Model Leaders

Ray Rice

There has been so much written about the midterm election cycle that we are just concluding (but that is still underway in several states, including our own), that I hesitate to say much more about it.  But I do want to focus on some very important positive results from this election process, regardless of how you may feel about specific outcomes of individual races and issues. 

First, a record number of women ran for—and won—elected office on Nov. 6.  A total of 113 women will be in Congress this January, the greatest number ever in a midterm.  And 45 percent of all who ran also won their races—also a new record.  More locally, Maine elected a record number of women, and its first female governor.  And there were many more firsts around the nation, as you can read here: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/322922.

Second, the number of people who voted was itself historic.  The Pew Research Center already has a great deal of information about how various groups of Americans voted regarding their age, gender, race, or educational attainment.  You can find that information here: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/08/the-2018-midterm-vote-divisions-by-race-gender-education/.

But what I find particularly positive is that the voting numbers of those ages 18-29 were the highest seen in over 25 years at 31 percent of all such Americans—or 14.7 million (that’s an increase of over 30 percent from the last midterm election).  For the first time, the “millennials” saw larger numbers in many states than the “Baby Boomers” (who were long the largest age block of voters).  All across the country, including in local and statewide races in Maine, voters under the age of 30 made up the largest demographic block in the decisions of who will represent us all come January.

For perspective, this is the first midterm election that has ever passed the 100 million mark in terms of voters—at 113 million, that’s a turnout rate of over 47 percent.  And that increase is driven mainly by voters 18-29.  (See https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/11/08/midterms_saw_historic_turnout_by_young_voters__138591.html for further information.)

Third, more and more individuals in this demographic group are themselves choosing to run for office.  Take the remarkable example of Lucy Rogers (23) and Zac Mayo (29) of Lamoille-3 District in Vermont.  Rogers was finishing up her senior year at the University of Vermont when she decided to run for the seat.  Mayo was born in Burlington, attended the University of Maine for a year before enlisting in the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Olympia out of Pearl Harbor before returning home to run for the same office.

The state representative for Lamoille-3 serves two different townships: Cambridge (where Mayo lives) and Waterville (where Rogers lives).  In a year of highly partisan and too often egregiously divisive ideology and rhetoric among politicians, the two millennials were determined that their race would not be marked by a politics of fear and partisanship.  Following a heavily attended debate between the two at a local library, they pulled out their instruments (he plays the guitar, she plays a cello), and performed a duet of Eddie Vedder’s “Society.”  As Mayo put it, “a passionate debate is fine, but we must always have civility and respect underlying all of it.”

CBS Evening News did a story on Rogers and Mayo, which you can find at https://www.facebook.com/CBSEveningNews/videos/political-rivals-stun-voters-with-unexpected-duet/2240749809330698/–it includes their (pretty darn good) duet.  And, with that, the two went modestly viral on social media.

If anything, their message needs to reach more people, because the civility that they agreed to model toward each other within their communities should serve as a model for our future political leaders, those who provide the financial backing for their campaigns and, most important, those who will determine who is elected to office.  Mayo and Rogers didn’t just take the “high road” in this era of fear-mongering and incivility: they demonstrated true leadership and respect for their future constituents.

Finally, if you’re wondering who won in Lamoille-3:  Rogers received 1273 votes to Mayo’s 882.  But the real winners are the residents of Cambridge and Waterville.