Amer­i­cana, 2018

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION - BY ISOLDE D. AMANTE

What a vic­to­ri­ous week it was for Amer­i­can women. In Tues­day’s mid-term elec­tions, 11 of 23 women who ran for the Se­nate won of­fice. At least 122 of 233 women who ran for the House won as well, which means that the share of seats Amer­i­can women hold will rise from 20 per­cent af­ter the 2016 elec­tions to 28 per­cent.

“Women’s vic­to­ries,” The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported, “pow­ered the Democrats in re­tak­ing the House.”

In win­ning, so many women set records. Rashida Tlaib (Michi­gan) and Il­han Omar (Min­nesota) will be the first Mus­lim women in the US Con­gress. Omar is also the first So­mali-Amer­i­can elected to that of­fice; Tlaib is the first Pales­tinian-Amer­i­can woman to ac­com­plish the same feat. Veron­ica Es­co­bar and Sylvia Gar­cia are the first Latina women ever elected to rep­re­sent Texas in Con­gress.

Among their col­leagues will be De­bra Haa­land (New Mex­ico) and Sharice Davids (Kansas), both Democrats, who will be the first Na­tive Amer­i­can women in the US Con­gress. Davids is also the first openly LGBT per­son to rep­re­sent Kansas.

For the first time, vot­ers in Con­necti­cut and Mas­sachusetts chose African-Amer­i­can women to rep­re­sent them in Wash­ing­ton. Ja­hana Hayes, an award-win­ning teacher whose classes in­cluded gov­ern­ment and his­tory, de­feated a Repub­li­can for­mer mayor in her first cam­paign for pub­lic of­fice in Con­necti­cut. Nine years ago, Ayanna Press­ley be­came the first woman of color to win a seat in the Bos­ton City Coun­cil. This year, she ran un­op­posed for Con­gress af­ter de­feat­ing 10-term con­gress­man Michael Ca­puano in the Demo­cratic pri­maries in Mas­sachusetts.

Like Press­ley, Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez de­feated a po­lit­i­cal vet­eran, 10-term New York con­gress­man and po­ten­tial speak­er­ship con­tender Joe Crow­ley, in the pri­maries. At 29, Oca­sio-Cortez last week be­came the youngest woman ever elected to the US House.

What made th­ese his­toric wins pos­si­ble? For starters, there was a de­ci­sion to turn anger into or­ga­nized po­lit­i­cal ac­tion. That anger be­gan sim­mer­ing af­ter Hil­lary Clin­ton won the pop­u­lar vote but lost the pres­i­dency to Don­ald Trump in 2016. It gained mo­men­tum af­ter sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse charges be­gan to sur­face against sev­eral high-pow­ered men, in­clud­ing Trump him­self.

When he cam­paigned this year, Trump be­lit­tled Stacey Abrams, say­ing she was un­qual­i­fied to be­come gover­nor of Ge­or­gia even if she “has more elite ed­u­ca­tion and law­mak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence than Trump him­self,” as The Wash­ing­ton Post pointed out. Abrams is a nov­el­ist who has served for years in the state leg­is­la­ture and has earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic pol­icy and a doc­tor­ate from Yale law school. She may be headed for a runoff elec­tion against Repub­li­can Brian Kemp, who stayed on as Ge­or­gia’s state sec­re­tary and, in ef­fect, its top elec­tion of­fi­cial all through­out the elec­tion.

Writ­ing in the­con­ver­sa­tion.com, Jen­nifer Mathers ob­served that the mid-terms “also demon­strate that women can over­come fac­tors that are typ­i­cally disad­van­tages for a can­di­date, such as be­ing a chal­lenger rather than an in­cum­bent, hav­ing lit­tle or no ex­pe­ri­ence of elected of­fice, and pro­mot­ing pol­icy po­si­tions that are out­side the main­stream.” Th­ese pol­icy po­si­tions in­clude af­ford­able hous­ing as a hu­man right, uni­ver­sal back­ground checks as part of gun con­trol re­forms, ex­panded on­line regis­tra­tion as a way to fight voter sup­pres­sion, and stricter rules for dis­clo­sure of po­lit­i­cal spend­ing, in or­der to limit the in­flu­ence of big donors and spe­cial in­ter­ests on gov­ern­ment.

Iden­tity pol­i­tics sur­faced, with­out apolo­gies. Press­ley, who ran for of­fice in the only district in Mas­sachusetts where the ma­jor­ity isn’t white, told Bos­ton.com “that the peo­ple clos­est to the pain should be clos­est to the power, driv­ing and in­form­ing our pol­i­cy­mak­ing.”

What sto­ries await Filip­ina can­di­dates and vot­ers when our elec­tions take place less than six months from now? (isolde.amante@gmail.com)

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