Thoughts on the Midterm Elections
The Midterms are behind us, and though the dust has begun settle, the fight has only just begun.
The turnout for the 2018 midterm elections was the highest it had been in over 50 years. Whether this can be attributed to controversial President Donald Trump, the overwhelming coverage of politics in social media over the past few years, or a culmination of the two, the elections that were previously perceived as unimportant in comparison to the presidential ones, have become a focal point for people across the US and beyond. All eyes were focused on the blue wave. Some wanted to stop it; some wanted to push it further. In the end, it may not have been a tsunami, but it was powerful enough to wash off a few Republican sand castles to the sea.
House of Representatives – Win for the Democrats
As expected from the polls, the Democratic Party took over control over the House. However, they did so exceeding analysts’ expectations. While it was predicted that the Democrats would gain a surplus of around 25 seats, they managed to win almost 40. The House will now consist of 233 Democrats and 202 Republicans/
This win means that for the next two years the Congress will be split, as opposed to the former state of all branches of government being Republican. This is crucial as one of House’s roles is to initiate Revenue bills (taxation).
The traditionally left-leaning Democrats will now have sufficient control of the House which will enable them to oppose right-wing (Republican) bills, such as tax cuts and breaks, as well as provisions. Even though Donald Trump seems to disregard the role of the House and instead he was focused on securing the majority in the Senate, the Democrat-led House may become a big obstacle in fulfilling his promises.
Senate – Win for the Republicans
Similar to the results in the House, the predictions of Republicans winning the Senate became a reality. Here, the results exceeded the expectations, as the reps managed to flip three seats (losing 1), totalling at 53. This means that Republicans now have a safe majority in the Senate, and as more Trumpian candidates were elected it will be easier for the president to push through legislation. Despite already expecting a loss of some seats due to the class that was up for election, Democrats lost more than they initially anticipated. This lost might turn out to be very destructive in the near future, as the Senate is in charge of voting in judges for Supreme Court. President Trump is determined to change the current line-up of the Supreme Court during his term, and the change of the power dynamic in the Senate may allow him to choose a more conservative judge. The oldest Judge on the SC is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was recently hospitalised due to a fall, which resulted in broken ribs. At 85, her future on the Supreme Court is uncertain. This is but one of the issues Democrats will now have to confront due to seats lost in the Senate.
In a similar manner to how Democrats flipped the House of Representatives, they managed to do the same with the Gubernatorial races. They gained seven seats, while the Republicans lost 6, as they won one in Alaska from an Independent incumbent. Despite the loses in two states where the Democrats were focussed on flipping, Georgia and Florida, the party managed to secure significant gains at the state level. This win is crucial for the 2022 elections, as the Governors chosen on Tuesday will be in part in charge of redrawing the voting districts after the 2020 census. Over the years both parties were accusing each other of gerrymandering, which means that the wins from the 2018 midterms can give the Democrats a possibility to fight back on this measure.
2018 midterm elections, apart from the big races, also included many legislative referendums, passing or rejecting legislation which may have an effect on the national scale. These included:
• Ending the disenfranchisement of felons in Florida (except for sex offenders, and murder convicts), restoring voting rights to over 1.5 million people;
• Rejecting challenges to Sanctuary Laws in Oregon, opposing the enforcement of national immigration laws;
• Gun safety regulations laws in Washington, including harder access to automatic and semi-automatic rifles in the state;
• Anti-abortion laws passed in Alabama and West Virginia, while failing in Oregon;
• Nevada eliminated the sales and storage tax on female hygiene products (so-called pink tax);
• Automatic voting registration when applying for an identification card or a driver's license in Nevada;
• Increase in the minimum wage in Arkansas and Missouri (both Republican majority states)
• The legalisation of Medical Marijuana in Missouri and Utah, recreational Marijuana in Michigan. The legislation did not pass in North Dakota (recreational).
The small margin between results and the following multiple allegations of fraud and errors led Senator Bill Nelson to file a lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, causing a full recount in both the Senate and Gubernatorial races in the state. Andrew Gillum (Democratic Mayor of Tallahassee) withdrew his concession to Republican Ron DeSantis, but in the end, had to concede to him once again.
Many noticed similarities between this election and the 2000 presidential elections, as the Democratic candidate requested a recount in the same state. 18 years ago, the recount was stopped by the Supreme Court and led to Al Gore losing the elections, while George W. Bush became the president. This time the recount went through, and the votes were recounted both automatically and manually.
However, in the end, the overall result stayed the same with both Nelson and Gillum losing their races, despite the recount. Nonetheless, it is evident that the State of Florida clearly has issues with the voting process that are in need of solving before the 2020 presidential elections.
What it means for:
The Democrats after eight years regained control over the House of Representatives. This gives them a possibility to increase the checks and balances on the other branches of the US Government, mainly the White House. They are also now able to impeach (bring to House hearing) any government official (including the president), which means that they can request Donald Trump to provide his tax returns. Additionally, as the US Congress is bicameral, every legislation is required to be approved by both houses (or go through the Conference Committee), which means that even though the President may feel more confident in his initiatives getting through the Senate, it will be much harder to push them through the House.
On the other hand, the Democrats stopped being the underdog. Before if a law was passed on the federal level, which was not favoured by the Democratic platform, they could easily avoid blame as both houses were controlled by the Republicans. However, from now on, they need to live up to the expectations of being a majority in one of the houses.
The results of the midterms, especially the loss of the House, was a hit for the Republicans, but not that much for Donald Trump. The Trumpian candidates were usually the ones winning in their constituencies while the more moderate ones lost to their Democratic counterparts. Trump acknowledged that and used it to assert his power and growing importance in the Republican representation in Congress. The results may be surprising to many, as the approval rate for the current president is at only 42%. However, as Donald Trump is the one giving the biggest motivation to vote for the Democratic electorate, he is also the main force bringing his supporters to the ballot boxes.
He asserted his position even further, by ousting the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and appointing Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, in his place. Whitaker will be overseeing the Mueller investigation, and as in his past he has voiced his dissatisfaction with the probe, the investigation may soon be in jeopardy. Even though the Republican establishment is against ending the probe, because of the midterms bringing an increase in Trump’s power, they may not be able to defend it for long.
This indeed may have been the most important midterm election in our lifetime, and the effects of them will be visible for years to come. They brought many changes in power dynamics, new laws, and people, changing the image both of the Democratic and the Republican party. Surely these elections shaped the future ones, now what is left is to wait and see how the situation develops, bracing ourselves for the fight in Congress. The presidential primaries start in 19 months.