Cramming for Midterms: Why Tuesday’s Election Matters So Much

With just two days left until the U.S. midterm elections, we're breaking down everything that's riding on this mammoth vote.
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Cramming for Midterms: Why Tuesday’s Election Matters So Much

With just two days left until the U.S. midterm elections, we're breaking down everything that's riding on this mammoth vote.
Facebook
Twitter

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THE BACKGROUND

Remember when midterms were just a tedious set of exams halfway through the semester?

Well, the midterms we’re focused on this week are going to impact much more than your grade point average. That’s right — the American midterm elections could fundamentally change the course of global politics. (No, but seriously.)

Lucky for you, we’ve got your 2018 midterms cheat sheet right here.

THE STATE OF THE UNION (LITERALLY)

Before we examine the issues at stake on Tuesday (Nov. 6, for those who are living under a rock aren’t sure which Tuesday we’re talking about), let’s spend a few minutes on where things stand right now.

For starters, there’s no presidential race on the ballot, just a slew of legislative, state and municipal contests and while they’re all important, we’re focused mainly on the national legislative races, a.k.a. the ones impacting the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

As you probably know, Congress is divided into two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is made up of 435 members, each representing a single district, and six non-voting delegates representing Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories. The number of congressional districts fluctuates by state, with California — the most populous state — having the most.

Things level out in the Senate where each state is represented by two members regardless of population size, meaning North Dakota and New York have an equal say.  Senators serve six-year terms with one-third of the 100-person chamber facing re-election every two years.

Republicans right now hold a 235–193 majority in the House of Representatives (factor in the seven vacancies) and a 51–49 majority in the Senate (including two left-leaning independents).

Under GOP control, the 115th Congress has been able to vote through marquee aspects of Trump’s agenda ranging from tax reform to changing environmental protection laws to repealing the individual mandate under Obamacare.

HOW THIS WHOLE THING WORKS

Midterm elections — a.k.a. contests held at the halfway point of every presidential term — are a little more difficult to figure out because they only deal with legislative, state and municipal races and don’t have the inherent drama (and worldwide spotlight) that often come with a presidential showdown.

But with the entire House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate, 36 governorships, and a whackload of legislatures up for grabs, the stakes could not be higher for President Trump — and really, the entire world.

WHAT THE POLLS SAY

Chances are looking increasingly slim that the left will be able to take back control of the Senate and it’s easy to see why.

To win a majority in the upper chamber, Democrats will have to win re-election in all 26 of their incumbent races (10 of which are in states Trump won in 2016) and steal at least two from the GOP. With only one-third (35 seats) of the Senate on the ballot, the left has a much tougher battle ahead than their Republican opponents who only need to defend nine seats in total.

Things look much rosier for the Dems in the House of Representatives where polls show the party is poised to flip the chamber from red to blue. In key battleground districts, Democrats seem to be doing particularly well because of a surge in support among— you guessed it — women.

SO…EXPECT A SPLIT DECISION?

Chances are, yes.

A divided Congress is shaping up to be the most likely outcome of the midterms, which could have a significant impact on the legislative process (read: rather than GOP legislation sailing through without a hitch, the entire system could grind to a halt).

Another huge (and we mean YUGE) consequence of a blue wave in the lower chamber might be the possibility of impeachment proceedings against President Trump (the U.S. constitution grants powers of impeachment to the House of Representatives) — though Dems still insist they’re not making it an election issue.

AT ISSUE

According to a recent poll, voter enthusiasm for these midterm elections is reaching historic highs with more than 65% of respondents saying they have a “high interest” in the upcoming vote. That’s a 4% uptick since 2006 when voter enthusiasm reached 61% due in large part to Iraq War opposition.

So, what’s behind the passion this year? Beyond being a referendum on President Trump, there are a handful of key issues driving voters to the polls on Tuesday.

• Immigration

Immigration has been front and centre in American politics ever since Donald Trump proclaimed his candidacy by attacking Mexicans and promising to build his infamous wall.

The divisive issue picked up steam over the summer with the family separation crisisand has boiled over in recent weeks with a caravan of Central American migrantstracking towards the southern U.S. border. President Trump and a host of GOP candidates are pouncing on the latter issue, blaming Democrats for enabling the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

One thing is for sure: If the GOP manages to keep control of Congress, the party will have a renewed mandate to push forward key aspects of Trump’s immigration agenda — including the approval of more money to fund deportations.

• Healthcare

With 70% of voters citing healthcare as a “very important” factor in determining who to vote for this Tuesday, it’s no wonder Democrats have seized it as one of their key election platforms.

Nowhere is the issue higher profile than in Texas where GOP Sen. Ted Cruz finds himself on the defensive from his Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, over trying (and thus far, failing) to strip away healthcare from millions of Americans with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Cruz has fired back, saying O’Rourke and the Dems would send taxes soaring with their dream of socialized medicine.

If Republicans win enough seats Tuesday, Obamacare could easily end up back on the chopping block.

• Economy

The economy has — and always will be — a driving force in political elections and nobody knows that better than Donald Trump. That’s why the president’s reelection campaign (yes, he has one) launched an ad last week titled “We Can’t Go Back”urging voters to support GOP candidates to keep the economy humming along.

To be fair, the economy is a bright spot for Republicans with consumer confidence riding high and the U.S. unemployment rate standing at a 49-year low.

•Women’s Rights

The Brett Kavanaugh fiasco confirmation process put #MeToo in the crosshairs of national politics and handed Democrats a pre-election battle cry going into November.

It also foreshadowed the possibility of more right-leaning judges being confirmed to the Supreme Court if Republicans win another Senate majority — an outcome that could have major implications for the future of women’s reproductive rights.

But it’s not just women’s issues that will play a critical factor in the midterms. Women themselves are emerging as a political juggernaut with a record number of female candidates putting their names on the ballot and female voters expected to turn out this Tuesday in droves.

Suffice to say there’s going to be more drama unfolding in Washington this Tuesday than on the next episode of This Is Us.

We’ll be watching.


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