Roxanne Jones: Just when it felt like all hope for America was lost, voters decided we can and must be better
It's too soon to know if this trend will stick, but historic firsts in electing diverse candidates are a reason for optimism, she says
Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s Praise 107.9FM. The views expressed here are solely hers.
On Tuesday, voters decided we should be better than our fearmongering, tweeting president who works overtime to stir up divisions, rather than solutions, for just about every issue Americans care about: health care, immigration, jobs, racial justice, education, religious freedom, woman’s rights, LGBTQ equality. The list goes on. It’s tiring.
“Discrimination is a disqualifier,” said Danica Roem, a Democrat who unseated a longtime staunch conservative Republican state representative, Robert Marshall – who called himself the state’s “chief homophobe.” Roem is the country’s first openly transgender woman to serve in a state legislature.
The race against Marshall was ugly, as is the norm these days. Marshall, who had sponsored a failed bathroom bill to target transgender people, refused to debate Roem. Instead he pulled a page from Trump’s playbook and tried to incite fear and hate of transgender people to dissuade voters from electing Roem. His strategy failed, just as it did for dozens of other losing candidates who tried to use fear and bigotry to win votes. Maybe there’s a reason to hope, again.
Roem’s election is not the only indication that voters want a new direction. In Minnesota, an African-American transgender woman, Andrea Jenkins, was elected to the Minneapolis City Council with 70% of the votes, according to the Star Tribune.
Only time will tell if this new movement to include more diverse voices in politics will stick. But I want to believe this is the beginning of setting a more positive, productive future for our nation. All across the country, from the first black female mayor in Charlotte, North Carolina, to the first-ever female mayor in Provo, Utah, and the first Asian-American elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, in municipalities large and small, diverse new faces and political viewpoints won big at the polls.
Scores of candidates broke barriers across gender, race, sexual orientation – and religion. Hoboken, New Jersey, voters elected the state’s first Sikh mayor, Ravinder Bhalla, rejecting racist attack ads that read: “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town,” according to NJ.com.
Even economic and race status didn’t seem to determine election results, no matter what the stereotypes tell us about how people vote. Seems voter dissatisfaction with the current negative climate in Washington was the galvanizing factor for change this time around.
In Connecticut, Democrats, Green Party candidates and women scored huge upsets in municipal elections across affluent and working-class communities.
Women won big in the mostly white, swanky Greenwich, where median household income is $83,824 (national median: $59,039, according to a new report released by the US Census Bureau in September) and the median property value is a whopping $936,500. Two gritty, grass-roots anti-Trump groups — Indivisible Greenwich and March On Greenwich — are credited for the victories. The groups organized to support a slate of candidates for local offices to resist Trump’s agenda, Indivisible founder Joanna Swomley told greenwichfreepress.com. Twenty-two of the 24 candidates on the group’s slate were elected.
The anti-Trump sentiment spread across the state – to the opposite end of the economic spectrum in New London, Connecticut, a diverse city that is home to the Coast Guard Academy and generations of military families. There the median household income is far below the national average, at $36,250; median property value is $185,400. Still, voters turned out strong for the top vote-getter for the City Council, Anthony Nolan, an African-American who focused his campaign on more government fiscal transparency and senior citizens who are struggling to deal with rising taxes and budget cuts to health care and other services.
Nolan is also a New London City Police officer but calls himself a “peace officer” instead, he told me, because the word police conjures up fear in many communities. He wants to see federal law reforms and budgeting for safety training programs that will hold rogue officers accountable when they hurt and kill people. “Let’s stop protecting these guys and covering up their actions. They make it bad for every decent officer,” Nolan said.
“When I drive by kids, often they shout, ‘don’t kill me, don’t shoot me.’ We have to talk about this. I get nervous around other police officers myself.”
Nolan is just one of many who inspired Americans to go to the polls and show the world that hate doesn’t always have to win. That we are better than the toxic politics of both parties that have divided our democracy and grown stronger under President Trump.
Just when it felt like all hope for America — a more just and gentle America — was lost, voters decided we can and must be better.
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Better than the bigots we’ve seen marching with Nazi flags, spewing white supremacy slogans. Better than the angry, gun-toting men who’ve terrorized this nation by slaughtering innocent women, men and children, over and over again. Better than rogue police officers who have killed more than 1,178 black and Hispanic people from 2015 to November 2017.
Who knows if this anti-Trump moment is just politics as usual? Maybe it’s not surprising at all considering Trump’s approval rating hovers around 37.6%, according to FiveThirtyEight. And it’s general knowledge that opposition parties almost always gain ground in midterm elections. As political pundits and focus groups scramble to make sense of it all, I can’t help but remember what my Grandma Leonard told me once:
“God don’t like ugly.” Turns out a lot of voters don’t either.