Today was always going to be a pretty historical day. Unfortunately, many of us had hoped this would be down to the fact that America had elected their first female president. Although Clinton was perhaps not an ideal candidate for this iconic position, I was optimistic when I went to bed last night that I would wake up in a world where the woman who is the Prime Minister of my own country would have a female counterpart in the US to work with. Instead, I woke up to the news that the man we have joked about, gawped at and hated has become the most powerful man in the world.
As I was reading through all the fear and anger this morning, however, I was struck by a few stories that have, understandably but sadly, been overshadowed by the news about Trump. So, if you’re watching the chaos unfold in America and feeling down about humanity- here are some outcomes of the 2016 election to remind us all that not everything is lost, and not everything is Trump. I think it is important to recognise the victories, however small they may be, especially when the election was such an overwhelming loss.
Kamala Harris became the first Black female senator since 1999, and the second in history
In California, an underreported and underrated race has been going on between two women to become senator- a position that hasn’t been changed in the state in 24 years. America may have elected a president who many people see as racist and sexist among many other things, but the daughter of a Jamaican and an Indian immigrant has made it to the senate. The race was historical from the word go. Loretta Sanchez, Harris’ opposition, would have been the first Latin woman in the senate if she had won.
The race was also the first major public test of the ‘top two’ primary system California adopted in 2010. This system basically means that the two candidates with the most votes will be put forward into the general election, regardless of their allied party. As a consequence (and as was the case in this race) it is possible for both candidates to be affiliated with the same party. Perhaps, the fact that it was Democrat vs. Democrat in the Sanchez-Harris race meant that interest was slightly lower than elsewhere, as the result would not change the overall balance of power in the senate. With attention consistently drawn to the theatrics of the national election, it is no surprise that this race was swept largely under the rug. Nonetheless, the result is historic and one to be celebrated, particularly in the face of the new President-elect.
(California voters also approved marajuana for recreational use today- take that as you will)
The First Latina Senator in U.S history was elected in Nevada
Sanchez may have lost out in California, but history was still made for the Latin-American community in Nevada, where Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina woman in the senate.
Cortez was running against a Republican Trump supporter, Joe Heck, who famously read on a satirical news page that Muslims were trying to implement Sharia law in Michigan, and then used it to explain his opposition to letting Syrian refugees into the U.S. Cortez didn’t just beat a bigot, but she beat a bigot with a LOT more funds on his side than she had. The Koch Brothers reportedly spent over $1Million on trying to defeat her. Groups linked to the brothers have spent $1.2 Million on attack ads and other anti-Cortez propaganda. And she STILL won! All that in a world where the current President-elect of the United States called Hispanic Miss Universe Alicia Machado “Miss Housekeeping”.
Ilhan Omar became a legislator- having arrived in America as a Somali refugee when she was just 11
On Sunday, Trump was greeted by cheers when he shouted that Minnesota had “suffered enough” from Somali refugees. Today, Minnesota elected a Somali refugee as a legislator. In the final Republican debate, Trump said that Muslims are “not coming into the country if I’m president”. Today, he has a Muslim lawmaker to work with.
Omar’s victory is a wonderful continuation of a political journey she began at the age of 11- fleeing war torn Somalia and spending years in a Kenyan refugee camp before arriving in America, knowing only a few words of English. She is also the director of a group dedicating itself to helping East African woman to positions of civic responsibility, the Women Organizing Women Network. In her own life, she has faced obstacle after obstacle, and Trumps attitudes towards immigrants simply put a face (to which she has shown a giant two fingers) to the opposition she has faced her entire life.
On her win, Omar said “My neighbours and everyone here in this room, represents what we as a nation want to be: United in our diversity.”. Although a small part of such a disastrous election, this small victory is pivotal to the understanding that anti-Trump Americans cannot just give up on the country.
Kate Brown became the first openly LGBT U.S governor in history
Having compared his opposition to same-sex marriage to his dislike of long putters in golf (yes, he actually said this), and constantly reaffirming the fact that he’s a “traditionalist”, Trump probably isn’t overjoyed about having an openly LGBT governor to work with, which is amazing. Kate Brown was elected as governor in Oregon, easily beating Republican Bud Pierce. Pierce faced criticism earlier this year for his response to Brown ,bravely and publicly, identifying herself as a victim of domestic violence. He said that educated and well-off women were “not susceptible” to domestic abuse. Which is nice.
Speaking to the Washington Blade last month, Brown said “You can’t be what you can’t see. If I can be a role model for one young person that decides that their life is worth living because there’s someone like them in the world, it’s worth it.”
The fact that A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS (again, HOW?!) have voted for a president who has openly bullied people because of their race, sexual orientation, gender and religion, proves that the whole world has a problem. If it wasn’t obvious enough before, hopefully this will make people realise that we are NOT living in an equal world.
While the results of the U.S Presidential election are, quite frankly heartbreaking, there are still positive changes and silver linings. There are both jokes and serious considerations coming from all over the place about Anti-Trump American’s fleeing the country, but hopefully people can see that their are sparks of hope and there are reasons to stay and fight alongside likeminded individuals, to make sure America will never vote for someone like Trump again. In any case, there are people changing the world for the better and there are things to feel inspired by and excited about right now, and they should be the things we turn our focus to.
I hope that this tweet from Lin-Manuel Miranda will, today or in the coming weeks/months, reflect a similar response from other Americans too.