Six years ago, Lucy McBath was a Delta flight attendant in Marietta, Georgia. On November 23, 2012, she learned that her 17-year-old son had been shot and killed by a white man at a gas station because of the loud rap music he was playing in his car. Overnight, McBath went from being a suburban mom to an activist. In November 2018, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia’s Sixth District after campaigning as an opponent of the gun lobby and an advocate for equal education and health care for all. She will take the seat in Congress held for 20 years by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In the Chicago suburbs, another newcomer won a seat once held by a Speaker of the House. Lauren Underwood beat incumbent Randy Hultgren in the Fourteenth District of Illinois, the district once represented by disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Underwood, a nurse, will be the first woman and the first African-American to represent the district. She won by stressing her support for health care and her opponent’s opposition to expanding it.
The 2018 election campaign made what is good in America better and what’s bad in America worse. The vicious, racist demagoguery of the Trump forces—particularly the slander against immigrants—had an impact. At the same time, the strong support given to McBath and Underwood, and to people such as Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, Ayanna Pressley, Jess King, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Deb Haaland, Sharice Davids, Beto O’Rourke and others proves that many voters are willing to cross ethnic and gender lines to vote for candidates who campaign on the issues.
Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah approved ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid. Across the country, many voters supported Medicare for all and also decisively rejected candidates with a track record of opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
The election results show that the majority of voters are deeply worried about the attacks on democracy and decency. Despite efforts to suppress the vote, voters turned out at rates not seen in a mid-term election in half a century. Turn-out boomed among women, Latinos, and young people.
The real “wave” was a wave of resistance—to the status quo. It was an expression of the basic morality of the American people and a rejection of racism and xenophobia. This outrage isn’t going away. While not every progressive candidate or ballot measure succeeded, the battle lines have now been drawn. The fight for a new America—for universal health care, for quality public education, for a clean environment, for affordable housing, for immigrant rights—won’t grind to a halt once all the votes have been counted. That struggle will continue—not just in the electoral arena, but throughout society.
We have to build on the unity that was forged in the 2018 election campaign. Just as armies sometimes use the tactic of attacking “wave upon wave,” we have to be ready for new offensives. We are not simply fighting one bad man; we are fighting a bad system. We have to prepare for a protracted struggle by the majority of people to transform this country into the new America it could be.