at war with each other and maybe within our own communities.
And as we move beyond this midterm election, we must never forget that progress and course correction is a long term relationship and not a one night stand. And if we want to stop White House nationalism, American implosion and global disaster, we must build on the victories of this election and prepare for the big battle in 2020, now!
John Sims, a Detroit native, is a multimedia conceptual artist, writer and activist. His creative projects have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Art in America, Science News, Nature and Scientific American. He has written for CNN, Al Jazeera, and The Huffington Post. Follow him at @johnsimsproject.
Originally published at medium.com on November 17, 2018.