With the midterm elections excitement dying down and a lame duck session well underway, let’s dig a little deeper into the composition of the new Congress. One of the most significant victories was that of Mia Love, who will be representing Utah’s 4th district come January.
Mia Love is the first African-American Republican woman to be elected to Congress. Political pundits before and after the election have pontificated on the importance of Love’s achievement. What does this mean for the Republican Party? What took so long?
On a CNN interview the day after the election, TV anchors John Berman and Michaela Pereira asked Love similar questions. Love responded by clarifying that she was not elected because of her race or gender. Despite Pereira pushing back on her responses, she maintained that race was not the focal point of her victory.
To some, it was odd that Love acknowledged the historic significance of her victory on election night saying, “Many of the naysayers out there said that Utah would never elect a black, Republican, [Mormon] woman to Congress. Not only did we do it, we were the first to do it,” and then stressed that race was not the focus of her victory the following morning. However, her two responses are in no way a contradiction.
On election night, Love emphasized that the people of Utah’s 4th district did not care about her gender, race or religion. They were looking beyond arbitrary demographics. Utahns did not care which boxes she checked off on a U.S. Census or a medical form. They simply cared about the solutions she put forth, the conviction with which she spoke and the integrity of her character. Utahns simply chose the best person, and that person happened to be an African-American woman.
Moving the focus away from race in no way detracts from the significance of Love’s victory. In fact, by moving the conversation away from what this means for the Republican Party and minorities within the party, the focus returns to Love herself. And that is how it should be. She should not be treated as a token candidate, or the poster woman that future minority Republican candidates should seek to emulate. Nor should she be chastised and infantilized for being a minority woman who holds conservative beliefs. Mia Love should be treated as what she is — an individual candidate — and a victorious one at that.