Analysing the U.S. Midterm Elections 2018

Never have I been more interested and connected to US politics as I am now. I’m not American nor do I claim to call it a country special to my heart, but I sincerely believe it’s one of the most fascinating countries out there, simply because it often doesn’t make sense. The midterm elections have really captured my attention and this is my analysis of that election.

The midterms offered redundant evidence (some GOP strategists have been warning of this for a generation) that the party’s base is predominately rural in a country growing more urban and suburban, predominately white and culturally conservative in a country growing more diverse and culturally tolerant. – John F. harris, editor-in-chief POLITICO

This quote says a lot, but I will talk about that a little bit later. Before we get to analysing the elections that have occurred, we need to get to the core of what was up for grabs in these elections and what are midterm elections?

Midterms
The midterm elections are general elections which are held every four years which usually fall in the middle of an US presidency, hence the name midterm elections. In these particular elections large entities of the US Congress are up for election: the whole US House of Representatives (435 seats) and 33 or 34 seats of the Senate. Both of these bodies were in control of the Republicans, also know as the GOP (the grand old party), as well as the US presidency. The Democrats made it their mission to regain controle in of these elective bodies, preferably both and the Republicans sought to defend their territory. Alongside these representative bodies, there are also 36 states where a new governor is elected. 34 of these states elect a new governor during these midterms and 2 states (Vermont and New Hampshire) choose a new governor during the midterms and presidential election years.

Voting
I live in the Netherland and if you are eligible to vote and a citizen of the Netherlands, you will be invited  to vote. This is different in the US, where you need to register to vote. This means extra effort and in some cases this means that some people are thrown off voting. I learned that it’s different for every state when it comes to voting rules, when I visited USA.gov:

Schermafbeelding 2018-11-07 om 14.44.05
So, you need to register and then go the an assigned location for you to cast your vote in favour of your politician. It’s also important to know that it’s a first-past-the-post system. The winner takes all. These are elections based on districts, which are similar to the elections in the UK, but not like systems where there is a proportional ruling.

Voting suppression
In extension to the voting, there’s also something called voter suppression. Voter suppression has been there since the founding of the country, because in the beginning only certain groups of people where allowed to vote. This group predominantly existed from WASP: The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The right to vote was granted to racial minorities, women and youth in different years to come, but the Jim Crow Laws are a very lively example of those voter suppressions. These laws made it impossible for a large group to vote, and the outcome of the elections would be favourable to specific group of people. These laws were made illegal after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but in 2013 voter ID laws came into place after a Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Acts. This is considered to be voter suppression among African-Americans. (Sarah Childress, Frontline PBS, June 25/26 2013)

This is still alive right now and if African-Americans in are not allowed to vote in some capacity, this would favour the Republicans, because in general. African-Americans tend to vote Democrats. This system is unfair, but because a party profits from it, it’s hard to to abolish it.

Gubernational elections
A grand total of 39 gubernational elections were held on November 6; in 36 states and 3 territories (Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands & Northern Mariana Islands). Looking into this elections, the republicans held to some crucial governorships, but the sentiment is changing. GOP held Florida, Texas, Iowa and New Hampshire – which are crucial. But the democrats came close in those states – especially in Texas and Florida – , and this could mean that the presidential elections in 2020 will become even closer.

The Democrats on the other hand were also successful and managed to flip seven governorships. This happened in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin. According to Politico, the win in Wisconsin was the most satisfying for the Democrats.

House of Representatives

elecThe House of Representatives is the lower House and is part of U.S. Congress. To regain majority in the House, they need to gain 23 seats. In other words they need to flip 23 seats from Republicans to Democrats. And so they did. They flipped 29 seats which meant they got 229 seats in the house and GOP got 199 seats. You need 218 seats to have a  majority. This doesn’t say a lot if you don’t know the grand total of flipped seats. A lot democrat seats could have flipped as well, but that isn’t the case. Democrats have flipped 37 against the 3 flipped seats from GOP. This leads to the conclusion that the Democrats have won this battle and now control the House of Representatives.

* note, at this point not all seats are accounted for.

The Senate

elec2The Senate is a bit more complicated than the House of Representatives. The Senate exist off 100 Senators and to have a majority in the Senate, you need 51 seats. In this midterm election, not all seats where up for election. There were 65 seats not up for election and 23 of those were Democrats and 46 were Republican. This means that the Democrats had to worker harder to regain control in the Senate, even if they just had to win 2 seats. In reality they didn’t get enough seats. They even lost two seats and that’s why GOP maintained the majority in the Senate.

The two states where the Senators were won by the GOP are North Dakota and Missouri. Kevin Cramer got 55,4% over Heidi Heitkamp (44,6%) in a race where 322,613 votes were casted in North Dakota. In Missouri 2,420,829 votes were castes and Josh Hawley (51,5%) got more votes than Claire McCaskill (45,5%) – 3% went to others.

*note, at this point there are still 3 seats unaccounted for.

Women on the rise
In the House of Representatives there are over 100 women getting their seat as result of this election. That’s a record. In the current House and Senate combined there are 107 women seats. This is going to change drastically with over 100 women seats in the House alone. Most of the increase in those seats have come from Democrats. 18 of the 29 seats democrats picked up were won by women.  This is mainly the consequence of college educated women casting their vote in great numbers.

2020
The 2018 midterm elections do also mean that we’re halfway through the Trump-Pence administration and that the presidential elections of 2020 are really coming closer right now. The Democrats may have won in the House, their influence in the Senate has deminished. This is a small disappointment, but nothing to dwell on for too long, because now is the time for democratic candidates to come forward and start their bid to be nominated as presidential democratic candidate in 2020. The main issue with Hilary Clinton was that she didn’t represent the voters and that many people voted against Clinton, and not exactly for Donald Trump. The new democratic candidate should look into that and don’t make the same mistake Clinton did.

joe

As you can see by this poll by POLITICO, right now Biden, Sanders and O’Rourke are the top ranked choices of the people that will vote Democrats in the upcoming presidential election in 2020. With Trump up for re-election, this time most of the attention will go out to the democratic candidates. We already know a lot about former vice-president Joe Biden and candidate for the democratic ticket, Bernie Sanders. But Beto O’Rourke is quite new, although he did quite well in the midterm elections. It’s also rumoured that Hilary Clinton might want to run again, but how serious that is at the moment is uncertain.

What does this tell us?
It does tell us a few things. First of all the GOP strategy is outdated and their suburban candidates were swept away by democrats. The GOP focuses on the rural, white american, but this doesn’t hold ground anymore and that’s why the democrats have won the House and might have a better chance now in the 2020 elections provided that they have a decent presidential candidate.
It also tells us that the Democrats have grown a lot since the last midterms, but they still have a long way to go. They lost 2 seats to the Republicans in the Senate, which the GOP now holds firmly.

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