Here we are again, back at the drawing board.
Our minds are reeling from losses that feel like vicious assaults to common decency and essential fairness. Many of us are stunned and saddened. Others are furious. Still others feel set adrift on a churning sea of despair.
We’ve been here before — feeling lost and bewildered as half of the voters around us are celebrating a win for racism, for sexism, for bigotry in all its forms. Not to mention the danger these losses pose to the already fragile environment. Access to healthcare. Critical funding for public education. The list goes on, and just thinking about it makes our stomachs twist into knots and our bones grow heavy with sorrow. The thought of curling up in the fetal position and just giving up altogether is overwhelmingly appealing.
Here’s the thing: there is still so much hope.
You just have to look past the immediate, staggering losses in order to see it.
Here in Florida, more than 60% of Sunshine State voters passed Amendment 4, putting an end to the Jim Crow era lifetime voter disenfranchisement of former convicted felons. That opens the door to 1.5 million potential voters to join the rolls in time for the 2020 election cycle. In a state where gubernatorial and senate races are often won or lost by 1 percentage point, adding event fifteen percent of those brand spanking new voters could be a seismic shift to the electorate.
Nationwide, Democrats picked up enough congressional seats to give them the majority in the House.
I’m going to repeat that for those folks in the back:
DEMOCRATS NOW HAVE CONTROL OF THE HOUSE.
This is what we’ve been working for since November of 2016. It’s our check on the Executive Branch. No one expected us to win the Senate, but this win means we will set the agenda in the House, and nothing will get passed without Democratic support. No more rolling over us. Having the chambers split the way they are will force compromise, which is how government is supposed to work. No more winner takes all. Get ready for bipartisan legislation that will move our country forward. Or complete gridlock, which won’t bode well for you know who in 2020. This victory was a crippling blow to the Executive Branch and a big win for grassroots organizers everywhere.
Also, y’all, we elected over 100 women to the House for the first time ever. And many of them are women of color. Representation matters. Having more women at the table will prioritize issues that impact our communities. We need diversity of thought, of representation, of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. We are closer now than we’ve ever been to true representation in government, and that’s incredibly satisfying and uplifting.
Nothing about this work is fast or easy. As the old cliche goes, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Marathons are grueling. They take so much out of you and leave you wondering why in hell you are even bothering to do this in the first place. I can tell you why I’m bothering to do it: because I don’t have any other choice. As a black woman, these fights are personal. Any movement backwards puts people who look like me at immediate risk. But it’s not just about me. It’s about every marginalized group, every working class family, every child who deserves a quality public education, every senior who shouldn’t have to choose between their medication or their mortgage payment. We’re all at risk. That’s a lesson we learned the hard way in 2016.
I find motivation from looking backwards to those who fought harder than I could ever imagine. Those who risked their lives in the hopes that, one day, someone like me could have the opportunities that I enjoy without a second thought. I draw strength from their sacrifices and leadership. They didn’t give up when the cause for which they were fighting could literally cost them their lives. I’m not going to give up either.
History is a wheel, y’all. I see that more with every passing day. And change comes slowly…but we have to keep pushing for it. We have to keep shedding our blood, our sweat, our tears.
Take the time to lick your wounds, mourn your losses, learn from mistakes made and challenges not overcome. But celebrate the wins too. They are everywhere.
The first Muslim women elected to Congress. The first Native American women elected to Congress. The first openly gay governor. The first Democratic Latina governor. The first black woman elected to Congress from the state of Massachusetts. Guam’s first Democratic female governor. Texas’s first Latina Congresswomen. Iowa’s first ever women elected to Congress. We flipped seats nationwide, y’all, and put more women into positions of leadership and power. And we had real wins in our local races too. City, county, and state seats matter.
If you can’t see the hope yet, give yourself some time. But don’t stop looking for the light in the darkness. Find that light and hold it closely, because there’s so much work to be done.
I’m ready to get back to the hustle (after a day or two of Netflix binge watching and a nap). I don’t know where the hell this optimism comes from, but I feel it, and I know we need to get back to work. Nothing will change until we change it ourselves. This is our time.