Don’t Panic YetHere Are the Progressive Wins for the 2020 Election

Michele Rayner, a Black woman, smiles while wearing a red dress and stnading outside.

Florida elects Michele Rayner, its first openly queer Black woman as a state legislator (Photo credit:

We still don’t know who the next president of the United States will be. Tensions are rightfully high: The incumbent president has spent months saying that the election is rigged (and who doubled down on Twitter and in a press conference about mail-in voting being fraudulent), white supremacy continues to loom over the country, and it feels like our worst fears are being validated left and right. But we would be remiss not to recognize that there have been massive wins this election season. To ignore these changes would be to deny the challenges faced by the people who put their time and energy into trying to make the United States a better place and to invisibilize these efforts.

We can sink into a deep, dark pit as we imagine the potential outcome of the coming hours. But we can also pause and recognize that, this time, people came and got it done. We deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labor and to hold our heads high as we celebrate the historic wins of election night. Here are some of those wins.

The Squad Rides Again

Though centrists Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were at the top of the ticket, progressive politicians made huge inroads in the 2020 election. Let’s start here: “The Squad,” composed of Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts all won re-election. Republicans are shaking in their boots. We’re sure of it.

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Progressive Candidates Won Big

The Squad will be joined in Congress by Cori Bush, a Ferguson protestor who’s now the first Black woman elected to Congress from Missouri, and Jamaal Bowman, who ousted long-term incumbent, Eliot Engel, in New York. They’ll be working together in Congress to pass a progressive agenda that includes the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a living wage for all Americans.

Candidates of Color Stepped Up—and Won

Jaime Harrison won’t be replacing Lindsey Graham in the Senate, but candidates of color are showing how much progress has been made, especially in state houses. New Mexico became the first state to elect all women of color to House delegation, electing Incumbent Deb Haaland, Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez, and Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee nation. Jennifer and Zohran Mamdani became the first two Indian Americans elected to the New York State Assembly. New York also elected Ritchie Torres to the U.S. House of Representatives, making him the first openly gay Afro Latino in Congress. Iman Jodeh becomes the first Muslim in Colorado’s state government and Wisconsin elected both the first Asian American and first Muslim (and first African American man) to its state legislature. Brandon Scott will be the new mayor of Baltimore. At just 36, he’s the youngest person to ever lead the city.

Drug Use Is Being Decriminalized!

The 2020 election brought us a number of historic wins for Americans who have remained frustrated with and harmed by the ongoing war on drugs. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota legalized recreational marijuana use. Mississippi and South Dakota legalized medical marijuana use. Oregon voters voted to decriminalize drugs, including cocaine and heroin, and legalized the use of psilocybin for supervised therapeutic purposes. Marijuana is now legal in 15 states and Washington, D.C.

LGBTQ Candidates Took Their Rightful Place

Let’s run this down: Sam Park, the first openly gay Man elected to Georgia’s State Legislature, won reelection. After her Kansas win, Stephanie Byers, who is Indigenous, is the first trans person of color elected to state legislature in the United States. Florida elected Michele Rayner, its first openly queer Black woman as a state legislator. Sharice Davids, the first openly LGBTQ Native American in congress and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, won her reelection in Kansas. Mauree Turner is the first nonbinary state lawmaker in the country and the first Muslim person to serve in the Oklahoma legislature. LGBTQ Americans deserve representation in every level of U.S. government. This is just a start, but it’s a good one.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to highlight Michele Rayner, Florida’s first openly queer Black woman as a state legislator. (11/04/2020 2:45 p.m. PST)


Rachel Charlene Lewis, who has light brown skin and dark brown curly hair, wears a white button up and gold jewelry and gold glasses.
by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis has written about culture, identity, and the internet for publications including i-D, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Greatist, Glamour, Autostraddle, Ravishly, SELF, StyleCaster, The Frisky (RIP), The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. Her literary work, reviews, and interviews have been published in Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, The Offing, and in several other magazines. She is on Twitter and Instagram, always.

by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.