Democrats Abroad at McGill (DAM) hosted a midterm election viewing party on Nov. 6 at La P’tite Grenouille, where at least one hundred McGill students gathered to watch the votes come in. With each updated CNN projection, the group refocused on the screen and waited for results. Each Democrat success brought cheers and claps, and defeats triggered cries of disappointment. At 11 p.m., CNN projected that the Democrats would take back the House of Representatives and the room exploded with victorious energy, happy tears, and hope.
This was a race two years in the making, with Democrats across the U.S. and abroad preparing for the midterm elections since the election of President Trump, hoping to gain a majority in Congress. Congress is the legislative body of the U.S. government, which is made up of Senate and House of Representatives.
The Democrats were unable to wrestle control of the Senate from the Republicans. However, attendants were satisfied that the 115th Congress now includes the most diverse group of members ever, as the country sent its first black, LGBTQ, Native American, and Muslim women to Congress or governor’s offices. Issues such as gun regulations, climate change policies, women’s reproductive rights, and immigration laws are all at stake, and the outcome of the midterms tipped the balance toward the blue.
DAM Vice-President (VP) External Amanda Demers initially felt uneasy about the results due to Republican retention of the Senate but believes the Democrats’ victories are monumental.
“From Gillum’s [contested] loss in Florida and Beto’s loss in Texas, these key democratic candidates did not end up winning their races,” Demers said. “[But], looking more closely at the results, I am very content with how things turned out, as the American political sphere has diversified greatly [because of the] the influx of more women and minorities into Congress overall.”
The midterms saw a record number of young voters as 31 per cent of young people aged 18 to 29 voted, an increase from the 21 per cent recorded in 2014. DAM President Claire Rawson-Dannenbaum commented on the value of young people voting in the masses.
“This year, we’ve seen a huge increase in young voters in early voting, which is amazing,” Rawson-Dannenbaum said. “The youth are a huge portion of the population, but our voices rarely come together enough to strongly be heard.”
Brent Jamsa, U0 Arts, is the Project Manager for DAM. Jamsa organized and handled DAM’s phone banking operations during which members of the club and volunteers called registered Democrats in the U.S. about supporting certain candidates. This semester, DAM made over 4,000 calls for candidates in districts where election results could go either way.
“It was nice to speak with fellow Americans about progressive issues, and we always got praise when we told people over the phone that we were Americans at McGill,” Jamsa said. “They were happy to know that young people [abroad] were committed to helping the situation back home.”
The presence of Canadians and non-American international students provided a diverse environment for politically-inclined students to convene and discuss their views.
“I was thoroughly surprised, as the first few people who came to our midterm event were mostly other international students and Canadians,” Demers said. “It was great and also shocking to have such a turnout and support from our fellow students, even if their interests do not directly lie with U.S. politics.”
Leading up to the 2020 Presidential Election, DAM will continue registering American students to vote over the phone and helping students obtain absentee ballots. Shona Watt, BS ‘09, expressed optimism for the future with regard to young people casting their ballots.
“I’m so happy to see that there are record numbers of young people voting,” Watt said. “People often feel that political candidates don’t represent them or that their one vote doesn’t matter. I see voting as one way to have a say in what kind of a world we want to live in.”