Diversity in Midterm Election Results Inspire Students

Elisa D.
By Jackie Y.
December 17, 2018

On Tuesday, November 7th, a record number of women broke the glass ceiling, winning over 100 elections in the 2018 midterm race. Of the 256 female candidates representing the Democratic and Republican parties, almost half (122) won their respective races. This election cycle also proved historic in the diversity of candidates: Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two Muslims who won primaries for Michigan’s 13th District and Minnesota’s 5th District, Debra Haaland, a Native American is the new representative for New Mexico’s Congressional District, Sharice Davids, a Native American and open lesbian, won a seat in the House of Representatives, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest candidate at age 29, are the female candidates who won seats in Congress for the first time.


The year of firsts comes at the right time. According to USA Today and CNN exit polls, around 80 percent of voters this year say that it is important that American elects more racial minorities and women to office. 80 percent of African-American voters say this is very important, and 66 percent of white voters agree.


Given the historic nature of the elections, community members lamented that little to no discussions occurred at Westridge following the election results. Unlike the 2016 elections, where many students openly shared their thoughts and opinions regarding the election of President Donald Trump in class, after this election, few students could say they discussed the results. “I went to the polls and was able to vote as a legal adult, but I was surprised and disappointed that there was a lack of discussion the next day,” said Zellie O., ’19, a first-time voter.


Vivian Liao, an Upper School chemistry teacher, also expressed concern over the lack of talk around campus before the November 7th election. “I brought up [the midterm elections] with my classes. I encouraged everyone to tell the adults around them to go vote, and I also encouraged my students to think about running for office at some point, but I didn’t notice students themselves bringing it up.”


Even students who could not vote were disappointed with the minimal discussion that occurred after the midterm results and its impact on the future. “I was confused and frustrated that we didn’t get a platform within the school to talk about the midterms because I spend so much time outside of school doing homework that I hadn’t fully gotten the opportunity to research the midterm elections on my own,” said Hana O., ’21.


The discussion of increased female representation seemed to remain in the classroom and under teacher-initiated circumstances. Jennifer Marcus, an Upper School history teacher, had her class research candidates’ positions and follow the races in her Honors US History and Global Issues class. “Up until now, there hasn’t been a lot of campus-wide conversations, but discussions have been mostly limited to the classroom.”


“Not really,” Molly M., ’22, said when asked if Westridge was informed on voting issues. “We didn’t talk about the candidates or why certain elections were more important than others. We did have a voter registration booth, but it’s also important to have informed voters.”

Around 31 percent of voters ages 18-29 voted in the 2018 midterm elections—a record turnout for this age bracket. Turnout for the 18-29 age bracket has increased significantly since the 2014 midterm elections, where only 21 percent of young voters voted. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, since 1984, more women have been voting than men, the highest difference being an 11 percent gender gap. The Brookings Institution, a non-profit organization dedicated to in-depth research about global problems, wrote, “Women constituted 52 percent of the electorate, compared to 48 percent for men, and 59 percent of women voted for Democrats while 51 percent of men voted for Republicans.”

Even with the large turnout among younger female generations and the robust press coverage of the elections, discussion was limited on the Westridge campus, perhaps due in part to the lack of controversy. “A lot of kids were definitely upset the day after the 2016 election, especially because this is an all-girls school, and an opportunity for a woman to be president didn’t happen,” said Sandy deGrijs, an Upper School history teacher.


Despite decreased discussion, this election year has managed to spark and inspire Westridge students to have a career in politics. “I want to run [for Congress] because I am tired of seeing politicians that don’t represent me or my views in office making decisions that affect our generation,” said Cara W., ’21.


“Since 2016, it had become more obvious to me that there is a need for better representation in government, that we can’t achieve true equality until we have fair representation. And so now, I encourage all my students to think about running for office. I think about it sometimes. I still think it’s a really, really, really hard job, but I think it’s something that more people should do,” Liao said.


ASB President and newcomer to student government leadership Quyen M., ’19, decided to run in order to show her love and appreciation for Westridge.  She also recognizes the need for a change in America’s community. “The fact that an unprecedented number of women ran and won in the midterms is absolutely relevant to Westridge. We pride ourselves as being bold, confident, and very well-equipped young women, and that’s totally true. I can see this election inspiring Westridge students to seek out political office - I hope so! For me personally, I was almost more inspired by the diversity. So many people of color and people in the LGBTQ+ community were elected in the midterms. That means a lot to me,” said Quyen.


Even though 2018 midterms didn’t nearly spark as much debate as the 2016 elections, they changed America’s future. The steady increase of women in Congress may inspire Westridge students to consider running for public office in the future and brings hopes that one day, the face of Congress will more fully reflect the face of the nation.