Texas After Midterms

I spent the night of the 2018 midterm election at work. I would check my phone during every break, and I would ask guests who went through my line who were wearing Beto shirts if a result had been reached yet. We were anxious and hopeful, both confident and afraid. During my last break I received a text: “Ted Cruz won.” No emojis. No feelings. Just a fact.

To say my heart fell wouldn’t be accurate, it felt more like I had lost something that I had only just picked up. Everything was so much bigger than that one man, and I knew it was happening in other states across the country. Other people were also realising, in real time, that believing in something isn’t always enough, no matter how right it feels (in states like Georgia, for example, where many still feel that Stacey Abrams was cheated out of a win). What is our state like in a world where it feels like bad keeps winning out over what we believe to be good, and where the underdogs don’t always get their deserved story?

 

That election was nearly three months ago now, and feelings of disappointment have been replaced by hope and anticipation for 2020. Feelings that we suffered a loss have to be replaced by the knowledge that even a “loser” brought people out to vote and become active in a way Texas, especially as a red state, has never seen before. What has at many points in the past felt so impossible, a Democratic Senate win in Texas, was nearly a reality, a fact that brings feelings of hope and of loss. How does it feel to brush the fingers of something, something progressive and powerful, and just barely not reach. By inches.

 

There are times when it feels like a communal loss, a campaign that continues to bring us close together. Family members, and even teachers, and I share condolences. We say “We were so close.” Nothing more, it’s like we’re not allowed to talk about it. Respect for a dead turning point in our state. One professor and I both confessed that we still keep our Beto stickers up proudly, as many have, and she said something that, even in late January, brought tears to my eyes: “It’s because we believed in him.” The most important thing I can draw from this is the feeling of so many people all believing in something together.

 

Everything I do and everything I believe in I express with such a ferocity that it can be hard to bring me back down to Earth. Beto ignited this flame for many people. This isn’t to say he, or anyone, is a perfect politician. He was just the best we could have asked for here. He was more than a progressive platform, he was change. When he lost I felt like I had exerted so much energy and so much heart for something that didn’t even end up panning out. In that moment, it felt like it had been all for nothing.

 

As time has gone by, it becomes apparent more and more each day that this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Although there is an elephant in the room, one of loss, there is also a spark left behind in the air after the latest round of midterms. We keep our losses and cheats with us and put so much pressure on them that they turn into hope and activism. The people inspired, by Beto and by other popular candidates from around the nation, brought something with them: a flipped House. A diverse House. A female House. A congress that may not include our favorite stars of the election, but one looks more like us: black, brown, young, gay, female. Anyone willing to represent and protect people as their unapologetic selves. There has indeed been a change, just maybe not the one we thought we would be given. We live in a world where the laws on the line are the same thing as lives on the line. All of America, including and especially its red states, has been woken up and called to action in a way my generation has never seen before.