The Equal Voice Network’s Mi Voto = Mi Voz Campaign came to a successful end Tuesday night. The campaign involved hundreds of hardworking Valley residents, many of them getting involved in the political process for the first time. After hundreds of collective hours, our precincts showed increases in the voting rate, 3.51% in precinct 88 in Alton, 2.69% in 43 (San Juan) and 14.11% 46 (Mercedes).
While the Mi Voto = Mi Voz Campaign ended Tuesday, GOTV is only the first step in the civic engagement campaign necessary to create the lasting change that we desire in our communities. We must hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises and educate them on their responsibilities to Valley families. Elected officials have the responsibility to address the needs of Valley residents no matter to what party or political ideology they pertain.
Politicians at the local level will take notice of an increase in the voting rate in poor and low income communities. However, unless that increase turns into 40% or 50%, local politicians will defer to the interests of their campaign donors over that of low income voters. Therefore, we must continue to strive to create a culture of voting during election season that compliments civic engagement between elections and civic engagement that drives people to vote come Election Day.
But although we had a victory raising the vote of low income communities in the RGV, at the state and national level, a larger and more dangerous trend emerged — a wave of conservative victories powered by deeply troubling anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. In state after state, conservatives blamed “illegal aliens” for our country’s economic and social problems, and voters rewarded them. Their hateful and racially charged thinking is a step backward for all of us, immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
Tuesday night brought a major shift rightward at the state and national level. Many pro-immigrant politicians were replaced by right wingers that have promised more immigration enforcement and criminalization of our communities. Tea Party supported candidates won 5 seats in the US Senate and 40 seats in the House. If we suffered enforcement-first policy from the Democrat-dominated US House, Senate and White House, we must brace for disaster from a Tea Party-influenced congress—and prepare to fight back.
That being said, less than 1 in 3 Tea Party candidates actually won Tues night, while almost half of the conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats lost their seats. By comparison, Democratic members of the Progressive Caucus won 94% of their elections. This shows that progressives who stuck by their principles generally did very well, while Democrats who act like Republicans did not – and Tea Party candidates got whooped 2-1.
The election results were an expression of fear about our nation’s economic future and anger with the political and economic status quo. The election results were not an endorsement of ultra-conservatism or a mandate for the Tea Party Agenda. While we now have to prepare for whatever the re-empowered right wing with throw at us, we also need to engage with the anger and hopelessness that empowered the Tea Party movement and rechannel that energy into progressive causes that will bring change, not scapegoating and more repression of poor people and immigrants.