Election of firsts – but you have to be the right first to get attention

Update: there have been chances in vote leaders in certain elections since the writing of this article. Martha McSally and Young Kim would go on to lose their elections.  

I’ve seen a lot of posts and Tweets about the diverse candidates who were elected on Tuesday. Van Jones of CNN said the election didn’t turn out to be a blue wave but it was a rainbow wave.

Many are celebrating that the first female Muslims were elected to congress, the first openly gay governor was elected, the first two Native American women were elected to congress, the youngest woman ever was elected to congress.

Young Kim was narrowly elected to California’s 39th congressional district. I don’t see her on the list. But she’s the first Korean American elected to the US congress. She’s a republican so that doesn’t get celebrated with the others. I did a search on Twitter for these lists that also happen to mention the first Korean American woman. I found five. TOTAL. On all of Twitter.

But that makes the celebration seem disingenuous to me. Diversity gets celebrated but only if it’s the right people, otherwise it gets ignored. Martha McSally was elected to the senate in Arizona. She was a pilot in the air force and the first female to fly as a fighter pilot. When she retired from her 22 year military career, McSally was a colonel and one of the highest ranking female pilots in Air Force history. A remarkable woman. But she’s a republican so she gets largely ignored.

Essentially it doesn’t matter to people who celebrate it. It’s not about any of these diverse candidates who won. If it were, Young Kim would also be celebrated. What matters is people who adhere to a certain political ideology. And if they happen to check intersectional boxes, that’s great. If they check those boxes and aren’t progressive, they’re ignored.

Also, why the need to front load things with a person’s race, gender, or orientation instead of their plans to govern?

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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.

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