GOP elects party’s first black woman to Congress, challenges the norm

Mia Love calls Obama’s politics divisive, wants to return integrity to Congress

Credit: MCT via Getty Image/Harry E. Walker

Credit: MCT via Getty Image/Harry E. Walker

Of all the states least likely to send a conservative minority woman to Congress, Utah wouldn’t have much competition getting itself on a top-five list. The state is overwhelming white and majority Mormon (a church that didn’t allow black Americans in until 1978).  But on Nov. 5, Mia Love became the first black woman the Republican Party has ever elected to the U.S. Congress.

“This is a great night for our nation. And I have to tell you, it is especially a great night for Utah. Many of the naysayers out there said that Utah would never elect a black, Republican, LDS (Mormon) woman to Congress,” she said at her victory celebration.

Love is the daughter of Haitian-American immigrants who fled Haiti in 1976, then ruled by the Duvalier dictatorship “My parents immigrated to the U.S. with ten dollars in their pocket, believing that the America they had heard about really did exist,” Love told the Republican National Convention in 2012.

“When times got tough they didn’t look to Washington, they looked within.”

Her story is classically American: the daughter of immigrants, self-reliant, and rags-to-middle class.  Love, 38, left Brooklyn in 2004 for Utah where she met her husband, Jason Love, a white man with whom she’s had three children.

Her victory challenges long-held assumptions that the GOP is a racist, sexist party for old white men who don’t like immigrants.

“President Obama’s version of America is a divided one — pitting us against each other based on our income level, gender, and social status,” she said. “His policies have failed!”

Love went even further, saying her win in Utah should be a lesson for America that has had nearly eight years of divisive identity politics.

“Not only did we do it, we were the first to do it. So let this be a lesson to America, that we are not interested in dividing the nation based on gender, race, social status. We are more interested in the integrity and the honesty of a candidate. Someone who is going to return power back to the people and away from Washington,” said Love.

In an interview with CNN the following the day, Love was asked to discuss the significance of her victory, as a conservative black woman, but she was persistent that her race had nothing to do with her victory.  “Well, first of all, I think what we need to mention here is that this had nothing to do with race. Understand that Utahans have made a statement that they are not interested in dividing Americans based on race or gender,” she said.

News headlines across America have made Love a poster girl for a new Republican Party but Love was adamant in her interviews that Utahans were simply uninterested in her race as a factor in her election.  “They want to make sure that they are electing people who are honest and who have integrity. Who can make sure that we go out and represent the values that they hold dear and that’s what really made history here,” she said.  “Race, gender had nothing to do with it. Principles had everything to do with it and Utah values had everything to do with it and so that’s the history that we made here.”

When asked whether she would be willing to compromise and work with Democrats on important legislation, Love said the really important issue at stake is “balance”.  “Washington’s gotten too big and the people have gotten too small so we’ve gotta start rolling up our sleeves and making sure that we bring balance back to government. People should be able to make decisions in their home, in their communities and in the areas that they live in and we are going to do everything we can to restore power back to the people,” she said.  Mia Love is one of three black Americans Republicans elected to Congress these midterms, but with Love the party instantly changed its fortunes overnight for 2016.

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