Solutions We Love5 Reasons: Your Midterm Vote Mattersscroll down arrow

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5 Reasons

Midterm elections often get “nationalized,” becoming a comment on the party in power rather than a vote for representation. But in 2018, there’s more at stake than a vote against President Trump.

YES! Illustration. STOCK FROM Akindo/GETTY

Your Midterm Vote Matters Because You Can Support:

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene


The Pink Wave

Forget talk of “blue waves” or “red waves” sweeping aside the political opposition. Truth is, most congressional districts are so gerrymandered that the chances of swinging them are minuscule.

What is undeniable, however, is the record number of women running for office in state and federal elections. Some might say this is backlash against President Trump and partly inspired by the #MeToo movement. But this pink wave has been a long time coming. The first “Year of the Woman,” in 1992, saw the election of four female senators and 24 female representatives to Congress, a record at the time. As of July 2, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, 52 women have filed to run for U.S. Senate, and 468 for the House of Representatives — more than one for each open seat, and a new record number. At the state level, 62 women are candidates for governor, 54 for lieutenant governor, 101 for other statewide elected offices, and 1,801 for state legislatures.


The Shift in Florida

Florida has been the largest swing state since the 1960s. George W. Bush won the state by 5 percent in 2004, Barack Obama by 2.8 percent in 2008 and by 0.9 percent in 2012, and Donald Trump won the state by 1.2 percent of the vote in 2016. It’s always close.

Then came Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico when it made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017, cutting off power to all 3.4 million residents and knocking out 95 percent of cell networks. A painfully slow and neglectful recovery has followed under the Trump administration.

Now, an estimated 300,000 climate change-impacted refugees from the island territory live in Florida. The inclusion of that many refugee voters could well turn the Sunshine State blue permanently. These people are citizens, and so they can’t be deported and will remember who abandoned them in a time of need.

Law professor Ian Haney López of the University of California, Berkeley, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, says the diaspora may spill over into other states, such as Georgia and North Carolina, with similar political results. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant Puerto Rican bloc in those states could tilt those states from red to blue,” Haney López says.


Racial Unity

Cell phone cameras show police shooting unarmed Black men with impunity. Conservative states from Arizona to Kansas to North Carolina are still trying to keep people of color from voting. A predominantly White-male Congress has undermined health care and other social programs that help low-income and minority groups.

One response from Black America has been to step into the policymaking fray. As of July 2, the database Black Women in Politics has been tracking more than 375 Black women running for office in 2018. Stacey Abrams’ victory in the Democratic primary for governor of Georgia was sparked by a surge in Black voters.

Research from Haney López shows that people are broadly supportive of racial unity, ending violence against communities of color, and taking government back from the rich. Those messages transcend traditional political boundaries. “It does better with not only progressives and racial justice advocates — it does better with the roughly 60 percent of the population in the middle, including many Whites and many Republicans,” he says.


Empowered Native Americans

Perhaps it was the extended demonstrations at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in 2016 that lifted Native American voices. Maybe it’s the growing awareness of catastrophic climate changes. But Native Americans are showing up in government.

Mark Trahant, the editor of Indian Country Today, is tracking more than 100 Native candidates for public office across the country, half of whom are women. That includes Debra Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe who is running for a New Mexico House of Representatives seat. After winning her primary for the urban Democratic-leaning seat, she’s poised to become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.

Many candidates are running on platforms embracing a list of largely (but not entirely) progressive causes that appeal to constituencies even beyond the Native community. Paulette Jordan of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Indians is running for governor as a Democrat in deep-red Idaho. “What got her through the primary was her talking about her rural values as a native Idahoan,” Trahant says.

The presence of so many Native women running for office also is having a profound effect on how young Native girls see themselves and their lives. “Wherever Paulette Jordan goes, you see flocks of young girls following her,” Trahant says.



For all of the attempts to disenfranchise voters in some states, other states are taking steps to safeguard elections and voting rights. Seven states have implemented automatic voter registration in advance of the 2018 elections, says Max Feldman, counsel in the democracy program of the Brennan Center for Justice.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order restoring voting rights to 24,000 people with criminal convictions, and a similar measure will be on the ballot as a voters’ initiative in Florida. “Bottom line is we’re seeing a lot of energy around pro-voter reforms,” Feldman says.

The technology of democracy remains a challenge. In 2016, 44 states used voting machines that were at least a decade old, and most of those machines are no longer manufactured.

Congress this year approved $380 million to help states upgrade and secure their voting systems.

“That represents a significant investment, but that’s very late in the game for states to upgrade their voting systems in 2018,” Feldman says.

