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Republicans go up against history in US mid-terms

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Republicans go up against history in US mid-terms

The United States go to the polls on 6 November for their mid-term elections. President Trump’s name is not on the ballot but these elections are inevitably viewed as a barometer of the performance of the sitting president.

CINCINNATI, OH – DECEMBER 01: President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence stand onstage together at U.S. Bank Arena on December 1, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)

President Trump and Republicans will be up against history as the president’s party has lost an average of 32 seats in the house and 2 in the Senate in every mid-term election since the Civil War.

Americans will be voting next week for the 435 members of the House, who were elected in 2016 and enjoy a two-year term. One-third (35 members) of the membership of the Senate will also face elections. Furthermore, 36 of the 50 states will elect their governors who serve as the chief executives of each state.

Currently, the Republicans control the presidency, both houses of Congress and a majority of governor positions. This has allowed for a smoother confirmation process for key Trump appointees including two supreme court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. This has also allowed them leadership on key committees in the senate and house.

The importance of these elections cannot be overstated. In the unlikely situation that Republicans continue to hold power in both houses, it will be a testament to the world that America is embracing an ‘America First’ policy and could witness a further withdrawal from the international system.

America under the Trump administration has withdrawn from key international agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement, UNESCO and the Iran Nuclear Deal.  Should Democrats take control of the either or both houses, they will be able to fully utilize the balance of power and act as a check on the Trump presidency.

This is especially important for them as the Robert Mueller investigation could reach an apex over the next two years. Additionally, Democrat control of key committees could lead to a tougher nomination process especially since several cabinet members are rumoured to depart after the mid-terms. According to a Gallop poll, the most important issues in this election are health care, the economy and immigration.

The most likely outcome is that the Democrats will take the house while the Senate will remain with the Republicans. The reason for this is the expected “blue wave” which will decide the house. However, the structure of the Senate is such that out of the 35 seats which go to election, 26 are held by Democrats (and two independents) while only nine are held by Republicans. To flip the Senate, Democrats must win 28 of these 35 elections to enjoy a 51-49 majority in the Senate. This is an unlikely outcome based on polls.

Recent polls suggest that Trump approval ratings have increased in the past few weeks (primarily attributed to the successful nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh). Further, the economy is doing well. One of the many indicators of this is the higher than expected 3.5 per cent growth rate in Q3 of this year. Will this be enough for Trump and the Republicans to keep away the “Blue Wave”, we will know on Tuesday.

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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