When the counting is over, it was spin time in Washington as both Republicans and Democrats claimed they were the victors as they plot the course towards the next presidential election in two years. But who really won the midterms? Jubilant Democrats were celebrating their new control of the House with full powers to investigate and hold up legislation. For the Republicans, deepening their Senate victory gives them a powerful tool as well. For Donald Trump, the loss of the house means he may have to find a whole new way of being the US president.
It is difficult to pick an outright winner here. For the Democrats it was clearly a good night because they won back a majority in the House of Representatives. They showed that they could get their voters out, which is crucial in the midterm elections. But, then again the Republicans, gained seats in the senate, giving them a firmer majority. As Trump put it, the ‘blue wave’ had not crushed the Republican party.
A closer look at key races, however, can tell a different story. A Republican won Texas. But, the point is that it was extremely close. It was impossible to think that Texas would remotely go for a Democratic candidate, but Beto O’Rourke got very close. These cases are where the Democratic Party can draw hope. They’re winning back Rust Belt States that they lost and even seem close to turning ones that are historically red.
In the end it is a mixed bag. US poll watchers say that the Democratic Party have some momentum and could build on it for the next presidential election.
But things didn’t go as badly as they could have gone for Donald Trump. There were a lot of liberals and Democrats in America who comforted themselves after 2016 and said he was just a fluke – 2016 was one-time event and never going to happen again. What we saw with the results on Tuesday was that there is a polarisation in America and it continues to develop. Trump has a real base of support. During the 2016 US Presidential election he blew a hole in the blue wall. He took industrial states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania in the upper mid-west. Interestingly, in the mid-terms, Democrats did very well in those states. They won congressional seats and governorships, which could be a cause of concern for Trump. The Republicans won Florida and some other big States. But, if they lose Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, it’s all over for them in 2020.
Another question is whether women have completely redesigned the political landscape in the election.
Observers wouldn’t go that far, but more women are holding office in the US than ever before. They are representing over 100 seats in the house and the senate. If women are mobilising it could mean a very optimistic future for the Democratic Party. That may be the key to 2020 for having go people to vote being. If Democrats can maintain this appeal they may be poised for victory in the next presidential race
The rural and urban divide was emphasised by the mid-term polls. It’s almost like there are two different Americas. Are we seeing these two Americas clashing in electoral cycles?
Donald Trump certainly hopes so. The president looks to widen this division. He is not one to call for unity. He wants this polarisation. American society is extremely divided. There are numerous issues – gun control, women’s rights, healthcare – where one has to pick a side. There’s hardly any compromise. From the outside, it looks as if there is no common ground. It’s either or at this point and the political parties are playing the game. It is deeply troubling because they should try to work together to compromise to reunite a society that has been so clearly divided recently.
One of the big issues in America is abortion. A recent referendum passed in Iowa stated that life begins when the first heartbeat of a foetus can be heard. The law clears the path for a Supreme Court challenge on abortion.
This has been kind of the central issue for many of Trump’s supporters since the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision in the early 70s which legalised abortion and has been part of the long game that they’re playing. They want to put judges on the Supreme Court to support their views. It has been a central part of the political agenda for evangelical Christians for quite a long time. It is also very powerful reason for many people who wouldn’t otherwise support Trump to give him their vote. They say – yes, I’m an evangelical Christian ; I don’t like a lot of what he’s doing but I know that he’s going to choose kind of judges who were going to overturn the abortion.
Another bright spot in the election was the unprecedented representation of women of colour, Native Americans and Muslim women. If the trend continues it could have a huge long-term impact on American policies.
Some regional race shifts are also worth noting. Democrats have gained ground in historically Republican suburbs areas in Richmond, Chicago and Denver; whereas Republicans gained ground by beating Democratic incumbents for senate seats in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.
The bottom line? The Democrats will try to use the regained power in the house and will attempt to use the checks and balances built into the US government system. But that time will only begin once the new Congress only comes into session in January. So, there are still several weeks to go. Trump’s unpredictability makes it difficult to imagine what could occur in that span of time. But it is to be hoped that Americans can make it to January and usher in an era of greater restraints on Trump.