The US midterms did not bring too many surprises on Tuesday night, with pundits being rather on the money with the turn of events. The Senate has remained in the hands of the Republicans while the House of Representatives has switched hands with the Democrats obtaining the minimum of 218 seats required for a majority. On the surface this may appear to be great news for the Democrats but does this switch actually help the Democrats neutralise the threat Trump poses them with?
It is not irregular for a President to lose support during the midterms; it’s happened with many previous presidents. Obama dramatically lost the House during the 2010 midterms. The fact that Trump didn’t face a worse defeat in the House could actually indicate a successful 2020 run and Trump himself has heralded the election results as a success. In fact, the Republicans managed to retain many of their most important strategic positions, including the Texas senate seat where Ted Cruz retained his seat against Democrat Beto O’Rourke in a highly contested race. But what we can conclude is the much hoped for ‘Blue wave’ failed to emerge as strongly as many had wanted, and while the Republicans didn’t escape unscathed it could have been far worse for them.
The Democrats are nowhere near taking the Senate with Mitch McConnell and the Republicans gaining additional seats. But the Democrats did emerge having a significant marginal control over the House after receiving support in suburban areas which previously voted Republican. Having the House of Representatives is essential for Democrats to achieve any of their political goals and important for them to be able to block Trump’s future legislative agenda. If the Democrats supply a united front they will be able to veto proposed bills. This not just strengthens the Democrats position but also strengthens the checks and balances in American politics with more scrutiny on proposed bills and more control over how the Trump administration would wield finances. However, this might also be an issue for an increasingly polarised system. We are likely to see more gridlock with each chamber of Congress belonging to a different party. New legislation and reform may be held up with neither party being able to compromise over necessary bills. It would not be surprising if the government faced yet another shutdown as there seems to be no agreement over a budget or even a continuing budget. Although it is not all doom and gloom for the Democrats, having control of one chamber may enable them to focus on advancing their own agenda rather than constantly challenging the Trump regime. The Democrats may be able to advance their campaign for a $15 minimum wage or through championing other progressive reforms.
Talking of reforms, we saw more states passing progressive reforms in the form of initiatives and other Ballot measures. Michigan voted to legalise Marijuana and Florida gave ex-convicts the vote. State politics is shifting as well and its yet to be seen if ballot reforms such as this will have wider impacts on each state or the nation as a whole. In particular, the growing number of states legalising marijuana shows increasing support for the act of legalisation and we are yet to see if this growing support will continue to spread across the United States.
These Midterms did not carry the wave of change Democrats were hoping for but they did bring an element of hope with change in the demographics of the House and means of fighting back against Trump and other Republican politics. The Republicans themselves, while facing defeat in the House, are most likely breathing a sigh of relief of a Midterms that did not bring too much upheaval. And while change is slow on Capitol Hill, social movement is continuing across the states at all times in the form of a more direct democracy.