Election 2020 Lesson: Representation Matters
By Noreen Farrell, Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates
Equal Rights Advocates joins the nation celebrating incredible Election 2020 progress for our shared values, including equal opportunity for those underrepresented among our electeds. Congratulations especially to Vice President-Elect Senator Kamala Harris, who makes history by becoming the first woman, the first Black person and the first Asian-American person to be elected as Vice President. (And yes, the first from the San Francisco Bay Area, ERA’s home base!)
Our honor of Senator Harris at our upcoming Virtual Gala on November 13 with ERA’s Legislator Champion Award is all the more poignant because of this groundbreaking win.
We also celebrate a few other firsts for the country, including elections of:
- the first openly trans state senator in U.S. history, Sarah McBride of Delaware;
- the first Black, openly lesbian Puerto Rican to the Puerto Rico Senate, Ana Irma Rivera Lassen;
- the first ever openly non-binary state legislator in U.S. history, and Oklahoma’s first Muslim lawmaker, Mauree Turner;
- the first openly LGBTQ Afro-Latinx member of Congress, Ritchie Torres of New York;
- the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress, Cori Bush;
- the first Black openly LGBTQ woman in the Florida state legislature, Michele Rayner; and
- the first openly trans person elected in Vermont, Taylor Small.
In addition, New Mexico is the first state in U.S. history to elect all women of color as its members of Congress: Deb Haaland, Teresa Leger Fernandez, and Yvette Herrell.
Representation matters. So as we celebrate groundbreaking wins, we should be mindful that the election also revealed a nation that is (still) sharply divided. Our challenge moving forward is to engage those who don’t see themselves represented among elected officials and to unite more of us around shared values across party lines.
Our challenge moving forward is to engage those who don’t see themselves represented among elected officials and to unite more of us around shared values across party lines.
On that front, there is much promise. The vast majority of Americans voted to prioritize bread and butter issues and building economic security as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. 87% of Americans across party lines believe that access to affordable and quality childcare is critical. Paid family leave and equal pay for equal work are wildly popular among all workers, no matter political affiliation. Americans turned out in record numbers to decry the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and 67% of US adults across racial and ethnic backgrounds expressed support for the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Politics can be polarizing. But these figures reveal that core values unify many across the nation. From that unity, we can progress common sense policies helping working and families in 2021. To lift the 8 million people who have fallen into poverty since the COVID outbreak, we can’t wait one more second to engage new electeds and unlikely allies in a unified effort to reimagine and rebuild our country.
Let’s take today to celebrate, and then let’s get started. Together, we can do this.
Noreen Farrell is Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women, girls, and gender-expansive people.