Back in 1994, Republicans steamrolled Democrats and ushered in a new class of freshmen legislators in North Carolina and Congress. With their victory, that freshman class completed the Reagan Revolution and changed politics in Washington and Raleigh. This year, the class of Democrats who just won big will change our politics again.
Not every new class changes the politics of a state or nation. Democrats who were swept into office in 2006, for instance, pretty much continued the politics of the Clinton years. Even Obama fit that mold. That’s not true of the people who just got elected in November.
As the legislature begins, watch the freshmen. They’ll certainly make some mistakes. They’ll misjudge the amount of power they actually have in the minority party. They’ll propose legislation or changes that are out of sync with other members or the state as a whole. But, as they get their sea legs, they’ll transform the politics of the state, just as the class of freshmen in Washington will change our politics nationally.
Like their Republican counterparts from 1994, these newly elected officials aren’t jaded by years of legislative battles and insider intrigue. They bring a fresh perspective and a mission. They believe they can transform our politics and that they’re here to make a difference.
Yesterday, they introduced a bill to expand Medicaid in North Carolina. It will have a hard road but it’s got a better chance than at any time since 2013. They want to see a fairer state and nation and giving access to medical care is a great place to start. Look for more bills to push back against Republican overreach.
In Washington, some of the stars, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are already shining. In North Carolina, they’ll start soon. The 2020 election will tell us more about what is happening politically, but right now, it feels like the tide is turning against Reagan’s supply side economics that have given us so much inequality and left so many Americans struggling day-to-day. If that backlash is coming, it will be led by the freshman class of 2018 in both Raleigh and Washington.