A Humanist Recap of the Midterm Election

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

In very good midterm election news, all ten members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus won their re-elections by considerable margins on Tuesday. That means Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD), caucus co-chairs; Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA), the other founding members; and Steve Cohen (D-TN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Mark Pocan (D-WI) will all be returning to the US House of Representatives. As a reminder, the Freethought Caucus promotes public policy based on reason, science, and moral values. The American Humanist Association (AHA) was honored to participate in the organizational meetings that resulted in its foundation.

The good news wasn’t limited to the House of Representatives. In the Senate, Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who identifies herself as an ally of the secular community, beat incumbent Dean Heller.

The Freethought Equality Fund (FEF) PAC—affiliated with the Center for Freethought Equality, which is the political and advocacy arm of the AHA—endorses candidates who identify as humanist, atheist, or agnostic, and who share the goal of protecting the separation of church and state and defending the civil liberties of secular Americans. In addition to victorious federal candidates, FEF-endorsed candidates won state House and Senate seats in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming! (Votes are still being counted in several races, so this list may change.)

Newly elected Senator Rosen, a computer programmer, is one of nine incoming legislators who are credentialed in fields of science and medicine. Seven Democratic scientists will become members of the House, including an industrial engineer, an ocean scientist, a dentist, a biochemical engineer, a nurse, a nuclear engineer, and a pediatrician. One new Republican is a former aerospace engineer who ran as a businessman.

In other election news of interest around the country:

  • A record number of women—ninety-five so far, with some races still being counted—won seats in the US House of Representatives. The increasingly inclusive group includes:
    • the first Muslim congresswomen (Democrats Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota);
    • the first Native American congresswomen (Democrats Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Sharice Davids of Kansas);
    • the youngest woman ever elected to Congress (Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York);
    • the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts (Democrat Ayanna Pressley); and
    • the first two Latina congresswomen from Texas (Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia).
    • Republican Marsha Blackburn, the first female senator from Tennessee. (Republicans will have fourteen fewer female members in the new Congress than currently hold office, however.)
  • In state capitols, Jared Polis (Democrat of Colorado) will become the country’s first openly gay governor. Kristi Noem (Republican of North Dakota) and Janet Mills (Democrat of Maine) will become the first women governors in their states, while Michelle Lujan Grisham (Democrat of New Mexico) will be the first Democratic Latina to win a gubernatorial race.
  • Democrat Ned Lamont, the grandnephew of the renowned humanist Corliss Lamont (cofounder and longtime director of the ACLU, AHA president, and 1977 Humanist of the Year), was elected governor of Connecticut.
  • Kim Davis, who gained fame when she refused to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her discriminatory religious beliefs, lost her re-election bid for county clerk in Kentucky.
  • Two states, Alabama and West Virginia, approved anti-abortion amendments to their state constitutions. Oregon voters, on the other hand, allowed public funding for abortion by voting down a ban.
  • Alabama voters overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow displays of the Ten Commandments on public property.
  • Voters supported ballot measures aimed at making voting easier in states including:
    • Florida, where 1.4 million people who have been convicted of a felony will soon be able to vote;
    • Michigan, Colorado, and Missouri, which all passed anti-gerrymandering initiatives;
    • Nevada, where voters approved automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles; and
    • Maryland, where people will soon be able to register on Election Day.
  • In North Carolina, however, voters approved a measure to require photo IDs in order to vote.
  • Three states legalized marijuana use: Michigan legalized recreational use and Utah and Missouri legalized medical marijuana.

Tuesday night, as big names like Beto O’Rourke and Joe Donnelly fell, it was hard to see a blue wave. Today, however, has demonstrated how far progressive values truly carried the day. The forty-seven members or allies of the freethought community who are now elected officials at the state and federal level will continue the work of the American Humanist Association, the Center for Freethought Equality, and the Congressional Freethought Caucus in promoting policy based in reason, science, and compassion. This morning, after a week of rain here in DC, the sun is shining in slightly bluer skies.