The New History

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This was a primary week in several states, including my own, and even with a new county recorder modernizing the polling process, we still managed to see voting delays as great as five hours in some areas. The polls weren’t held open late to account for the difference, either. Seriously, Arizona...get it together. This smacks of voter suppression.

And it isn’t the first time it’s happened.

When the votes were tallied, we were thankfully rid of the convicted felon Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Trump may have pardoned him, but we never will), and Arizona ended up with not one but TWO women as candidates to fill exiting Jeff Flake’s seat in Senate—Kyrsten Sinema on the Democrat side, and Martha McSally (which is just an anagram of Donald Trump, really) for the Republicans. Which means that Arizona will have its first woman senator. EVER. In one hundred and six years of being a state. A wonderful development, to be sure. But really.

History has seldom moved so slowly.

In additional hopeful news for Democrats, if not for the entire country and the whole wide world, Florida chose its first black gubernatorial candidate in Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, an incredible achievement that, for being as far into the twenty-first century as we are, shouldn’t need to be seen as incredible. It should be something that happens in every election. 

History has seldom seemed so backward, either.

Add to this the encouraging election in Vermont of Christine Hallquist as the first transgender gubernatorial candidate nominated by a major party a few weeks ago, and you have three amazing steps forward in the election of leaders who represent the actual American people, not the projected, imaginary American people the current administration would have you believe as a model of diversity. 

But to hear that the election of these candidates represents progress in a century that should find this type of diversity commonplace is as disheartening as it is encouraging; in order to celebrate the victories, we have to admit that they’re only victories because our sense of diversity has been constricted, even when we’ve believed it to be expanding. The fact that Arizona has never had two women opposing each other in a Senate election, and that even when women have run, they’ve never been elected in more than one hundred years, is a sad reality. The notion that in a Southern state like Florida there’s never been a black man presented as a candidate for the governorship shows just how far we haven’t come as a nation. The advances made during the Civil Rights movement, the ERA, and the LGBTQ movement set up future generations to continue the causes of diversity, of representation, of fairness and equality for all regardless of color or class, gender or sexuality. 

Yet here we are in 2018, with a racist, sexist, genderist backlash so far-reaching it sits in the White House, tweeting out its nationalist hostility, blowing dog whistles which are so obvious they’re really just whistles at this point, and emboldening others in Congress and in government positions all around the US with equally deep-seated bigotries to do the same. Case in point: As soon as Gillum was declared the Democrat candidate, his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis hurled a racist slur in his direction when appealing to the voters of Florida to make what he considers the “right” choice in the general election. Rather than touting his own plan to help the citizens he would govern, this man insults his newly-chosen competitor in the most disgusting manner possible.

Could it be that the establishment doesn’t have any ideas for helping people who aren’t wealthy and Caucasian and male?

Could it be that the prospect of a diverse government makes them feel uneasy, even though it would be a reflection of the actual population of this country? 

Could it be the real reason immigration, documented or otherwise, has become such a driving issue for them—because somehow the diversity that exists in this country ON PURPOSE dilutes their power? 

Of course it is.

And it always has been. 

So here’s what we’re going to do to make sure we move forward the way we should have been doing this whole time, so that the sacrifices made by those who fought for our right to be as diverse as we want to be aren’t forgotten, or even worse, wasted: we’re going to celebrate these victories and this history that comes far too late and took far too long to arrive, because they ARE historical, and they ARE progress. And we’re going to use them as inspiration to elect other candidates who have a history of standing up for inclusion, and will act with compassion for all citizens, not just the ones who fit “the profile.” And we’re going to speak with our ballots and make sure we see even more of this sort of quote-unquote history-making, until it isn’t history-making anymore; it’s just the way things are. The way things should be. And beyond that, we’re going to hold these wins up as a model for what the future of all elections in the United States should and will look like—diverse, robust; representative. For all of us, not just for some of us. 

Because the power belongs to all of us.

And we can use that power to elect officials who represent all of us.

As of this week, the new history has helped show us the way.
 

Steven Luna