Theodore Roosevelt in Chicago for the 1912 Progressive Party National Convention. Credit: Chicago Daily News/Chicago History Museum, via Getty Images
A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.
― Theodore Roosevelt
As the nation tensely awaits results from key battleground states, no matter what happens, it is clear that this election was a resounding victory for progressivism.¹
As of Thursday night, 107 women had been elected to the 435-member House with some races yet to be determined — 83 Democrats and 24 Republicans — That includes 44 women of color: 42 Democrats and two Republicans.
Sarah McBride, a 30-year-old LGBTQ activist, will become the first openly trans state senator and the highest-ranking openly trans lawmaker in the country. Cori Bush will become the first Black woman to be elected to Congress from Missouri. Nikil Saval will be the first Asian-American elected into the Pennsylvania State Senate. In Fort Bend, Texas, the city elected Eric Fagan as its first Black sheriff since Reconstruction. New Mexico made history electing its first House delegation comprising entirely of women of color. And six Native Americans were elected to the House of Representatives — a record-breaking number.²
In California, voters passed Prop. 17, which will restore the right to vote to more than 50,000 parolees in the state. Colorado became the first state to create a paid family and medical leave program through a ballot measure. Puerto Ricans voted in favor of U.S. statehood. Florida voters approved a $15 minimum wage.
That Wisconsin and Michigan flipped is due to the progressive platform launched by Bernie Sanders (and if Biden wins, he should acknowledge the senator from Vermont with a cabinet position.) The fact that Dems ran such close races in Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, and Texas is also in large part due to the progressive wing of the DNC, most notably the work Stacey Abrams did in Georgia to mobilize voter registration in that state.
Yet, when it is all said and done, perhaps the ultimate takeaway in 2020 is the role that African Americans played in deciding the political and moral destiny of the nation. In a year of reckoning around racial justice, if Joseph Biden becomes the next POTUS, he will have African Americans to thank. They literally saved his campaign from complete and utter collapse in South Carolina.
And as this is being written two days after the election, it appears that African Americans in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, Flint, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, as well as black and brown union workers in Las Vegas and Reno, will have delivered for Biden when it mattered most. No group did less to get Donald Trump placed in office than African Americans, and no group will have done more to put an end to his presidency. In the words of civil rights activist and lawyer Pauli Murray, “When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them. Where they speak out for the privileges of a puny group, I shall shout for the rights of all mankind.” Amen.
¹ Editor’s note: While the examples given by George are evidence of progressive victories, I would not necessarily use the term resounding. For example, voters in California rejected affirmative action, failed to expand rent control, shot down a law giving labor protections for ride-share and delivery drivers, and a measure that would have raised taxes on commercial landlords to raise needed state revenue is on track for defeat. Nonetheless, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party definitely advanced its agenda on several fronts.
“The 2020 Election Has Already Resulted in Some Historic Firsts,” by Rachelle Hampton, (Slate, 11/04/20)
Different versions of this essay appeared in KRWG, New Mexico (PBS, NPR) and CityWatch, Los Angeles. and an excerpt appeared in the The New York Daily News (11/06/20), Readers sound off on proposition victories, election letdowns and ballot counting