The 2020 election season will soon be behind us. Right now, even before we know the final results, there are many takeaways that we are attempting to process.
Likely the most visceral for many of us is how the presidential election brought to the forefront the extreme polarization gripping the country, a battle that is not just between Democrats andRepublicans, but between competing ideologies deeply rooted in the American psyche. As Shay Stewart-Bouley, Executive Director of Community Change Inc., our AROS partner organization,wrote so eloquently recently: “In a year that brought global recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for Black humanity, we are seeing the pushback; we are seeing racial patterns adapt to maintain white dominance.”
Many of us at the Network are feeling deep disappointment over just how many people— 69 million at the current count —did not expressly reject the current administration’s policies and the rhetoric of the current president. As starkly as this political and ideological polarization was revealed on the electoral map in the past days, what may not be visible, but is worth noting, is that the work we are doing — to fight systemic racism and adopt practices and policies that promote anti-racism in our towns and cities — is making a difference.
That difference was less evident on the electoral map, but striking in county-level breakdowns, which illustrated how overwhelmingly suburban voters rejected the racist dog whistles meant to sway their vote. It is perhaps indicative that suburban communities have done some careful listening and learning in the years since 2016. Here in Winchester, and in the communities beyond us, we are committed to keeping up the work of promoting equity and inclusion. It is working!
Finally, we wanted to take a moment to note some of the encouraging developments of the past days:
- The voter participation rate for Winchester was 83%. Voter participation rates in general elections typically hover around 60% and this year’s national turnout rate of 67% was the largest seen in nearly a century, so seeing how many of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues exercised their right to vote was amazing!
- LGBTQIA+ candidates made amazing strides on Tuesday night. Some notable wins included Winchester Reads author Sarah McBride who became the first openly transgender woman in the Delaware State Senate and Richie Torres (D-NY) and Mondaire Jones (D-NY) who became the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress. Both Kansas and Vermont also elected openly transgender lawmakers to their state’s Houses of Representatives and numerous other states — “blue” and “red” alike — elected openly gay and non-binary individuals as state leaders.
- Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush made history as the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress. Her district includes Ferguson, the city where Michael Brown was killed by police in 2014.
- Nevada became the first state in the nation to protect same-sex marriage in its Constitution.
- California voters passed Prop. 17, which will restore the right to vote to more than 50,000 parolees in the state.
- New Mexico made history by electing its first House delegation comprised entirely of women of color.
- A record number of Native American women will represent their states in Congress.
- The progressive Democratic Congresswomen known as “The Squad” (i.e. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib) were reelected in their respective races.
It is important to recognize signs of progress in the midst of the disappointing news about the tight presidential race. The work we are all doing is difficult; we take hope from these signs and, with community support, we are energized to continue the fight.
I want to leave you with the words of Jenee Osterheldt of the Boston Globe: “This fight requires grit and grace and rest and joy.”
We continue to be in this together.