Nonetheless, it can be done. In 2017, Virginia upgraded all of its voting machines and systems only two months before the gubernatorial elections. The election drew the highest turnout in 16 years for a gubernatorial race, and it all went off without any major issues.

What the Maps of Hatred Reveal

New Science Offers Clues to Stop the Spread of Hate Groups

Illustration by Andrea Hill / Getty Image

Illustration by Andrea Hill / Getty Images

Organized hate groups span all geographic areas of the United States, from White nationalists in Washington state to neo-Nazis in Alabama to radical traditionalist Catholics in New Hampshire. While persecution of classes of people happens everywhere, the drivers that push people to join hate groups are unique to specific places. In this way, hatred can be a study in geography as much as anything else.

A new model tracking organized hate groups upends a long-held, simplistic view of the issue, one that placed a generalized blame on education or immigration, for example, positing that a person’s education level could be a sole indicator of whether they would join a hate group.

New research from the University of Utah provides a much more nuanced picture of what gives rise to organized hate groups that can better serve those working to dismantle them. In the Midwest, economics is a more influential factor than immigration. On the East Coast, more religious areas correlate with more per capita hate groups, while education has little influence.

Richard Medina, University of Utah assistant professor of geography and lead author of the research, said public perceptions of hate and its motivating factors are often oversimplified. “Drivers of hate are dependent on regions and cultures and all the things we see and study in geography,” he said. “It can be really complicated. People don’t just hate for one reason.”

Medina’s group had been working on the research before the White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, where a woman was killed in the violence. Emily Nicolosi, University of Utah graduate student and co-author of the paper, said what happened in Charlottesville started national conversations she believes the research can support.

In the central United States, economic factors — such as poverty and employment levels — are most likely to push people into hate groups. Immigration is less of a factor.

“The motivators and drivers of hate look very different in different places,” Nicolosi said. “If you look at the maps, you can see that these sort of regions emerge where the [different] variables are playing the same role.”

The research used census data to track specific socioeconomic variables, such as population changes over a five-year period, poverty, and education levels. Researchers mapped population percentage of White non-Latinos because places changing from strong racial and ethnic similarity are more likely to experience a negative reaction to change. Poverty is a driver of hate because extremist groups promise the impoverished a way out of financial difficulty or provide a group to blame. The group also measured conservative religious and political ideology.

The maps of these socioeconomic factors were then compared to a 2014 map of 784 organized hate groups across the country created by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The hate groups were mapped down to the county level in each state. The states with the most hate groups per million people in population were Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Vermont. Comparing the socioeconomic map with the hate group map showed which factors were the strongest indicators in different regions of the country.

YES! Illustration. Stock from Tooga and Andrea Hill / Getty Images

YES! Illustration. Stock from Tooga and Andrea Hill / Getty Images

What Drives Hate?

In general, the research reveals that less diversity, more poverty, less population change, and less education all correlate with more hate groups. But how influential those factors are depends on where you live.

On the West Coast, high poverty and a large concentration of White people in an area are the most influential factors driving hate groups. While the region generally has racial diversity, non-White people moving in and changing a demographic quickly can become targets, Medina said. In the southern parts of California and Arizona, lower education levels and higher poverty levels are the most important indicators.

In the central United States, economic factors — such as poverty and employment levels — are most likely to push people into hate groups. Immigration is less of a factor because fewer people are moving into the region compared to the coasts.

Population shift is the most telling factor on the East Coast. Areas that have more people leaving than coming have more hate groups. This trend is also present throughout the country, Medina said, but is most prominent in the East. Rates of education, poverty, and diversity have less influence there.

The measurements of ideology — by concentrations of religious people and Republicans — created somewhat different regional maps. Counties with strong religious communities have fewer hate groups on the West Coast and parts of the Midwest and Southeast. Yet, the majority of the Midwest and East Coast see more hate groups as counties grow more religious. Similar geographic trends are seen when tracking hate groups and Republicanism.

This mapping reveals what fuels different biases, Nicolosi said. Movement organizers working for social justice must recognize the most important factors in their own communities to create positive change.

Politicians can better understand their constituents and the cultures influencing them, Medina said.

How to Change Minds

Citing research such as this, Medina said creating interactions with people from different races, religions, and places is one of the most effective strategies to combat organized hatred.

And that is what Peace Catalyst International does, creating opportunities for interaction and relationships between Christians and Muslims in both the United States and Indonesia. City by city, the group brings together people from different religions, organizing meals and group discussions. The dynamics of each city or region play out differently, so it is incumbent on the local organizers to respond accordingly.

