With new leaders, hope is in the air
To me, the midterm elections amounted to a “wash” in many ways. Despite a few bright lights, the midterms underscored the serious divide in our country. But they also reflect the opportunity that those newly elected have for change and new ideas. We should celebrate that the House will reflect the actual makeup of our nation — and that is a good thing. The ushering in of 110 women (including Massachusetts’ long overdue first woman of color, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley) is history-making. Even music business impresario P Diddy tipped his hat in a tweet to the standout incoming women of the House, among them Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, the first Native American women elected to Congress, and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women elected to Congress. The Republicans also added to their numbers in the Senate, expanding their majority. Many reasons are attributed to their win, among them the Kavanaugh hearings, but more than a few can be chalked up to Trump stumping for them in areas where he did well. Congratulations are also in order here in Massachusetts. Kudos to the Mass. Women’s Political Caucus under the leadership of Executive Director Laurie Martinelli and President Gail Jackson Blount, who made diversity a hallmark of their mission. Many in our home state were bemoaning the lack of diversity in our own House. Women made history on Beacon Hill, winning a record 46 seats in the House, including Tram Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American woman state rep. Kudos to my girl Rachael Rollins, the first woman of color to serve as Suffolk District Attorney, winning 80 percent of the vote — an undeniable mandate for change. On the national front, even though I have issues with Emily’s List around diversity of support and spreading resources to support more women of color, the organization was relentless and massively successful in its efforts to flip the House. I am so proud of black women across the nation who crafted their own campaign victories that made room for all women — opening the doors of political opportunity. I must confess that I have been a “time to clean House” proponent, especially with the “breath of fresh air” and the lived experiences that these new and young talented congressional newbies bring to the table. But I have to pay homage to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was often beaten down and bloodied and used mercilessly as the Republicans’ scapegoat. Pelosi turned out in the end to be Wonder Woman. She was a superior architect of the House’s win with her focus on health care. I do remain suspicious of President Trump’s congratulations to her and wonder whether his plan might be to keep her as a punching bag for the next half of his term. But with Pelosi, the Dems seem to be in good hands. Accolades aside, now the work begins. Like everyone, I’m looking for action — and not just because action speaks louder than words — but because you don’t need definitions and platitudes to get the work done, you need a strategy and a plan that you stick to. Folks are tired of so much focus on ideological differences. We need to focus on bipartisan support to get things done. Our nation deserves better than we are now getting. President Trump has already signaled his willingness on areas that both parties can work together on for the benefit of everyone. Health care was a major issue of the midterms. Trump has said he wants to rein in the cost of pharmaceuticals. I know families who have gone bankrupt or amassed serious debt to afford the high cost of fighting chronic diseases like cancer. Infrastructure also seems like a good place to come together. But there are also tough issues with major differences of opinion that must be tackled. Wednesday night, there was yet another mass shooting. It’s not just that the current climate lacks civility or that people with mental health issues are slipping through the cracks. We have to take safety precautions, stopping short of making our places of worship and schools into armed camps. But the priority for our Congress must be to find ways to come to a consensus over ways to stop gun violence. Massachusetts’ gun laws are a good example to emulate. There’s a lot to do, but with the new Congress, I am cautiously optimistic.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Suffolk District Attorneyelect Rachael Rollins speaks during an election night party at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel.