The close United States (US) election race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has grown quite suspenseful, terrifying and dreadful over these past few weeks. Nonetheless, the successful win for Joe Biden and the Democrats has given many Americans, and others worldwide, a sense of relief and hope. A hope that change and progress are possible, and soon to come. However, the presidential victory of the Democratic party was not the only success of this election. The election also resulted in historical progress for diversity and representation in US politics. It seems that US national politics is on the way to finally catch up with the country’s changing demographics in terms of sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender and other categories of identity. For example, New Mexico became the first state in US history to elect only women of colour as members of Congress, while country-wide elections saw a record-breaking number of Native Americans elected to Congress.
Notably, the woman of the hour under the spotlight this election is, of course, Kamala Harris. Kamala is the first woman in history to be elected as Vice president. On top of being the first female elected Vice president, Harris has also broken ground as the first woman of African and Indian descent to achieve such a high political position.
Apart from Kamala Harris, here are some other noteworthy candidates who made history this election. Although this list is not exhaustive, it hints towards a change in the American political landscape which now embraces more inclusive, diverse and progressive values.
Sarah McBride: First Openly Transgender State Senator in the US
Democrat Sarah Mcbride was elected to represent President Biden's home State of Delaware with an impressive 73% of the vote. McBride is a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and ran on a platform which advocated for the expansion of healthcare access, paid leave and Delaware’s minimum wage.
Cori Bush: First Black Woman to Congress in Missouri
Bush is a single mother of two, who left her full time job as a nurse and gave up her health insurance in order to run for office. While the majority of her colleagues are millionaires, Bush will be waiting for her first paycheck until after the inauguration. She is a community leader, a Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist and an advocate for criminal justice reform, medicare and a green new deal.
Ritchie Torres: First Openly Gay Afro-Latino Member of Congress
Torres was raised by a single mother on minimum wage in a public housing development in the Bronx, New York. He has also openly spoken about his struggles with depression and substance abuse. Torres said his entry into politics was heavily influenced by his experiences growing up and has since campaigned and advocated for progressive goals including public housing, Medicare for All and job creation.
Marilyn Strickland : First Korean- American Woman Ever Elected in Congress as well as the First African - American Person to Represent Washington at the Federal Level.
Strickland was born in Seoul, to a Korean father, a World War I veteran, and an American mother, who was stationed there at the time. Strickland has mentioned the hardships and discrimination her parents endured and how they inspired her to stand up for the underdog and to fight for what's right. As a previous Mayor of Tacoma, she has led successful campaigns to raise the minimum wage and pass paid sick leave. In Congress, her main political priorities are health care, education and clean energy jobs.
The list goes on with notable individuals such as Mondaire Jones - the first openly gay, Black man in Congress, and Ana Irma Rivera Lassen - the first Black, and openly lesbian, Puerto Rican lawmaker elected into the Puerto Rico Senate. Adding to that, Mauree Turner has made history twice for becoming the first-ever openly non-binary state legislator as well as Oklahoma’s first Muslim lawmaker. Reinforcing this trend, another four Democratic lawmakers made history by becoming the first Muslim legislators in their states. Lastly, the election of Stephanie Byers, who broke boundaries by becoming the first openly trans person of colour elected to a state legislature, is of equal esteem.
But what does this actually mean for US politics?
Although we should wait and see how each of these individuals assumes his/her/their political role, we can already be hopeful about the future and celebrate this victory! The successful election of each of these candidates has demonstrated to everyone that political representation is possible regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability or any other unique identity marker. This wave of newcomers from different minorities not only marks a rejection of the past four years but also potentially promises long-lasting and beneficial consequences for minorities, and the US as a whole. After all, these individuals will be the ones who partially set the political agenda for the coming years. It takes an oppressed person to speak about ongoing inequalities, but it takes a wave of them to challenge the current oppressive structures of society.
Drawing from feminist scholarship, these people will inevitably bring their own experiences, emotions and positions within society to all manner of political debate. This notion of situated knowledge (i.e. inherently contingent and context-dependent expertise) allows one to reflect upon one’s own experiences and to acknowledge that such experiences form a partial aspect of empirical truth. A truth which is also woven into gendered, racialised and oppressive societal structures. Embracing this concept might be critical to better recognition of minorities as well as the dismantling of specific dominant societal organisations. Hence, through these politicians, many minorities will now have a voice in the political process, feel empowered, and ultimately gain access to the political arena.
The path is long and filled with obstacles, yet, we should remain hopeful for the future and wish that these individuals will be able to make a tangible and long-lasting impact on American society for the better.
Written by Ina Martin and Arthur Gentil, Amsterdam Chapter of European Horizons.
https://www.businessinsider.com/history-making-moments-diversity-representation-2020-electio n-2020-11?r=DE&IR=T#madison-cawthorn-became-the-youngest-member-of-congress-in-mode rn-history-4