The morning after Election Day, Nov. 9, 2016, was a bleak one. I stayed up late the night prior watching the polls close and votes get counted, in denial as each state projection was broadcasted. And yet, the pit in my stomach didn’t fully form until the morning after. Days, weeks, even years later, the pit remained.
On this post-election morning, though, there is no new pit. The wave of hopelessness and denial I felt wash over me in 2016 was replaced by an unknown emotion. It was similar to the feeling of standing out in the cold for hours, watching your favorite football team take on its rival, only to result in a tie.
The closest word I could find to my emotion on a decently time-consuming Google hunt was phlegmatic. Am I really going to go around telling people this was an election night plagued with a feeling of phlegmatism?
For those of you who, like me, chose to take the ACT standardized test instead of having to deal with the mindless word-memorization of the SAT, phlegmatic is defined as the presence of an unemotional and stolidly calm disposition. Democrats failed to win the Senate — an expected loss, especially with all of Trump’s recent campaigning efforts — but won the House by a relatively large margin. One disappointing missed-opportunity and one big gain later, and yet I’m not convinced a feeling of stolid calmness sums up the night’s results.
As a gay, Jewish woman (surprise!), every day under the rule of a sexual-assault-admitting, Nazi-sympathizing, right-wing authoritarian feels like a battle of existence. Last night, we saw the first Native American women and Muslim women elected to Congress, the first openly gay man elected governor and a record number of women winning seats in the House.
America proved that it wants diverse representation, and that is nothing to feel phlegmatic about.
While progressives hang their heads over heroes Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum coming up just short against established Republicans Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis, respectfully, they fail to see the much larger picture. The excitement to vote for progressive Senate and Gubernatorial candidates enticed herds of people to the polls, many for the first time ever. Both Texas and Florida Democrats took two seats each from incumbent Republicans, in nail-bitingly close races. I feel confident in saying these results would be impossible without the efforts of O’Rourke and Gillum.
While a blue House and Senate would have been much more devastating for President Trump and his party, the control of the House is the first real check of his power we’ve seen thus far, and is something to be celebrated. For the past two years, Trump has enjoyed a Republican House, Senate and a conservative court. The only opposition he had were small courts trying to poke holes in his travel bans.
First and foremost, Democrats will now have subpoena power to investigate Trump’s tax returns, business conflicts of interests and documents that may aid in the Russia investigation. This is hugely important in making sure we have a legitimate and legal leader.
Next, there will be no more bills passed without Democratic support. This means tax breaks, healthcare repeal, Medicare and food stamp cuts are pretty much off the table.
Finally, the “i” word. All it takes to impeach President Trump is a simple House majority. If new information comes out in the Russia investigation, or an indicted Trump associate accuses him of a high crime, impeachment seems more than possible. While it would be nearly impossible to actually remove Trump from office, as it takes 67 senators, a minimum of 18 Republicans, to do so, impeachment wouldn’t look great for a re-election bid.
All-in-all, American progressives shouldn’t be phlegmatic. While the blue wave might not have been the tsunami some had hoped for, there is plenty to be content with.
More than ever, our representatives are beginning to represent the diversity of our nation. Slowly but surely, the Democratic Party is rising from the dead. If the House can actually hold Trump accountable, and Democrats double-down on diverse, young, progressive candidates in 2020, the wave will not die down. We refuse to be phlegmatic.
Claudia Hanover, ’21, is a columnist for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]