A Latina Perspective: A Reflection on the Midterm Elections
Editor’s note: The thoughts and comments expressed in this essay do not necessarily reflect the views of Latinitas. It is a first-person opinion essay written by Katherine Chacon shortly after the 2018 midterm elections.
Watching the midterms, I had mixed emotions. I was hoping and praying for a blue wave as a sign that Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric was not tolerated in this country. However, the blue wave that I thought was coming didn’t exactly turn out as planned. While Democrats took control of the House, Republicans gained seats in the Senate and now outnumber Democrats by a good margin. Nonetheless, even if the outcome was not exactly what I hoped, there were still many positive signs coming out of the midterms.
In Texas, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia made history by becoming the first two Latina women from Texas elected to the United States House of Representatives. Their victory gave me hope because it shows that Latina women are finally being represented in politics and their voices are being heard. Seeing someone who looks like me or has a similar background to me is inspiring because as someone who is passionate about activism, their election made me realize that the Latina voice is strong and powerful.
Latinas are also becoming an increasingly important demographic when it comes to elections. Even with Trump’s attempted immigration restrictions, the population of Latinas in the United States is only increasing. Because of that, I’ve realized how important it is to mobilize young Latinas to vote. Beto O’ Rourke’s campaign is an example of how energizing people of color and young people is effective. While he didn’t win, the fact that Texas was not immediately declared a Cruz victory, shows that Texas is starting to slowly change from being a solid red state to a possible swing state as a result of the increasing Hispanic population and more politically active young people.
The fact that the Democrats took control over the House gives me some hope that there will finally be checks on Trump. Up to this point, Trump has seemed to be able to do whatever he wants without consequences. He has painted Latino immigrants as criminals, gang members, and job stealers, and has instituted harsh immigration policies that have only led to families being separated at the border. By leading Congressional committees, Democrats can investigate Trump’s actions more closely and help steer the country away from the current anti-immigration sentiment. Even if no legislation is passed to change the situation, Democrats can still block proposed alt-right bills.
While there are many positives of the midterms, it’s also important to address the negative side of the midterms as well. The increasing voter engagement among the Hispanic community was not enough to stop the Republicans from winning many seats in state legislatures and the Senate. Normally in midterms, the party that is in power loses many more seats, but as a result of gerrymandering, Republicans were able to win closely contested elections. Voter suppression is a huge part of elections that often goes undiscussed. There is still an imbalance between the access that white people have to the polls and people of color, like Latinas, have to the polls. The polls in areas that have high populations of people of color are often run down and have machines that don’t work. It makes me angry to think that in a country where democratic participation is valued, not everyone has equal access to voting.
Also, the political polarization in Congress and the federal government generally is still scary. Political inaction is likely to be the norm the next two years as Democrats and Republicans refuse to compromise. While I don’t think compromise is the answer in every scenario, it’s still a necessary component of getting legislation passed. While the increased representation of Latinas is a step in the right direction, immigration reform is still going to be hard to accomplish because Trump’s rhetoric has demonized immigrants.
Overall, the midterms show just how important Latinas are becoming to the future of the United States, and now more than ever, getting Latinas to be politically active and to critically think about who they are voting for is necessary.