It’s been just over a week, and like many of my friends, family, and colleagues, I’m still processing the results of the 2016 US Presidential Election. I’ve watched people break down and cry over progress taking a step back. I’ve watched people question whether they can ever feel safe in their home country again. I’ve watch people get angry over the fact that they felt that their democratic system had failed them. First and foremost, I want to acknowledge, that these emotions and reactions are completely and totally valid. I’ve felt them too. This election has meant something different to everyone, and for many people, it was a loss on several accounts. If you were one of the people who had a strong emotional reaction to the results of this election, I totally feel you.
I always like to think that in these kinds of situations, we have two choices: we can let our anger and grief and emotions consume us, or we can use it as fuel to mobilize and move forward. I realize that the second option is definitely easier said than done, so I wanted to take this time to add a little something for everyone to feel good about. This election wasn’t what many of us hoped for sure, but this election did produce small victories all across America. To borrow a quote from Albus Dumbledore:
So on that note, I wanted to remind everyone of some of the great things that were achieved in this election.
Election Night 2016 saw huge wins for women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ+ community in Congress and on the state level. Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina senator in US history, winning her bid for a senatorial seat in Nevada. Kamala Harris, the Attorney General of California, was elected to Senate, making her the second black woman and first Indian-American female senator. Stephanie Murphy, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, became the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, winning her seat in Florida. Kate Brown became the first open member of the LGBTQ+ community to be elected as Governor, winning her gubernatorial race in Oregon. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim refugee from Somalia, was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Pramila Jayapal of Washington won her seat in the House of Representatives, becoming the first Indian-American woman to do so. Tammy Duckworth won her senatorial seat for Illinois (the same seat that was once held by Obama himself). In doing so, she becomes Illinois’ first Thai-American senator, America’s second Asian-American senator, and the first female senator to have served in an Army combat role. And like it or not, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway did break the glass ceiling in her own way, as the first woman to run a winning presidential campaign.
California, Maine, Nevada, and Massachusetts all legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Voters in North Dakota, Florida, and Arkansas acted to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Finally, in Montana, restrictions on providers of medical marijuana were also removed. As of now, 8 out of 50 states, containing over 20% of the American population now have access to legal marijuana.
In Washington, voters passed a measure that limits access to firearms for persons who show signs of mental illness, violence, or similar behaviour. In Nevada, a measure was passed for universal background checks on private gun sales, except for those between family members. In California, voters approved a referendum that requires background checks for ammunition purchases, bans ammunition magazines that contain more than 10 rounds, adds extra penalties for not reporting lost or stolen firearms, and allows law enforcement to confiscate guns from people who have been convicted of a felony.
In Massachusetts, voters approved a measure to ban the sales of products from calves, pigs, and hens who are not provided with proper confinement. This means that farmers who don’t allow animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, or turn around freely in the space they’re confined to will not be allowed to sell their products. This measure takes effect in the year 2022.
This election was also a huge win because of the losses that were incurred. The self-proclaimed “toughest Sheriff in America” Joe Arpaio of Phoenix, Arizona, conceded to Democrat Paul Penzone. Arpaio is best known for the discriminatory practises he used when dealing with immigrants, including making them wear pink underwear and live in tents in the Arizona desert. He had also been charged with criminal contempt due to past instances of racial profiling. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory became notorious in the public eye for his unwavering support of Bill HB2, the controversial law that requires people who identify as transgender to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth. He was defeated in his gubernatorial race by his Democratic opponent, Rory Cooper.
While the election may have been a loss for many, it is important to remember that these are some of the wins that did happen last week, and that they are the wins that are helping to lay down the foundation for a better future.