For more than 87,000, national, local and state governments Americans elect more than 511,000 public officials. However, the elections for Congress and the office of the Presidency draw the most intense interest in the electoral process. In 2018, the candidates running for 435 congressional districts and 35 Senate seats as well as thousands of local and statewide institutions spent more than 5 billion dollars
The 2018 election was unique in the electoral history of America. For the first in the nations over 200-year history, Americans elected natives, Muslim women, and openly gay people for Congress. For the first time, 95 women would serve in the 116th Congress compared with 84 women in the 115th and at least 13 new women senators in addition to the 10 who were not contesting.
This election would go as a turning point in the history of the country especially at a time when the nation is sharply polarized on issues such as immigration, healthcare, tax reform and the role of religion in politics. The election of two Muslim women for Congress and over 30 Muslims for various local and state offices at a time when the right-wing Christian evangelical groups were openly calling for the conversion of Muslims and Jews to Christianity and projecting the election as the most crucial for the survival of Christianity in America was perhaps the most inspiring event for the pluralistic and democratic future of the country. Of the 235 million voters in the country, some 115 million voted in 2018 and of these over 50 percent voted Democrats.
Even though the midterm election threw some surprises by electing a Republican candidate who had called for the conversion of Muslims and Jews to Christianity, or an openly white supremacist Republican from Iowa or a dead Republican who was a brothel owner and Pimp or a Islamophobe who is under investigation for fraud and who used the ethnicity of his Christian Democratic opponent to attack Islam and Muslims, yet the country’s Democratic and independent voters by and large rejected the politics of fear, xenophobic, racists, white supremacists, homophobic anti-Semitic and religious fanatics. There were some 47 million voters who still identify with the politics of fear and xenophobia as they preferred the agenda of a President and his party who were openly promoting hatred against immigrants and nonwhite Americans.
Despite the fact that America is a plural and democratic society that declares itself a nation under God without openly promoting a single religion, the religious identity of candidates running for political office make a difference. In the 115th Congress, some 99 percent identified with a specific religion and 91 percent of them called them Christians. 55.9% of the Members (241 in the House, 58 in the Senate) were Protestant, with Baptist as the most represented denomination, followed by Methodist; 31.4% of the Members (144 in the House, 24 in the Senate), Catholic; 5.6% of the Members (22 in the House, 8 in the Senate), Jewish; ? 2.4% of the Members (7 in the House, 6 in the Senate), Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints); 24
Three Members (2 in the House, 1 in the Senate) are Buddhist, 2 House Members are Muslim, and 3 House Members are Hindu; and
There were 51 African American Members (9.4% of the total membership) in the 115th Congress, 46 Hispanic or Latino Members or 8.5% of the total membership.
All this has changed in the 2018 midterm.
Muslim who make up less than one percent of the population ran for at least 250 positions at various levels. Nearly half of them make it to the primary for Congress, state assemblies, city councils, state boards, and other offices. Some far over 45 candidates are reported to have won their races. Among the winners are: 1st Muslim woman elected to Congress: Rashida Tlai first Muslim immigrant woman, Ilhan Omar, 1st South Asian elected to Passaic City Council, NJ: Salim Patel, 1st Muslim legislator in New Mexico: Abbas Akhil, 1st Muslim women elected in Orange County, CA; 1st South Asian Women elected to Irvine City Council: Farrah Khan, 1st Immigrant and 1st Muslim elected to Georgia Legislature: Sheikh Rahman and the first Muslim attorney general, Keith Ellison.
In fact, the inspiration for running for major positions came primarily from a young doctor who in Michigan decided to contest governorship two years before the mid-term. Dr. Syed inspired hundreds of young Muslims all over the country and many ran for their local and state offices. Certainly, this number is likely to increase in 2020 as many more are motivated to serve public.
The presence of at least three Muslims in the House and with at least 40 other Muslims in state and local offices in 15 of the 50 states would definitely change the discourse on Islam and Muslims. Islamophobes in these states and in Congress would be questioned for every hateful statement they would make against their fellow Muslim citizens.
Certainly, the right-wing Christian groups would create a lot of noise about Muslim’s visible political presence in the country and propagate that Muslims were out to take over the country and implement their sharia, yet the tide is not on their side. Despite all the rhetoric that the President and the Republicans would have against Muslims and Islam, the presence and the work of the elected Muslim officials would prove beyond any doubt that Muslims are an integral part of American pluralism and democracy and America would not listen to racists, bigots, and white supremacist.
Charles Fall: State Assembly, North Shore Assembly Seat, Staten Island (- Fall will become the first Muslim and the first African American to serve as a Staten Island representative in Albany. (NY) (Source: Staten Island Live)
Robert Jackson: 1st Muslim in NY State Legislature, State Senate District 31 (NY) (Source: Patch)
Shahabuddeen Ally: NYC Civil Court, New York County (NY) (Source: Ballotpedia)