On Nov. 6, the nation will head to the polls for the first midterm election since President Donald Trump took office, with all 435 House seats, 33 Senate seats, 36 state governorships and thousands of state and local offices up for grabs. Voters across America will have the opportunity to not only reject the GOP’s agenda, but to replace it with one that is progressive, inclusive and representative of who we are as a nation.
The Republican Party now controls both houses of Congress and the presidency, and has cemented a conservative majority on the Supreme Court with the recent swearing in of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Over the past two years, we have seen Republican officials work to drag this country backwards, instead of moving us forwards. They have undermined the Affordable Care Act, withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, kidnapped children at the border and deported their parents, refused to take up any gun control legislation, banned people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, overseen a dramatic increase of the civilian death toll in the Middle East, weakened protections for student-loan borrowers and given trillions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy. They have repeatedly used their power not to lift others up, but to push them down.
Voting for Democrats this fall is not simply voting against the Republican Party and its platform. It is committing to an America not based on hatred and division but unity and progress. A Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will combat the Trump agenda by pushing for increased access to health care, reinstatement of environmental protections and a more equitable tax plan that makes the wealthy pay their fair share.
A Democratic majority in the Senate will protect the judicial system from the Trump administration’s radical nominees, and ensure that issues like a woman’s access to vital health care, LGBTQ+ rights and voting rights are protected. Democratic governors and Democratic majorities in state houses will fight for Medicare expansion, strengthen collective bargaining rights and perhaps most importantly, help draw the new congressional maps in the 2020 nationwide redistricting.
The slate of Democratic candidates who are running to make these majorities possible is more diverse than ever. A record number of Democratic nominees for the House of Representatives this fall are women. Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Sharice Davids of Kansas are running to be the first two female Native American Congresswomen ever. Stacey Abrams in Georgia has the chance to become this nation’s first-ever black female governor. And there are four LGBTQ+ gubernatorial candidates nationwide, including Christine Hallquist of Vermont, who could become the first-ever transgender governor. The Democratic Party is working to finally make the government look like the people it represents and uplift the voices of people from groups who have been, and continue to be, neglected in our country. As Ayanna Pressley — likely to become Massachusetts’ first ever black Congresswoman — likes to say, “the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power.”
In many states there are ballot initiatives and measures whose effects will be felt much longer than the term of any politician. Massachusetts’ Question 3 could repeal protections for transgender individuals. Arkansas and North Carolina have ballot initiatives to tighten voter ID laws that will disproportionately affect people of color. In Alabama, West Virginia and Oregon, abortion rights could be further restricted at the state level during a time where they are already threatened nationally. Even in states that “always vote” one way or another, there are no partisan labels on ballot initiatives, and your vote there matters just as much as it does anywhere else.
Of course, it is sometimes hard to believe that your vote matters. Many of you will be sending in an absentee ballot. Why, then, should you bother to vote, let alone vote for Democrats?
Last year in Virginia, a House of Delegates election was tied, and a Republican candidate won because his name was picked randomly out of a bowl. The result of that race? A 51 to 49 Republican majority rather than a 50-50 split. In the 2008 Minnesota Senate election, former Democratic Senator Al Franken lost his Senate race against incumbent Republican Norm Coleman by 215 votes. A recount was triggered, 935 absentee ballots were found to have been wrongly rejected and Franken won by 225 votes. Many of those absentee ballots came from college students across the country. You never know – this year it could be yours.
Finally, a discussion about the importance of voting would be incomplete without mentioning that voting has become more of a privilege than a right. Across the country, millions of people, predominantly people of color, are prevented from voting by strict voter ID laws, the disenfranchisement of felons or purging of voter rolls. Florida’s strictest-in-the-nation felon disenfranchisement laws mean that 10 percent of adult Floridians —over 1.5 million people — can’t vote. The majority of the individuals affected are black, and as a result 23 percent of black Floridians can’t vote (something that could be overturned this fall if Amendment 4 passes). Recently in Georgia, in a move reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, Secretary of State and current gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp froze 53,000 voter registrations just weeks before election day. Although black people only make up 32 percent of Georgia’s population, they made up over two-thirds of the registrations frozen. And in states like Ohio, thousands of voters have been purged from voter rolls without any warning.
So on Nov. 6, we, the Amherst College Democrats, urge those of you who can to vote for Democrats from the top of the ballot to the very bottom. Yes, vote against Trump. Yes, vote against those who think health care isn’t a human right. Yes, vote against those who don’t think that black lives matter. But also, vote for a sustainable future. Vote for equal pay for equal work. And vote for the America we deserve. For the millions who can’t, you must.