The Changing Face of US Politics


With Trump dominating recent US national politics and political discourse, racial diversity has certainly not been celebrated. However, the election of the 116th United States Congress raises questions about the direction in which the country is heading.

The mid-term elections in November, which restored the Democrats' control of the House of Representatives, have formed the most racially diverse Congress in its history. In addition, it is the youngest Congress with the highest proportion of female representatives yet. We look at four of these congressional trailblazers who were sworn in on 3rd January 2019 and form part of a progressive opposition stirring the pot of US politics.

Ilhan Omar is now the first woman of colour to represent Minnesota’s 5th district. Omar is a Somali-American who, along with Rashida Tlaib, is one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to congress. She recounted arriving in Washington DC from Kenya as a refugee 23 years ago, returning to the same airport to swear her oath to office last week on Capitol Hill, which she did on her grandfather’s Qur’an.

Since being elected, Omar has helped to relax the 181-year-old rule banning headwear on the House floor in November, allowing her to be the first to wear a hijab whilst performing congressional duties. At the time, Omar tweeted that this was “not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.”

Following the record-breaking nature of this 116th Congress, at 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was sworn in as the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress. The new representative for New York’s 14th district has already overcome and mocked attempts at personal humiliation, after a video of her dancing with classmates at college was posted on Twitter the day before she was sworn in.

Ocasio-Cortez ran a progressive campaign based on Medicare for All, immigration reform and social mobility. Ocasio-Cortez has continued to say what she thinks since being sworn in; when asked today whether Trump is racist, the new Congresswomen plainly stated, “Yeah, yeah, no question.”

Antonio Delgado was sworn in as representative for New York’s 19th Congressional District, after beating Republican John Faso in the November mid-terms, who distractingly characterised Delgado as a ‘big-city rapper’ during his campaign.

After having voted for Trump in 2016, this majority white district now has an African-American, progressive representative in the House. After being sworn in, he stated ending the government shutdown as the first priority. However, he also asserts that his “North Star” is his constituents: “It’s always about how my decisions are going to impact the folks who sent me here.”

Joseph “Joe” Neguse became the first Eritrean-American member of Congress and Colorado’s first African-American Congressman, continuing the 2nd district’s Democrat representation. Neguse has said that his election “is emblematic of the forward-looking and inclusive country we are so lucky to call home,” but that he would “like to get back to a place and time where we value that.” Neguse delivered the final Weekly Democratic Address of 2018 as a Congressman-elect and has been appointed as a House of Representatives Democrat leader by the Democratic caucus.

There are many other great stories from this new Congressional intake, including the first two female Native American representatives: Deb Haaland, who was elected in New Mexico’s first district, and Sharice Davids in Kansas’ third district. The two embraced in Congress as the new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, congratulated them.

However, the bigger story here is one of resistance. Just as the election of Trump and the recent surge of white nationalism and supremacy in the US can be seen as a resistance to Obama’s presidency, we can now see a resistance to this resistance. There is a political pot of progressiveness and diversity bubbling away beneath the executive power’s conservatism. This pot is not only regaining national legislative power, but also giving hope that America can once more fully regain its moral compass and sense of fairness it aspires to have as a leading global nation.

Louis Brady