The US Midterm elections tend to reflect the popularity of a presidency. In this month’s vote, the Democrats captured the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, with the Republicans consolidating their control over the Senate. While poll numbers had seemed to promise the emergence of a ‘blue wave’, the Democrats faced disappointment when they failed to flip any of the ‘toss-up seats’ which may have brought them a further victory in the Senate. Particularly big blows to the Party included the victory of Texan Senator, Ted Cruz over Democratic hopeful, Beto O’Rourke; as well as the loss of other high-profile candidates such as Stacey Abrahams and Andrew Gillum. Meanwhile, Colorado, a historically Republican state, has gone through something of a Democratic transformation since first voting Obama in 2008; this time around saw the Democrats achieving a sweeping victory at every level of government. Nevada has also gone through a similar transformation, with the Democratic candidates taking both the Senate seat and victory in the Gubernatorial election.
While the Democrats may not have had the night they were hoping for, they achieved their main goal: securing a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. This victory was also undeniably a victory for women, with Alexandria Ocasio-Mortez becoming the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress, and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) becoming the first two Muslim women also elected in the US. With the new Democratic majority, including some aggressive progressives who will want to take action against President Trump, the House of Representatives could now become a legislative thorn in the President’s side. This new positioning of opposition actors is likely to act as a hindrance to much of the Republican Party’s agenda, and quite possibly extinguishing all hope for President Trump’s promised Mexican border wall.
“While the Democrats may not have had night they were hoping for, they achieved their main goal: securing a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years.”
House and Senate committees can send subpoenas for documents and further compel witnesses to give evidence. Hillary Clinton’s infamous email use scandal first came to light following an investigation by a Republican-heavy House of Representatives. Such committees are largely controlled by the majority party; this new Democrat House may well be eager launch similar investigations of their own. Some possible investigations may include examination of President Trump’s tax returns (as well as his banking records). The incoming chairwoman of the House financial services committee, Maxine Waters, has the power to subpoena President Trump’s tax returns from the US Treasury. It is further expected that there will be an investigation into the Russian scandal, namely whether Russia holds any financial leverage over the President, through investments in his business empire. Even the sexual assault allegations against the President may come under further scrutiny.
The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court occurred amongst a shroud of controversy, as he became subject of serious sexual assault allegations. The incoming chairman of the judiciary committee has expressed that intentions to revisit the question of whether Kavanaugh perjured himself when asked about the alleged assault during the confirmation hearings.
But even with the budding opportunities for the Democrats as the majority in the House, the Senate remains staunchly Republican. There are many who would question why this is the case, especially considering the fact that the Democrats received over 12 million votes more than the Republican Party in the Senate races. While some complain that the current electoral system gives more of an advantage to conservative-leaning states, further concerns include that of gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics. In North Dakota, voters were required to provide their current residential address; a seemingly negligible condition which may have prevented thousands of Native Americans from voting, due to their use of PO boxes rather than addresses with street names.
The consequences of the Democrats’ failure to retake the Senate are many. In the short term, they will be unable to prevent President Trump’s further nominations for the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), and they will have even fewer votes to resist than they did for Brett Kavanaugh. This would help Republicans solidify their control over the Supreme Court which has even further consequences, especially when it comes to issues such as the impeachment of the President. It is unlikely that SCOTUS will see another retirement under Trump, but this is not a certainty given that Stephen Brayer is now 80, while Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 85, and was recently admitted to hospital following an accident, where she fell and broke three ribs. Furthermore, even if a Democrat beats Trump in the 2020 election; if the Democrats fail to retake the Senate, an outcome that is looking likely, that Democratic President would experience huge difficulty in enacting legislation for the first two years, as well as being unable to appoint and confirm any new members to the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, President Trump has become the third President in a row to suffer a major midterm setback, and it remains to be seen whether the Democrats will also successfully recover the Senate in future.