Rebecca Brown, grants manager for Peace Catalyst International, said Christian communities often struggle to overcome misconceptions and fears about Muslims they have internalized from American culture. Islam is often portrayed as a violent religion in American media. According to the Pew Research Center, non-Muslim Americans are more likely to have positive feelings about Islam if they know a Muslim. But studies show non-Muslim Americans are more likely to know someone who is atheist, Jewish, or Mormon than someone who is Muslim.

People can be transformed by one relationship, Brown said. “The xenophobic, anti-Muslim threat is a very real threat and a growing threat in our community,” she said. Her organization wants to “provide viable theological and ideological ways for [people] to cling to peace rather than ... moving toward fear.”

Similar to the work Peace Catalyst International does, Life After Hate helps create relationships across ideological divides. The organization is run by Christian Picciolini with a mission of researching extremism and helping radicalized people disengage from hate movements.

In his 2017 TEDx Talk, Picciolini describes how feelings of abandonment and anger toward people he saw as different led him to join the neo-Nazis at age 14.

The birth of his son and interactions Picciolini had with customers in his record shop pushed him away from the hate movement. “A gay couple came in with their son, and it was undeniable to me that they loved their son in the same profound ways that I loved mine,” Picciolini said in his talk. “Suddenly, I couldn’t rationalize or justify the prejudice that I had in my head.”

Picciolini underscores the importance of the research findings. The most effective way to change a radicalized person’s view is to understand what is driving their prejudice, Picciolini said in an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s about changing their perspective just a little bit,” he said. “Because often when you change their perspective just a little bit, it allows them to see the cracks in the foundation of the ideology that they believe in.”

Both extremism research and the rush to understand and combat organized hate groups are happening at a time when technology is helping to target potential recruits. Hate groups use similar strategies as ISIS or Al-Qaeda, focusing on individuals who feel victimized or isolated. Hate groups tap into beliefs that racial or religious groups are attacking Whites, as seen in a Ku Klux Klan recruitment flier distributed at a North Carolina high school in 2017. An appeal to religious conservatism is an effective tactic in North Carolina, Medina said, though playing off a fear of losing one’s culture is used across the country.

The research begins to offer a measurable picture of where in the country different types of messaging will attract members. And Medina would like to investigate further, for instance, into the roles that specific religions play; the current study groups all religions together. He also plans to work with researchers who will do qualitative studies to learn about motivations directly from citizens.

“[Hate] is not uniform. But people treat it like it’s a uniform phenomenon across the country. It just doesn’t work that way.”

People We Love

Muslim LGBTQ+ Activists

Taylor Amari Little

Taylor Amari Little presents her talk “Complicating Narratives: Unveiling and (Re)creating” at the Fellowship of Reconciliation Conference in Seabeck, Washington. Here, Little highlights the principles and commitments of the Islamic Healing Space of A2 & Ypsi. Photo By Komalpreet Sahota

A global movement is challenging stereotypes and redefining what it means to live at the complex intersection of Islam, sexuality, and gender. Despite the struggles of isolation and Islamophobia, LGBTQ+ Muslims are determined to fight for their right to worship and love freely without sacrificing one identity at the expense of the other.

Amir Ashour
Amir Ashour IraQueer

Same-sex relationships between adults technically have been legal in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. In practice, however, LGBTQ+ Iraqis are subject to discrimination, family and community shunning, and murder by militia members.

In 2015, Amir Ashour fled his home in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan after receiving death threats for his activism in the country. After obtaining asylum in Sweden, he launched IraQueer, the first civil rights organization for the LGBTQ+ community in Iraq.

“The response from the government has been violent. That’s why I can never go back to Iraq,” Ashour says. “None of the work that we do is 100 percent safe. Not for our colleagues, contributors, or organizations working with us. But it’s a cause that is affecting our lives.”

IraQueer is an anonymous network of 600 people who do advocacy work and write essays, security guides, sexual health and education guides, and a review of LGBTQ+ human rights violations in Iraq. They publish in Arabic, Kurdish, and English.

“The fear of spending the rest of our lives hiding our identity and not living our truth was so much bigger than facing the consequences of starting IraQueer,” Ashour says.

Mahdia Lynn
Mahdia Lynn Masjid al-Rabia

Mahdia Lynn discovered her Muslim community condemned LGBTQ+ people in 2015, during Caitlyn Jenner’s highly publicized gender transition, and she knew that the acceptance she felt in the community was conditional.

As a bisexual, transgender Shi’a Muslim, Lynn needed a place to practice her faith without discrimination, and she knew she wasn’t the only one.

In 2016, Lynn established Masjid al-Rabia in order to provide that safe space. Masjid al-Rabia is a women-centered, LGBTQ+ inclusive, sect-diverse mosque in Chicago, and one of the few mosques where women lead prayer.

