The U.S. midterm elections are a vital, but often overlooked, part of the U.S. democratic process Every two years, one-third of the Senate – the upper chamber of the law-making branch of the government, and the entire House of Representatives – the lower chamber – are re-elected. Together, these two chambers are known as Congress. Congress is the main law-creating branch of the U.S. government, which is why these elections are so fiercely contested by the two major parties. These elections are scheduled for November 6th 2018, exactly two years into the Trump presidency. In this piece, I have attempted to shed some light on the elections; answer some of the questions most frequently asked about the midterms, and argue the case for the importance of the US midterms.
How are the Senate and House of Representatives composed?
Each state gets two Senators regardless of population, so there are 100 Senators. Each state gets a number of Representatives based on its population size, but each state gets at least three regardless. The largest state is California, with 53 Representatives. A majority in the House of Representatives requires 218 Representatives.
What are the current layouts of the Senate and the House of Representatives?
Currently, the Republican Party (the party of President Donald Trump) have majorities in both chambers. In the Senate, there are 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. In the House of Representatives, there are 236 Republicans and 193 Democrats with six vacant seats that will be filled during these elections.
So, why are these elections so important?
The presidency of Donald Trump has been incredibly divisive since his election in 2016. These elections are the first chance that disillusioned voters have to slow down the legislative process for the Trump government and make it harder for Republican laws to get passed. Majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, plus a President from the same party is the easiest way for bills to get passed in the United States. Bills must be approved from both chambers before the President can sign them into law. This is currently what the Republicans have.
What is likely to happen on Election Day?
Polls are predicted a “blue wave” – that is, a huge number of Democrats being elected in place of their current Republican counterparts. According to FiveThirtyEight, possibly the most respected pollster in the United States, Democrats are almost certain to retake the House of Representatives, gaining around 35 seats.
Why is this? Well, Democrats have recently been winning special elections (elections outside of scheduled seasons when an elected official resigns, retires or dies in office) in areas they have historically done badly in. A recent election win in the southern, heavily-Republican state of Alabama typifies this. It is also incredibly important to note that historically, the governing party almost always loses some seats in the House. How well that party is doing tends to suggest how many seats they will lose.
The Senate is less optimistic for Democrats. Of the 33 seats up for re-election, most are Democrat controlled. Polls are expecting almost all of these seats to be retained by the party, but given that the Republicans already control the Senate, any loss of seats for the Democrats will only strengthen Republican control in the upper chamber.
What if the Democrats win the House but don’t win the Senate?
This is what is expected to happen and doesn’t really help either party. The only advantage to this scenario is for the Democrats, who will be able to have more control over blocking Republican legislation and thus prevent Trump from passing new laws. The Republicans will find that the legislative process will become a lot harder and will probably regret not making more of the first two years when they had full control of Congress and the Presidency.
The midterms are of undying importance: in one week, the entire world will have its eyes on the US. A complete upheaval of Congress would, undoubtedly, change the entire dynamic of US politics. It’s all to play for.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.