Midterm elections: What moved forward, what did not
The Nov. 6 midterm elections have come and gone, with some outcomes still in doubt. And while, fundamentally, political and economic conditions have remained the same, some of the outcomes are welcomed. Women, people of color, LGBTQ2S people and immigrants made history.
They were elected on a wide range of progressive issues, along with who they are.
For example, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia are the first Latinx women to represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both are strong advocates of immigrant rights.
Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first two Indigenous women to win seats in the House, representing Kansas and New Mexico, respectively. Haaland stated, “America isn’t broke, but we have been pillaged by billionaires and big corporations who get rich off our infrastructure and expect working people to foot the bill. No more.” (inequality.org, Nov. 7)
Ilhan Omar, a Somali, and Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian, became the first Muslim women who won House seats. Omar won her seat in Minnesota, home to the largest Somali community in the U.S. Tlaib won her seat — vacated by Rep. John Conyers, who is Black — with over 87 percent of the vote in her Michigan district. A month before the elections, Tlaib was arrested for blocking a McDonald’s demanding $15 and a union. Both of these women ran on a platform of Medicare-for-all and debt-free college tuition.
Ayanna Pressley, a former Boston City Council member, became the first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House.
Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, a Puerto Rican, became the youngest woman to be voted into the U.S. House; she represents the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx in New York City. She has called for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
In Colorado, Jared Polis was the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state, while Christine Hallquist, a trans woman, got 40 percent of the votes for governor of Vermont.
These elections alone — along with progressive referendums passed allowing former felons to vote in Florida; a stop to gerrymandering in Michigan; the legalization of marijuana in Michigan, Missouri and Utah, which should lead to overturning convictions for its sale and use — represent the first progressive electoral rebuke to white supremacist, misogynist Trumpism.
These midterm elections, like so many prior ones, can serve as a political barometer on the mood of the masses, showing who the masses want out, as opposed to who the masses want voted in.
What hasn’t changed
Despite any progressive victories, the fundamental class features of U.S. bourgeois elections have not changed. One important feature is voter suppression based on inherent inequality steeped in white supremacy and other class bias against people who are indigent and working class. This is especially true for sectors of the working class who are of African descent, immigrant, Indigenous and young. And the state — which includes the police, laws, courts, prisons, etc. — is used as a repressive instrument to reinforce this inequality.
Voter suppression remains acutely widespread in the deep South, where Black people won the right to vote a mere 53 years ago. It is also an issue in North Dakota, where an estimated 5,000 Indigenous people who live in rural areas have post office addresses. A federal judge at the end of October refused to overturn a new election ruling that requires a street address, thus barring thousands of Native people from voting.
The right of the most oppressed to vote must be defended by the movement as an act of anti-white-supremacist, pro-working-class solidarity, first and foremost. That is why the candidacy of Stacey Abrams, the first Black woman candidate to run for governor in a former slave state, Georgia, should be supported, no matter her political affiliation. As of this writing, thousands of votes still remain uncounted in that state.
While the now Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has more people of color and women, the Republican-controlled Senate is known as the millionaires’ club, a majority of cis white males unapologetically tied to corporate interests.
Currently, there are 23 women senators, including four of color, out of a total of 100. There are two senators from each state, no matter the population, large or small, which is undemocratic and unrepresentative, even under bourgeois norms.
The bottom line is that elections, even under a bourgeois democracy, cannot overturn class relations of any kind, even when progressive candidates and popular reforms are front and center. There still remains intact a small elite ruling class, which owns and controls the vast wealth of the world’s resources and is the oppressor of the global working class.
Until a revolutionary process overturns those class relations, elections will continue to be just a barometer, not a game changer for workers and oppressed peoples.