“The idea that there are people who can’t have access to that just by merit of being who they are, and by merit of being within a society that is unaccepting, is a cruelty that I couldn’t stand,” Lynn says. “It’s a moral prerogative to do whatever we can to make our spaces accessible for everyone.”

In two years, Masjid al-Rabia has expanded into education advocacy, digital programming, outreach for LGBTQ+ youth during Ramadan, and a program reaching out to incarcerated queer and trans Muslims in 39 states.

“Our mission is spiritual support for marginalized Muslims, and we strive to foster a community that doesn’t leave anybody behind,” Lynn says.

Taylor Amari Little
Taylor Amari Little Queer Ummah

Despite being warned by close friends to “be careful” with her LGBTQ+ Muslim activism, Taylor Amari Little is using social media to her advantage — creating an international community of support for those living at the intersection of both identities.

Queer Ummah: A Visibility Project highlights the experiences of LGBTQ+ Muslims — creating a digital space to tell personal and traumatic stories of marginalization. Many of the photos featured in the project are abstract, hiding the storyteller’s face in order to protect the identities of those who aren’t safe enough to be public about their sexuality. The project was featured in 2017 as part of the “Perpetual Revolution” exhibition at the International Center of Photography in New York.

“We wanted to hold space for folks who have endured trauma, whether personal or collective,” says Little, who lives in the Detroit area. “My goal is to make sure that people are able to safely explore their relationship with themselves and with everything outside of themselves.”

Little also serves as an organizer for the Islamic Healing Space of A2 & Ypsi — a safe space that moves among various community halls in Detroit for LGBTQ+ Muslims to gather and heal their trauma together.

The Page That Counts

The Numbers That Define Our World

Liters of water it takes to make one cotton shirt2,700 1

Greenhouse gases released in 2015 from the production of polyester for textiles706 billion kilograms 2

Percentage increase in number of garments purchased by the average global consumer, from 2000 to 201460 3

Percentage decrease in time the average global consumer keeps a garment before throwing it away, from 2000 to 201450

Tons of clothing Americans throw away each year 14 million 4

Percentage of clothes in the U.S. that wound up in landfills or incinerators, as opposed to being recycled, in 2012 84

Base salary made by Philadelphia Eagles player Chris Long during the 2017 NFL season$1 million 5

Percentage of 2017 base salary donated by Long to educational charities100

Money raised for educational charities during the 2017 NFL season via Long’s Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign$1.33 million 6

Sales of “Underdog” T-shirt created by a clothing line owned by the Eagles’ Lane Johnson$100,000 7

Percentage of “Underdog” T-shirt sales donated by Johnson to Philadelphia schools100

Percentage of sales of the NFL’s own “Underdog” T-shirt the league agreed to donate to Philadelphia schools after being pressured by Long and Johnson100

Presidential salary donated to the Department of Education by President Trump in 2017$100,000 8

Money Trump proposed to cut from the Department of Education in 2017$9 billion 9

Percentage of corporate executives in December 2017 who said that business objectives and environmental goals are more aligned now than they were five years ago72 10

Percentage of top executives who said that new environmentally innovative technology can help their bottom lines as well as their environmental impact91

Percentage of people willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact66 11

Number of states (including Washington, D.C.) that have more jobs in clean energy than fossil fuels: 42

Ratio by which clean energy jobs outnumber coal and gas jobs5–1 12

Percentage of Americans who said protecting the environment should take priority over economic growth57 13

Percentage of Americans able to name at least one right guaranteed by the First Amendment63 14

Percentage of Americans who know what a podcast is64 15

Percentage who know that undocumented immigrants have rights under the Constitution47 14

Percentage who have listened to a podcast44 15

Percentage who were able to name all three branches of government26 14

Percentage who listen to podcasts each month26 15

Percentage over the age of 12 who listen to broadcast radio in a given week91 16

Percentage of political talk radio programming that leans conservative on 257 commercial radio stations owned by the five largest station owners91 17

1. World Wildlife Fund 2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 3. McKinsey & Co. 4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 5. Chris Long Foundation 6. Pledge 10 For Tomorrow 7. WPVI-TV Philadelphia 8. The White House 9. U.S. Department of Education 10. Environmental Defense Fund, Business and the Fourth Wave of Environmentalism 11. The Nielsen Co. 12. Sierra Club/U.S. Department of Energy 13. Gallup Inc. 14. Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey 15. Edison Research, 2018 Infinite Dial Study 16. Nielsen Media Research, via Radio Advertising Bureau 17. Center for American Progress, The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio

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