Democrats aren’t really used to being in a good mood.
Since the mass Democratic wins in November, there has been a noticeable shift in attitude in progressive circles. Perhaps it is not full glee, but more a relief, an easing of pressure, a thaw. All of which boils down to one human essential: hope. There is some hope for balance, bipartisanship, and oversight that has withered under Republican leadership. It’s a strange feeling, this hope. After a nasty election in 2016, followed by an even nastier Presidency, the Trump Administration has been lowering our expectations and making us expect the worst of everything and each other. It feels nice to have even a semblance of equity (although there is still a lot of work to be done; the 2018 midterms, aside from the Blue Wave, showed serious racial fissures that will take an incredibly long time to overcome).
In my own community, there was an upset that was both shocking and, somehow, expected. Delegate Jennifer Wexton was running in opposition to House Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock to represent Virginia’s 10th Congressional district (large swaths of Northern Virginia and the suburbs outside of DC). Comstock has been in power for quite some time, but her transformation into an apologist for Trump made her increasingly out of touch with a quickly growing diverse community. She was unable to get past some of her ultra-Conservative practices and policies. Jennifer Wexton won almost easily, and after months of supporting and volunteering for her, there was personal pride mixed in with my own feelings about the state of our political situation.
This feels very different from the Democratic primaries back in June (half a year ago – or half a lifetime ago?), when I volunteered for a candidate who lost to Jennifer Wexton in a bid to unseat Barbara Comstock. It makes intuitive sense that winning feels better than losing (and the stakes were lower in that election), but winning does not always mean total triumph. One of the things that the 2018 midterms showed me* is that we are going to have to work harder than ever. The difference between June and November is seeing the power of voting work in real time, and to see neighborhoods coming together to make change actually happen.
So, of course, winning feels good. But seeing a win turn into legislation feels even better. Eyes up.
* = One of the big lessons coming out of the election is how regional stereotypes are waning. Texas is getting more Democratic, pockets of Republican gubernatorial wins are reshaping the Northeast, and liberalism is emerging in the Midwest. Things are more varied than just “East versus West” or “North versus South.” We need to adjust our thinking accordingly.