The American Midterms: for Dummies

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Credit: Flickr / Penn State

Jordan Hunter
Writer
Jordan Hunter gives us a rundown of what the Midterm Elections mean for the rest of the world

Tuesday 6 November produced some shocking revelations and has changed American politics for the foreseeable future – but not in the ways most students around here may think. The media are jumping to try and make sense of what these results mean. Clearly one party won the house, and the other party won the Senate, but what does that mean for Trump, for Democrats and Republicans, for the next election, but most importantly for America?

Let’s start with who won last week: in surprising fashion, well, everyone did. This may be convoluted to say, but stay with me a second. The Democrats won the House, which is an obvious win for them as they now have a house majority for the first time since 2014. This means that they have a real check on Trump, which they have been unable to do since he took office, and could, in theory, begin the process of impeachment if they so choose. It has also given rise to some new upstarts and contenders of the progressive left, like Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. The Democrats even made huge strides on the state-level for the first time in quite a while, flipping several governorships and state houses, like New York.

Republicans held onto the Senate, but that’s an understatement. Of course, there were more Democrats up for re-election, which left their seats more vulnerable, but the Republicans once again defied polling predictions and over-achieved, turning what would have been a 1-2 seat pickup into a 4 seat pick up (and that’s no small feat). This gave them something in the Senate that they have not had for a while: a working majority. This means that Republicans no longer need to work as hard for a majority and they will have fewer opposing votes, like the Kavanaugh and Obamacare repeal votes, which left everyone on the edge of their seats to see if Mitch McConnell (the Senate Majority Leader) was able to work his magic.

Both moderate Republicans and Trump supporters won in their own ways on Tuesday. Candidates who had used the appeal of Trump won big, as seen in the Florida Governor’s race and the Texas Senate race with Ted Cruz. Meanwhile, the moderates saw huge success in the Midwest. Indiana’s Senate race saw an unlikely moderate win. Ohio, my homestate, saw several big moderate wins, with Governor DeWine (who had campaigned with Kasich and distanced himself from Trump), and Representative Chabot (running against an Obama endorsed young upstart, Aftab Pureval), both distanced from Trump, both winning in a state that voted for Trump in 2016. Regardless of where these Republicans stood on Trump, they all appeared to take solace in the fact that they defied expectations and fended off the ‘Blue Wave’. They picked up many Senate seats that were thought to be impossible, and while losing the house, they did so only giving a very small margin to the Democrats and a potential liability. Midterms are typically always used as backlash against the President: Obama saw a record amount of unseating (60 House seats), and with a polarising president like Trump, many expected huge Republican casualties. But this in fact defies all expectation and shows that Trump is viable to the Republican party and that Republicans can find success, both in spite of and inspired by him.

Now for the losers. The biggest loser will be Nancy Pelosi, the Senate Minority Leader. She got back her Speakership, how could she be losing? Remember that liability I was speaking about? The Republicans in the House have been suffering due to factionalism for some time. John Bohner, former Speaker, first found this out when the Tea Party movement, a right leaning movement under Obama that gave way to The House Freedom Caucus, gave Republicans their first House majority under Obama. They were good at making sure nothing got done: from budgets to policy, nothing really passed in Obama’s later years. As their majority grew, so did the infighting, until Boehner quit. This gave rise to the reluctant Speaker Paul Ryan who, despite gaining all the houses, failed to get much of his agenda accomplished due to the infighting in his own house. He was forced to pass an Omnibus budget, which spent way more than a fiscal conservative like himself was comfortable with, and a failed replacement for Obamacare that he knew would get killed in the Senate.

Ryan never wanted the job, at least not like this. He was hoping to tackle entitlement reform, find ways to cut spending, and get a real healthcare plan that would lower costs and reduce government spending. Alas, these things never came to fruition. What does this have to do with Pelosi? Well, she too will have to deal with factional infighting and it looks like it is already happening. Keep in mind she has a razor thin majority, and she must now rely on the votes of Blue Dog Democrats, more moderate Democrats from Southern States. This will probably conflict with the new progressive wing of Democrats who have been given a platform since the Bernie run, and many, like Maxine Waters, are calling for Impeachment. Impeachment, which I’m sure many Democrats would love to have happen, is not only infeasible, but also detrimental to the party’s aims for 2020. Even if Pelosi was to somehow get this passed through the Blue Dogs in her own house, there is no way that the Republican Senate would convict. This result only invigorates the Republican base, and even moderate Republicans would view Democrats as radical. Many new house Democrats are already signaling a plan to begin a congressional investigation into Trump. Regardless of what Pelosi wants, it looks like the ‘I word’ is gaining traction. Factional infighting will devour Democrats internally unless Pelosi does something about it.

Amongst other Democratic Losers was Beto O’Rourke. The young rockstar had so much hope, not only in this race, but as a serious contender for the 2020 presidential race. His loss, however narrow, means that the Progressive Democrats will be hard-pressed to find a relevant contender to Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker in 2020. He follows suit with other Progressive upstarts, Gillum out of Florida and Stacey Abrams out of Georgia, both running in Governor’s races.

Overall, as far as parties are concerned, they both took their losses, but won in other aspects. Some got rid of problems at a cost. Others inherited problems as a cost of victory. Rest assured, the people who lost out, and who will continue to lose until at least 2020, are the American people. Nothing will get passed and Congress will continue to fight more than ever. In a time of factional infighting on both sides, what we all need is less fighting and more grown adults in Congress. With that being said, I’m still proud to be an American and can only hope for a better future for Congress, and the American resolve remains stronger than ever. Plus, democracy is truly at work again, as what used to be an unwatched, low turnout event is now a national discussion with a record breaking turnout. So if there is one good thing to come out of the midterms, it’s that we’re getting better at democracy.