After an exhausting election season, the 2018 midterms mostly ended on Tuesday night with some incredible firsts in American history. This election saw the first Muslim women and first Native American women in Congress, the first Latina women in Texas elected to Congress, the first women senators in Arizona and Tennessee, and the two youngest women ever elected to congress. The governor races also saw historic firsts, with the first woman elected in South Dakota and the first openly gay person elected in Colorado. Democrats were also able to flip the House of Representatives blue, essentially throwing a wrench in the Republican agenda.
However, there were also substantial losses, including the hard-fought campaign for the Texas Senate. U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke was unable to take the Senate seat from the ineffectual incumbent Senator Ted Cruz. Despite a full-scale tour of all 254 Texas counties and an energetic grassroots campaign, O’Rourke could not overcome the numerous harsh red districts in the Texas Panhandle.
Still, O’Rourke was able to capture over 48% of the popular vote, coming closer than any Democratic candidate ever has to flipping the increasingly purple state to blue. Beto was able to energize over four million Texans to go vote, and speaking as a Texan, that in itself is a huge victory. But not everyone sees it that way.
Almost immediately after the race was called for Cruz, folks took to Twitter to express their rage, disappointment, and disgust at the people of Texas for not bringing O’Rourke to victory.
People even started blaming Beyoncé for endorsing Beto “too late.”
The national reaction to the Senate race in Texas is clear: the rest of the country thinks that we failed Beto. They think that we didn’t show up. They think that a win for Cruz is a confirmation of the xenophobia and white supremacy associated with Texas and the South. And, let me just say, no. We are not allowing people to come to that conclusion.
Because you know who did show up? Black people, the Latinx community, and other people of color. And we aren’t going to erase their actions.
Faced with late start times, long lines, and ill-equipped polling stations, Black women showed up for O’Rourke. 95% of Black women voted for the Democratic nominee, while 84% of Black men did the same.
Encountering voter suppression in the form of rumors about ICE patrols at voting centers in predominantly Latinx communities, Latinx people still showed up for Beto, too. 66% of Latinas voted for the Democratic candidate, and 60% of Latinos also voted in his favor.
Other people of color—our Native and Indigenous population, our large Asian and East Asian communities, and Texans from the Pacific Islands—were torn on the two candidates. Still, 46% voted with Beto O’Rourke.
It isn’t the so-called minorities who let this campaign down. It’s the same demographic that proved upsetting in 2016: white men and women.
White women overwhelmingly voted along racial lines rather than for gender equality. 59% voted for Ted Cruz, a man who is against abortion, Planned Parenthood, and access to any help for healthcare issues that women face. This is an even larger percentage than the 53% that voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and almost as large as the percentage of white women who voted for accused sexual predator Roy Moore in Alabama in 2017 (though he lost to Democrat Doug Jones, thanks to the 98% of Black women who supported him at the polls).
White women promised to improve after Trump’s win. They said the number from that election didn’t reflect who they truly are. It seems they were right: This larger number is the real indicator of their preference for white supremacy over any other ideology.
White men provided us with no surprises either, with over 70% voting for the Republican incumbent. Frankly, there’s too much to unpack on that one for this article to cover.
Try as he might and succeed as he did, Beto could not make a dent in the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and anti-Blackness that lives in north and central Texas. While large counties like Harris County (Houston) and Travis County (Austin) work toward progressive ideals, the small pockets of red in our state have yet to budge. Border communities push against harmful anti-immigration rhetoric, but rural communities in the north lap it up.
And that is not the fault of Black people or the Latinx community. The pressure of delivering a victory in Texas did not lay solely lay on our shoulders. Exit polls show that we did our part, but Texas is still 70% white. It is not our job to educate, inform, and change all of those minds. That responsibility shouldn’t be ours when we are not the ones eating with them at the family dinner table. Our work for social justice at the polls isn’t going to be erased and lumped together with those who failed to vote in the best interest of our state.
We are not here to be your American saviors. It is exhausting to be the voice of reason, easily ignored when it is convenient to not hear us.
Yes, this is a loss for gun control, education, pathways to citizenship, and civil rights. In fact, it’s a loss that impacts more than just Texas since Cruz has been an instrumental part of conservative legislation that attempts to undo progress made by the Obama administration. But growth will only come after recognizing who is helping us move forward, and who is simply holding us back.