After a long night anxiously watching midterms and aggressively drinking iced coffee from a massive reusable bottle that has a sticker with the fitting phrase “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate” slapped on it, I felt as if I didn’t have to call my mother to tell her I wouldn’t be coming back to the States in the winter. As admittedly dramatic as that is, I’m glad I still have hope.
The first Latinas voted were to Congress in Texas, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez made history once again. The first Muslim women elected to Congress—Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib—broke barriers. Ayanna Pressley and Jahana Hayes will represent their states as African-American women. Sharice Davids, a lesbian, Native-American MMA fighter was elected as well. Tennessee will see their first female senator. Maine, Guam, and South Dakota will see their first female governors. A heaping handful of women also flipped their districts.
I’m inspired by women transforming our legislature as we know it, and I’m surely grateful that representation is beginning to reflect the people of the United States. As disappointing as Beto O’Rourke’s loss, Florida’s gubernatorial election, and Arizona’s race for governor were, we are seeing a shift towards a more diverse and inclusive Congress. That’s an aspect that can be considered a win.
It can be considered a win that several girls watched the elections—perhaps just as anxiously as I did—and thought that they too might be able to run for office someday. They too can be represented by people who have similar experiences to theirs.
New milestones towards diversity can also be seen as disappointing. The fact is, it is 2018 and it is the first time we have seen women hold certain offices in some states. It is the first time we have seen wins among groups of women who can truly understand their constituents’ struggles and triumphs. While it’s never disappointing to achieve these milestones, the timing is sad. It is disappointing that we have had to wait until now to see Latinas voted into office in Texas or Muslim women elected into Congress at all. The wait for a truly representative government has been too long, and we’re still shy from that goal.
Part of our democracy, part of the American Dream, is that anyone should be able to have a fair shot at engaging in politics. While I’m proud that we are moving towards that reality, we still have work to do. Our victories are important, and we are absolutely justified in celebrating them. But it’s even more important to keep the momentum going; to keep working towards an America where everyone feels they have a voice and where every voice is powerful. Representation is of massive importance in the US. Encouraging our representatives to match our nation’s spectrum of backgrounds can only lead to positive dialogue. I’m proud that we’re on our way towards that goal.