Ever since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Washington has been preparing for a backlash that would result in Democrats gaining a majority in the House and an outside shot at picking up a majority in the Senate. While the Senate majority was still on the GOP side, the Democrats ended Tuesday securing that House majority, allowing for the party to push forward with investigations into Trump’s finances. In addition to that, there was a wave of Democratic governors across the country. The prophesied Blue Wave finally arrived.
However, calling this a “Blue” wave is a bit disingenuous. “Blue” indicates a unified front of Democrats across racial and socioeconomic aisles collectively looking to achieve one unified goal of putting the party back in a position of influence in politics. Yet, the wave wasn’t so much a sea of blue votes that transcended race. Instead, the midterms were all about race; and a Black demographic that asserted its electoral power despite the fact that White America tried its hardest to stand in the way.
In short, there was a black wave in politics this week and it succeeded despite white people, not in tandem with them.
CNN exit polls indicated that Republicans were carried solely by white people older than 45 – men and women alike. They represented the only group to vote for Republicans in a majority.
Just look at the three big losses for upstart Democrats: Andrew Gillum in the Florida gubernatorial race; Stacey Abrams, who was clinging to the hope of a runoff for Georgia governor; and Beto O’Rourke for U.S Senate in Texas. White voters all voted for the GOP opponents of the aforementioned candidates, but we need to address the white women voters and Stacey Abrams. White women voted against Abrams than any other female group. This was a clear line in the sand that reaffirmed, just as it did in 2016, that white women will pick race over gender. And we already know that white men will pick white people in a majority overall.
Just look at some of the GOP winners from proof that party affiliations and backing whiteness was a successful rallying cry for some candidates. Gillum’s opponent, DeSantis, made headlines by saying a vote for Gillum would “monkey this up” and elect a Black person. Known white supremacist Steve King won in Iowa. And in Las Vegas, brothel owner Dennis Hof, who fashioned himself as a miniature Trump, won his Senate bid. He’s been dead for nearly a month.
The common denominator was the far-right ideals they all represent, in life and death, and the appeal to whiteness. As long as far-right anti-Blackness is allowed to be a viable ticket to appeal to an American population that so many have pretended doesn’t exist, it’s amazing that minority voters are able to mobilize to combat something so ingrained in the American way of life.
It’s been miraculous that a blue-Black wave even happened off of those facts alone. Just consider the idea that the entire history of American politics has been built with the goal of stopping Black people from voting. The latest incarnation of such inequality manifested itself in the voter suppression that ran rampant on election night.
Georgia’s voter suppression alone was a travesty. The reports of GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp (who is also the secretary of state in charge of fair voting) purging voter rolls and being recorded telling people he wanted to discourage Black people from voting only foretold the disaster we saw on Tuesday. Voting booths in mostly Black areas of Georgia were riddled with problems, including polling places with just three machines and one polling place where voters had to because it wasn’t equipped with power cords to supply electricity to voting booths.
In Prince George’s County, Maryland, a polling place was hundreds of ballots short, causing waits that lasted hours. In North Carolina, it was reported that voting machines were “ ” to work properly, causing delays. In a Detroit polling place, the voting machines hadn’t been removed from closets. And on and on. It was all a concerted effort to stop Black people from voting in an effort that goes back to the three-fifths compromise that exists in the essential fabric of American politics.
And that’s why this “blue wave” was so miraculous.
Over the course of the next few days and weeks, you’ll hear about the white voters who were impacted by Trump and even the white women who shifted the country. Those are the usual narratives we get every election cycle. No matter how many profiles of forlorn white people in dimly-lit rooms looking out of windows contemplating their voting decisions or white women in pink hats marching and celebrating their successes, just know that this is a wave that has Black people to thank. This is a country that has always had Black people to thank.
But don’t waste your time waiting on that gratitude. Just focus on continuing to work, fight, resist and love until this is a country that truly treats us as equals.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the internet.