Words by Alessandra de la Torre, Unite Oregon organizer
The 2018 midterm elections were a whirlwind of highs and lows; tears of joy and sorrow. With more women, people of color and minority groups taking the lead, we are witnessing the power of representation and voting. More than ever before, we saw youth, whole families and first timers, exercise their right to vote. Could the election of such a controversial president and presidential administration be the impetus of increasing civic engagement? Personally, I say yes.
Voting is a chance for your voice to be counted in the structuring of the future, and with fear running high due to the plethora of mass shootings, hate crimes and the increase of visibility of the white nationalist movement, people are standing up and taking actions that seek justice and reform. There is a cultural shift occurring, and it is one that strengthens our democracy.
Nationally, diverse representation is a victory that highlights the next steps for our country. If we want to have UNITED states, we must first unite the State we live in. Regardless of the State, there are polarizing views across its region, with rural areas mainly leaning Republican or conservative and larger cities leaning Democrat or progressive. These differences are due to a number of phenomenons cemented into the place’s history, media and culture. The issues we have cannot be solved by trying to get someone to join the Party of your choice. Instead, pushing past party lines for solutions we can agree on is vital in uniting our values and making systematic change.
In Oregon, we saw the defeatment of harmful measures in soaring percentages, even when they were backed by big money and the Republican Party. Defeating Measures 105 was an emotionally taxing road to success. Measure 105 would have repealed a 31 year-old anti-racial profiling law that protects local resources and law enforcement from taking on the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement. Hence, if this measure would have passed, police officers would have been able to ask anyone for their legal status, increasing racial profiling and decreasing the trust between community members and law enforcement. This means that a majority of Oregonians agree that we deserve protection, not discrimination and not diverting our officials and funds from local needs. This now gives organizers the path to continue forward in the fight for driver’s licenses for ALL Oregonians (currently undocumented folks are not allowed a driver’s license).
Measure 106 was also defeated, which would have cut public funds to abortion services affecting public employees and for the most vulnerable Oregonians. We won Measure 102 that specifically takes on the housing crisis by making it easier for cities to raise funds for affordable housing.
Measures 103 and 104 also did not pass, even with the big push of the “No Grocery Tax” scheme. These measures only benefit big corporations by taking advantage of tax loopholes.
As organizers fighting for justice, we won and defeated all the measures we intended on. On the contrary, we also saw that Republican candidates won many seats from local to federal positions. What does this say? Party lines were blurred when voting for measures. Some voters did not vote with their party like they did for the candidates. This is an opportunity to continue having constructive conversations regardless of one’s political party and beliefs, to get to the real solutions that impact every single one of us.
With the Democrats winning the House and Republicans winning the Senate, there will be a shift in power that can bring more transparency from the presidential administration, and for that I am grateful. For now, we have to keep the pressure on both parties to protect and expand voting rights, create solutions for immigration reform, increase healthcare accessibility and affordability, and fix our current tax system. It is time to level out the playing field and bring the politics to the people, not to the elite.