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Midterm Results Analysis

Security

Midterm Results Analysis

By Sudhir Selvaraj

After the US midterm elections, the House of Representatives will be led by the Democratic Party for the first time in eight years. The Republicans have extended their control over the US Senate.

Tuesday’s much-hyped elections saw 435 House of Representative seats, 35 Senate seats and 36 governor seats go to the polls. Members of the House of Representatives enjoy a two-year term and must face re-elections every two years. Members of the Senate enjoy a six-year term, with one-third of the 100 seats rotated every 2 years.

While President Donald Trump’s name did not appear on any ballot papers, he was very much a driving force of these elections as mid-terms tend to be a referendum on the sitting President’s first two years in office.

Historically, the President’s party does not fare well in midterm elections with an average loss of 32 seats in the house and two in the Senate. In this light, it might seem impressive that the Republicans were able to expand their lead in the Senate but out of the 35 seats which were up for reelection this year, 26 were held by Democrats and only 9 were held by Republicans. A win for the Democrats would require that they win all 26 seats (including those in states which show high support for Donald Trump) and also win two seats from the Republicans.

The House of Representatives is a different story. The Democrats are predicted to win a majority of the seats, allowing them control of the house. This was particularly impressive as the US electoral map favours Republicans due to years of gerrymandering while drawing these district maps. While the “blue wave” of Democratic voters didn’t arrive as expected, it did its part in at least returning the  House to Democrat control.

While President Trump has called the results a “tremendous success” for the Republican party, this is not the case entirely. Until 5 November Republicans controlled the Presidency, the Senate and the House following President Trump surprise victory over Hillary Clinton. For the past two years this has helped the president with a smoother nomination process for his appointees including two justices to Supreme Court – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Since the Republicans have widened their control over the Senate, Trump is still able to get his nomination appointed with limited disruption. But there is still a problem. Republican control of the Senate in the first two years of his presidency has also helped protect the President from having to disclose his tax returns or from the Mueller investigations into his alleged connections with Russia. With Democrats now controlling the house, they are in control of several committees with subpoena power for investigations which Democrats are predicted to use early next year.

In terms of international leadership, democratic victory in the house could signal a rejection of Trump-style politics which has dominated for the last two years. The Pew Research Forum found that President Trump’s personality and politics has been seen as a reason for the erosion of perceived popularity in the international community. Trump’s presidency has seen a withdrawal of the US from major international treaties and organizations such as the Paris climate Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Most significantly, the success in the mid-terms for the Democrats could be viewed as a precursor to the 2020 Presidential Elections. With this new ‘normal’ in American politics, President Trump now faces a very difficult next few years which he must navigate carefully if Republicans want to maintain the presidency.

The Democrats still remain a few steps behind in their attack. The party is currently facing a crisis of leadership with as many as 50 prominent Democrats rumoured to be considering campaigns for the presidency.

 

Image Credit: CC by Trump/ Flickr

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M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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