Election 2018 – Some thoughts on important themes

On Tuesday a sizable portion of the United States citizenry went to the polls and cast their votes, as is our right as citizens. We may like some things about the election and other things not so much. Here in Michigan, things went as well as a person like me could hope. Most of the people I voted for won. The person whom I had devoted the most attention, my friend Padma Kuppa, won her race to represent the Michigan 41st district in the State House. Padma is a close friend and partner in interfaith work. I spent quite a few Saturday mornings walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors. I enjoyed the conversation and learned a lot about the community in live in (and my church lives in) as well as the neighboring community that is also part of her district. More about the importance of that race in a moment. As a Democrat I was glad to see the U.S. House of Representatives fall to the party, though I was disappointed in the senatorial elections. But that is the way our democracy works (and yes, we are both a democracy and a republic!)

                I wanted to comment on a few themes emerging from the election. First, it is exciting to see an increasing number of women serving in congress, though women still only make up about 22% of the congressional delegations. Since women make up more than 50% of the population, they are a bit underrepresented. In other words, we have a long way to go. Second, I heard tonight that the first gay governor was elected in Colorado (he’s also America’s first Jewish governor). Third, the first Native American and Muslim women were elected to Congress (one of those Muslim women comes from here in Michigan). Unfortunately, it looks as if I can’t say that Georgia or Florida will elect their first African American governor, but both came within a whisker of election. Things might be different next time. Speaking of Florida, they passed a constitutional amendment granting voting rights to former felons, restoring the franchise to over 1 million people, many of whom are African American.

                Now to the theme I would like to dwell upon.  While it appears that health care was the most important issue on the minds of Americans (wonder why Democrats won the House? The emphasized health care), second on the list was immigration. The President made immigration his major theme, emphasizing his wall and the caravan. This theme apparently appealed to a sizable portion of the electorate, mostly white folks, who fear that the growing number of immigrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia might dilute the Euro-American dominance. Personally, I don’t fear this at all. I believe this diversity enriches our life together. Immigrants bring a variety of skills and life experiences that enhance life in this country. They tend to be entrepreneurial, eager to learn, and eager to contribute to the broader community. We are a better country because of this diversity. I would rather celebrate it than fear it.

                That leads me to my earlier comment about working these past several months on the election of Padma Kuppa to the State House. You see Padma is an immigrant. She was born in India, came to the States with her parents and attended elementary through early high school, before returning to India where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (the only woman in her class). Having earned her degree she returned to the States, got married, had kids, earned a master’s degree, and made a life here in Troy. She did all the things a parent might do, like PTA and the rest. She also got involved in the community, desiring to make a difference. She devoted attention to her religious faith community (she’s Hindu). Now, she is on the verge of becoming the first South Asian woman and first Hindu woman to serve in the State legislature. This is the American story. If we close the doors to people like Padma or Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee, who with Rashida Tliab (the daughter of Palestinian immigrants) becomes the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, we lose much as a country. Immigration is an important issue, but there is no need to put additional roadblocks in the way of those who seek to come to this country, make a life and make a difference. We are a nation of immigrants, refugees, descendants of slaves, and Native peoples who lived on the land long before the first European set sight on this land (whether Viking or Spanish).

                This was an important election, but then every election is important. Soon we will celebrate the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote (August 18, 1920). In 2020 we will also observe the sesquicentennial of the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which declared that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” With regard to the last provision, I wonder if that would apply to the denial of the right to vote to those persons who have been in prison? Fortunately, now that Florida has overturned its prohibition, there are only three more States that put road blocks in the way of the franchise. 

                Voting is, in my mind, both a right and a privilege to be taken seriously. Attempts to suppress the vote are not unethical, but un-American (in my opinion). Let us, therefore, give thanks that another election was successfully prosecuted. We can breathe a little easier, answer the phones, and watch the television without despair (for a time)!   

Finally, in light of the diversity in our new governing bodies, let us embrace our unofficial national motto:  E Pluribus Unum -- Out of the Many One! 


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