Thoughts after the midterm elections
I remember election day in Jamaica, where I grew up. It was massive. Everyone went to the polls as if their livelihood depended on it. It basically did for many Jamaicans. If their party won the vote, they would have greater access to jobs and resources. If they didn’t win, the converse would be true. The stakes were high.
Here in the U.S., voter participation rates are skimpy in comparison. I think part of that is because our democracy is stable enough (most of the time) that the outcomes don’t lead to dramatic changes that overturn people’s lives overnight. The majority of Americans could plausibly believe that the results don’t affect them personally.
Now, you don’t need me to tell you that we still have a responsibility to vote—even if your day-to-day life feels mostly the same no matter the outcome. But what I do want to highlight is that the stakes are not the same for everyone. If you have identities that make up the majority or dominant groups in this country, complacency is a tempting option. But for many people, the results of each election do make a difference.
How personally you feel the ripple effects of last week’s midterms depends on the intersections of your identity. For example, if you live in Florida or Texas and you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, your rights have been up for virulent public debate. And now that Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott have been re-elected governors in these states, the debate has come down against you. If you are a person who can get pregnant, the composition of the congress is hugely important now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. If you are a person of color, we depend on our local and national legislators to protect our rights (to vote, be admitted to college etc.) from further erosion.
DEI practitioners often recommend to managers that they check in with employees after something horrific has happened, such as an incident of police brutality or a natural disaster. The wake of last Tuesday’s vote is another important moment for a temperature check.
It’s not about whether Republicans or Democrats scored more points. Ideology transcends politics, and some people were running on platforms that attack identities that are primary and significant to our colleagues and neighbors, like sexual orientation, gender and race. When those platforms are granted power, the fear of what might happen next is real.
So if you think that this could be a tough time for one of your employees or colleagues, check in with them. Allow your people space to talk and vent. Don’t be surprised if people aren’t on their A game.
And, if you are less directly affected by the perilous state of our democracy, don’t get complacent. We all need to continue to work together through the political process to make sure that no one needs to worry about their basic rights every November.