Don’t despair. Despite a complicated and difficult election night, we do have good news in America right now—and we intend to celebrate it.
While the results that trickled in on Tuesday night were painful for those of us who hoped America would live up to its promise of embracing true, representative democracy and rejecting blind nationalism, it was also a night with moments of triumph, with victories for women candidates, LGBTQ candidates, and people of color running for office up and down the ballot. Transgender women made unprecedented inroads in elected office. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and every other member of “the Squad” won reelection. Mauree Turner, a 27-year-old Black and queer woman, became Oklahoma’s first Muslim elected to state legislature. There were positive outcomes for women’s reproductive rights, for equal pay, and for criminal justice reform.
We need those wins, because no matter what happens in the presidential race (which is still too close in several states to call), the 2020 election has exposed the degree to which the rights of women and minorities are still in great danger. Tuesday night brought a win for 25-year-old North Carolina congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn, a man described as a “Hitler enthusiast.” Congress will also welcome its first QAnon supporter, Marjorie Taylor Greene.
But the good news isn’t small, and it shouldn’t be dismissed. Let’s take a look at the many women and LGBTQ people who triumphed on Tuesday night, as well as some of the legislative victories that will affect women and marginalized groups.
Cori Bush—a nurse and activist who is also a single mother—became the first Black woman elected to Congress from the state of Missouri. In the primary she beat an incumbent who had been in office for 20 years, and she campaigned on promises to work toward the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and other major progressive causes.
Sarah McBride became the first trans state senator in U.S. history. Get to know her name—Delaware’s new state senator is only 30 years old and has spent a career as an activist for LGBTQ rights. “I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too,” she tweeted on Tuesday night.
Daniella Levine Cava
Daniella Levine Cava became the first woman mayor of Miami-Dade, beating her opponent, who had publicly supported Trump, by a significant margin. “Miami-Dade’s glass ceiling has been shattered,” she declared in her victory speech on Tuesday night.
Mauree Turner is only 27, and she’s also Black, queer, and Muslim. Turner’s win would be a celebration regardless of where it happened, but it’s especially astonishing that Turner was elected to the state legislature in Oklahoma, a solidly red state, becoming the first Muslim to do so—and reportedly the first nonbinary person elected to a state legislature. On Tuesday night she tweeted an image reading, “The real work begins. The future is now.”
Just nine years ago Tarra Simmons was sentenced to time in prison. Since then the registered nurse has gone on to become a lawyer, winning a watershed victory in the Washington State Supreme Court after her state bar tried to keep her from practicing, and on Tuesday night she became the first person previously convicted of a felony to be elected to the state legislature in Washington. “From the Big House to the State House,” she tweeted.
Michele Rayner became the first LGBTQ woman of color to be elected to the Florida legislature. Earlier in the election, she tweeted about her pride in running for office with a team led by women, particularly Black women.
Taylor Small—who is all of 26 years old—became the first trans person elected to Vermont’s state legislature. She cruised towards victory in true late-millennial style—she posted a clip of herself on TikTok on the day of the election, playing on a playground at a polling place.
Every member of the Squad was reelected.
The congresswomen known as “the Squad”—Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar—whose embrace of progressive values, pride in their identities, and close female friendship have made them targets of right-wing scorn, all won their reelections easily. “Our sisterhood is resilient,” Omar tweeted, when all four races had been called.
Women in New Mexico make history.
New Mexico became the first state to elect a group of legislators to Congress made up solely of women of color. Yvette Herrell and Teresa Leger Fernandez were elected, joining Deb Haaland, who won her reelection. When Haaland was first elected in 2018, she became one of the first Native American women ever elected to Congress.
Kim Jackson became the first LGBTQ person elected to State Senate in Georgia’s history. Jackson campaigned with a promise to champion voting rights, education reform, and gun violence prevention.
Nida Allam, who wears a hijab, became the first Muslim woman to be elected to her county commission in North Carolina.
Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones
Colorado quashed an abortion ban.
Colorodans voted no on a proposition that would have made performing an abortion illegal after 22 weeks. With over 80% of precincts reporting, the proposition seems to have lost by a wide margin.
New Jersey legalized recreational weed.
“Everything is legal in New Jersey,” goes the joke in the musical Hamilton, and on Tuesday night, one more thing joined the list: New Jersey voted to legalize recreational cannabis. It’s a win for anyone who likes to get high, but an even bigger win for anyone who likes equality—criminalizing marijuana disproportionately affects racial minorities.
Florida demanded fair pay.
The current minimum wage in Florida is $8.56 per hour. (Federal minimum wage is $7.25.) Florida voters passed an amendment that will bring the minimum hourly wage up to $15, slowly, with the wage increasing every year until it is $15 in 2026.
California passed criminal justice reform.
Californians passed a number of criminal justice reforms, voting to lower drug penalties and to shorten prison time for certain crimes. The state also passed a constitutional amendment that will allow people with felonies who are on parole to vote. “A huge WIN in California for voting rights,” Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Parolees will have their right to vote restored.”