Columnists Opinion

THE X FACTOR: 2018 midterms and the power of the black vote

By Starlett Quarles

Contributing Columnist

Growing up, I hated civics class in high school.

At the time, the social sciences were so much more interesting to me. All I knew, as it relates to politics, was that I had to make sure that I voted and exercised my right to have a voice.

However, as an adult, and more importantly as an entrepreneur, I’ve never been more civically engaged in all my life; both nationally and locally.

There’s something to be said about having an agenda for your vote; not only for your community, but also for your own beliefs and interests. As an adult, I’ve grown to understand that my vote is more than just electing Democratic candidates, or obtaining an “I Voted” sticker. But as we’ve seen with the recent outcome of the 2018 midterm elections, my vote is about helping to mobilize political power and control; both nationally and locally.

I recently spoke to my good friend, Dallas Fowler, about her thoughts on the November election results. Fowler is a political consultant and president of Daltek Global Solutions. And as the Southern California director of Eleni Kounalakis’ successful run for lieutenant governor, I knew she would be able to provide some insight on the mobilizing power of the black vote; both nationally and locally.

SQ: Nationally, what were your thoughts on the results of these past midterm elections?

DF: On the upside, I felt like we did really well. We took back the House, and for Democrats that was extremely important. Unfortunately, we lost in the Senate, which really kind of takes impeachment off the table for now; at least until there is a Republican agenda to impeach this president. But until then, it looks like we have Donald Trump, at least through 2020.

We also saw some very inspiring gubernatorial races. Stacey Abrams is my woman of the year. She’s an American Shero; and I really hope she runs again for anything else. And then of course there were the efforts of my friend, Andrew Gillum, in Florida.

However, with this national election, we really saw what happens with voter suppression in 2018. [Although] it’s not 1963, there are still a lot of the same voter suppression [tactics] being used; which is really disgusting and sad to see happen nationally.

But we did see a lot of black women elected judges across the country, and first time congressional representatives for their state. So in the end, I was really excited and proud of the 2018 showing nationally.

SQ: And in terms of California?

DF: In California, it’s important to know that we’ll see Malia Cohen on the Board of Equalization. I’m not sure if she’s the first African-American woman to serve on that board; but I believe that she will be making history in that title.

Also, Eleni Kounalakis is the first woman elected lieutenant governor for California. And I believe Tony Thurmond will be our first African-American state superintendent of public instruction; which is fantastic and critical in the fight for saving our public schools. So statewide, I think we saw some great races.

And of course we have a new governor, Gavin Newsom, who I supported early on. And I look forward to his leadership in Sacramento.

SQ: What about black people? Did we come out and vote?

DF: Yes, black people came out and voted. Of course. That’s what we do. Roughly 90 percent of black women and 86 percent of black men got out the vote. And I think that’s really important for our numbers to remain that high. It’s not the same in other states, of course; but we here in California get out the vote.

And [that’s] an important question and dialogue for us to keep having with our young people, and the next generation of [black] voters; because we do vote and show up in big numbers.

SQ: Share more on the power of the Millennial vote.

DF: For the first time in our history, this Millennial generation is going to be the largest voting bloc in 2020 should they choose to get out and exercise their civic right. In fact, if engaged, the Millennials will pick the next president. So their vote is very crucial, and I advise any candidates or parties to take note and do the work to outreach to this generation.

SQ: In terms of Gen X, why is it so important that we be more engaged in local politics?

DF: I think under this current administration, it’s very loud and clear as to why we need to better understand that everyday people are making decisions on our behalf, and on issues that are impacting us on a daily basis; from what your tax basis is, to where your water and clean air are going to come from.

And I think it’s very important for this next generation to continue to speak out on environmental issues and criminal justice reform. And here in California, there could be no greater topic than affordable housing and homelessness; particularly in Los Angeles County.

So I think the next generation has a lot to say and I think that they’re going to be heard; whether the current “powers that be” like it or not.

SQ: In your opinion, what should our black agenda be for 2020?

DF: Run black people, run. Run for office. Or get out and support black people running for office. No matter what you can do, make a contribution. Make phone calls. Drop signs. Talk to your neighbors. Just get out and support black people running for office; or get out and run for office yourself.

I think that should be our agenda for 2020. I can’t say it more clearly. If we don’t have more people and women of color at the table; particularly black women and men, then we’re just simply on the menu.

Starlett Quarles is a Gen X Advocate, public speaker and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, please visit