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7 Lessons From The Midterms

In part two of our coverage of the US midterms, Politics and Economics Coeditor Andrew Kersley summarises the seven stark lessons of this election and what it means for American politics.

image: Wikimedia Commons

So the long awaited midterms are over. What can we learn from it all?

Suburban War

The story of this election is one of a suburban revolution. The House victory came largely on the back of educated suburban districts that typically vote Republican swinging Democrat. The three seats flipped in New Jersey, the three in Virginia and the six in Pennsylvania, were all suburban areas. The challenge posed to Republicans now is why they lost this once red demographic, and how to win them back.

Who Runs The World?…

Demographics always plays a huge role in US politics. There were two demographic stories in this election. On the lesser side there was a higher turnout among minorities at these midterms, especially hispanics, which helped the Democrats to swing key House seats in Florida, Texas and California. Of more impact however was the high turnout of educated white women for the Democrats. This group was won by Trump in the 2016 election, and were viewed by pundits as key to his victory. Now they have turned on him, what does this mean for his presidency?

The Changing Face of America

The story doesn’t end there however: 273 of the candidates this year were women a marked increase on the 184 and 183 reported in 2016 and 2014. This race saw Tennessee elect its first female senator and  Maine elect its first female governor. In New Mexico and Kansas Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids became the first Native American women elected to congress. Whilst women still only make up 20% of the House and Senate, it seems the picture might now be changing.

Who Governs the Governors Themselves? 

Not enough has been talked about Democrat successes elsewhere. Seven Republican governor seats swung to the Democrats, including New Mexico, Wisconsin and even Kansas. The sunflower state’s shift proved so upsetting that when the race was called conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted “Kansas is dead to me”. This matters: not only do governors have huge influence on state policy, but they help control the drawing of districts. The past Republican stranglehold has meant they had almost unchallenged authority. With the rise of Democrats this “gerrymandering” of states to suit Republican interests will likely end.

Democrats also had successes in swinging state legislatures (almost akin to our District Councils but far larger and more influential). They flipped ones in New Hampshire, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota and Maine. These are an often forgotten appendage of American Government. Yet they have a huge impact on their states be it statewide economic policy or Attorney General appointments.

To Impeach, Or Not To Impeach?

With Democrats now in control of the House, many now wonder aloud at the possibility of a future presidential impeachment. Most pundits see this as hugely unlikely unless some huge developments come from Mueller’s investigation. It seems even now House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi has played down such speculation. At the end of the day the Republicans still control the Senate. Whilst the House impeaches presidents, the Senate votes on whether to remove an impeached president from office. The Senate has never voted to remove a president, and likely never will given a two third majority is required.

Of more interest is that a Democrat Congress gives them control over House Committees and the power of subpoena. Whilst they may not impeach Trump directly, this all gives them the power to ramp up investigations into Trump. Indeed, presumptive chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff has indicated he wants more answers on potential collusion with Russia. Axios reported in August that the Republicans kept a list of twenty topics the Democrats would investigate if they on the House. Over the next two years then every nook and cranny of Trump’s presidency will be under the microscope.

Progress For Progressives?

Many thought these midterms might elicit a shift to the left in US politics. This reality has not played out however. Whilst the victory of left candidates like Ocasio-Cortez or Pressley was a cakewalk, this trend didn’t stretch beyond the “Blue Wall” of the northeast. Candidates seen as new progressive Democrats failed in states like Texas, Georgia and Florida. The latter is of particular note as it’s the famous bellwether state that often ends up deciding presidential elections. Trump-esque Ron DeSanctis’ victory over Democratic “progressive” Andrew Gillum in the Governor race bodes badly for an American socialist shift.

Blue Wave, More Like Blue Ripple

Overall, expectations did not match reality. Many thought a blue wave, driven by a desire to frustrate Trump’s agenda, would overcome the country. This did not materialise. Whilst Democrats won the House and flipped several Governor positions, they are on track to lose four Senate seats. They also failed to win races in many of the tossup states, like Florida and Georgia. Trump certainly hasn’t been immobilised to say the least.

There are reasons for hope for Democrats however. Not only have they swept the House winning, so far, at least 225 seats, but they look set to flip 35, many of these were in staunchly Republican regions like Oklahoma. Their chances in the senate were always slim too. Because of the staggered Senate elections timeline they needed 28 of 33 seats up for election to win a majority. It’s also worth noting Democrats won back a lot of ground in Midwest, especially governor roles from strong conservatives in Kansas and Wisconsin. This was a region thought lost to the Democrats after haemorrhaging votes there in 2016. Maybe the future is blue in America’s heartland?

Andrew Kersley is Coeditor of Warwick Globalist’s Politics and Economics Section and is a third year History student. 

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