Why the BIPOC Community Needs to Focus on Midterm Elections Starting Now

BIPOC midterms BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of The Conversation.

The 2020 Presidential election was intense. It felt like our country’s entire future was at stake. After years of dealing with an incompetent president who further divided our nation, we were all terrified that he would be elected again and would have free reign to inflict more damage on this country. But that didn’t happen. 

The people of America spoke. We pulled through and voted Donald Trump out of office. But that doesn’t mean the work is over. In fact, for the BIPOC community, it’s just begun. 

Yes, it’s hard to see the bigger picture when neo-fascists march on the capitol, but we can’t let the Trump drama distract us from our bigger goal: to work towards a more fair, equal, and just society. 

It may seem worlds away, but midterm elections (which will be in November 2022) will be here before we know it. Although we may still be exhausted from the chaotic 2020 general election, we have to start moving forward if progress is the ultimate goal. 

What are midterm elections?

Midterms are elections that are held midway between a president’s term (i.e., every two years). These elections determine the legislative branch’s makeup — meaning the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

What voters decide during midterm elections is like a litmus test for how well the president is doing. This time, if Americans vote in more Democratic representatives, that means they’re pleased with Biden’s performance. If voters go red, that usually indicates the opposite. 

Every midterm year is different, but in 2022, all 435 congressional seats will be up for grabs, and 34 of the 100 Senate seats will be open for the taking. That means both senators, congresspeople, and people vying for their jobs will be very busy running their campaigns. 

It’s also worth noting that, unlike the presidential election, midterms rely on the popular vote rather than the electoral college. So there’s no “winner takes all” this time around — every vote packs a major punch.

Why are midterm elections important?

Although much of America usually becomes enthralled with general elections (for better or for worse), midterms have historically been treated like the presidential election’s boring little sibling. Presidential elections are flashy, dramatic, and they engage the country in a unified (if divisive) national discourse. 

But make no mistake — primary elections are just as important as general elections, if not more so. If the Democratic party has control of the legislative branch — both the House and the Senate — Biden is more likely to pass whatever policy he wants without much pushback. When both branches are controlled by one party, real change can occur. 

Unfortunately, midterm elections have historically been unkind to sitting presidents. The honeymoon period is over, and voters are usually already fed up with the status quo. They want a change. They typically make their desire for change known by voting for the party that is not already in the White House. 

This exact situation happened with President Obama in 2010 when Republicans gained a net of 63 seats in the house — a midterm disaster that Obama infamously called a “shellacking.” 

It happened with President Trump again in 2018 — Democrats gained a net 41 seats in the House. 

Midterms are also crucial because, historically, voter turnout is much lower in the midterms than it is in the general elections. And the people that do turn out to vote are typically older, more conservative voters who tend to vote Republican. There’s no excuse not to vote in the midterm elections — they have just as much of an impact as presidential elections.

What’s at stake during these midterms?

For BIPOC folks (that is, Black, Indigenous, and people of color), change is long overdue. When he was elected, President-Elect Joe Biden promised that he would make BIPOC issues a priority. He has already laid out plans in his first 100 days in office to address the problems that directly affect communities of color.

These plans include investing $30 billion in small businesses run by black, brown, and Native American entrepreneurs. He also plans to loosen restrictions on asylum-seekers at the US-Mexico border and extend protections for Dreamers. But he can’t make these plans a reality unless he has the legislative branch to back him up. 

Luckily, Congress is held by the Democrats, and the Senate is split evenly down the middle, with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaker. But in 2022, Democrats must keep their majority in Congress and push for a larger majority of the Senate (at least two-thirds) so that all Democratic legislation can pass without a struggle. 

After all, there’s nothing worse than congressional gridlock — a phenomenon that seems to have become a permanent state in the legislative branch. When the Democratic-controlled legislative and executive branches are working in tandem, that’s when BIPOC folks can advocate for and actually expect real change.

Why is it important to start preparing for midterms now?

In short, it’s never too soon to start laying the foundation towards a nationwide blue wave. As Stacey Abrams taught us in Georgia, it takes time and patience to build up an infrastructure of voters. When Abrams lost Georgia’s gubernatorial race in 2018, she decided to pour all her time and resources into mobilizing the vote and fighting white supremacist voter suppression. 

“Stacey Abrams made it her business to go out and register people of color,” political science professor Andra Gillespie told Reuters. “She went out and registered thousands of people to vote and then created the tools to help remind them about the election process.”

What’s important about Abrams’ strategy is that she started paving the way to a blue Georgia in 2018. She knew that her efforts would take years to pay off. What Abrams did in Georgia can serve as a sort of blueprint for the way Democrats can flip red seats blue, or blue seats more progressive (à la AOC beating 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in 2018). 

If young BIPOC folks want to see a 2022 blue wave in the midterms, they must start mobilizing now. That means joining political activism groups, donating or volunteering at the DNC, reading up on primary candidates, and paying attention to your local state propositions. It means spreading the word about midterms months before they happen either by word-of-mouth or social media. 

The future is in our hands. All we have to do is show up.