As the Nov. 3 election results came into view, prospects of diverse representation in Missouri faded. Several women lost their elections for statewide office and Congress, diminishing hopes of increased equity in our state government. In a time of political polarization, extremely partisan Capitols don’t make things any easier. Electing inclusive representatives is the antidote for homogeneity.
On a night when Republicans overwhelmingly asserted their stronghold on Missouri politics, Cori Bush emerged as one of only two Democrats elected to the U.S. Congress from Missouri. Congresswoman-elect Bush from the 1st congressional district will be the first Black woman to represent Missourians on Capitol Hill. 200 years is too long not to have a Black woman in Congress for our state, but we celebrate Bush’s victory nonetheless.
Bush got her start in politics after the 2014 Ferguson protests. She served on the ground as a triage nurse to protestors, healing her community, as Black women so often do. It is much needed for Bush to join Congress as nurses serve as essential workers on the front lines of a raging pandemic. And perhaps it’s even more appropriate that our state elected a Black Lives Matter activist in the wake of this summer’s protests and Walter Wallace Jr.’s recent murder by police in Philadelphia.
Bush’s general election night victory wasn’t the only thing historic about her win. Her Democratic nomination ended a 50 year dynasty in Missouri’s 1st congressional district. Even though term limits restrict how many years someone can serve in the Missouri state legislature, father Bill Clay and son William Lacy Clay served a combined five decades as the U.S. representative from St. Louis. Now, Bush brings a fresh perspective to the seat.
Time will tell how Bush reshapes Missouri politics, but she’s certain to shake things up for the better in Congress as the newest member of “the squad.” For now, it’s refreshing to have progressive representation somewhere from our state. Since both U.S. senators from Missouri are white Republican men, and all of our statewide elected officials are white Republican men as of Tuesday, non-white constituents and Democrats from Missouri desperately need representation.
As I’ve written before, our legislatures work better when they more accurately reflect the populations they serve — which is why we need more Black women in office. We need more health care professionals in office. We need more faith leaders in office. We need more mothers in office. We need more community activists in office. Cori Bush is all of these things and more. Which is why Missouri needs Cori Bush.
When Cori Bush is inaugurated to Congress in 2021, as Missouri celebrates our 200th birthday, we’ll celebrate an important milestone for representation. But this can’t be the end of our work to make our state more representative and equitable. Sending our first Black woman to Congress is just the beginning of progress.
Amanda Morrison is the founder and executive director of Missouri M.A.D.E.: Mobilizing And Diversifying Elections. Originally from Springfield, she previously worked for former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and Women’s Campaign International. Amanda was a 2018 Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow and a 2020 TechStars Social Impact Fellow.