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Clayton Lin: Weighing In

An Australian’s Analysis of the 2018 United States Midterm Elections.

Andrew Ryan

 The stakes. (Credit: Brendan Smialowski- AFP / Getty Images)

The stakes. (Credit: Brendan Smialowski- AFP / Getty Images)

(TL:DR Democrats take the House of Representatives, Republicans maintain the Senate, Governatorial race is pretty tight, there’s a lot of numbers here and you probably shouldn’t dream about Trump impeachment.)

Background

On the 6th of November, 114 million Americans marched to the polls and exercised their democratic privileges (without assistance of sausage and bread) across all 51 states to contest 100 Senate seats, 435 House of Representatives seats and 35 governorships.

At the day’s end, as of 2:30pm Australian Western Standard time, the outcome was decided- the Democrats had seized control of the House of Representatives, by claiming the requisite amount of seats- 218, whilst Republicans were only able to confirm 193, though there are 20 more seats still to actually be counted. However, the Republicans were able to maintain control of the Senate, at 52 seats- an advantage swing of 4. The race for governatorial seats, however looks to favour Republicans on a 25-22, however at the time of writing Stacey Abrams (D) and Brian Kemp (R) are still contesting Georgia in a race mired in controversy, though Kemp is ahead by a 1.6% margin. This was the outcome predicted by pollsters and experts such as Nate Silver of 538 (whose reputation seemed to have remained intact after the 2016 election).

The midterm elections of this edition, are almost unlike any previous midterm election. In the days leading up to the vote, mobilization of voters with rhetoric such as “vote as if your life depended on it” or “go out and vote, cause it might be the last election ever.” was no doubt effective and amassing a huge turnout nationally. But however the character of this midterm election is also a referendum on the God-Emperor / Orange Man Bad himself, even if some campaigns, mostly on the Republican side, would rather avoid this unavoidable factor. That said, Trump’s magnetism and charisma could arguably have influenced a number of key battlegrounds.

The Key Takeaways

Here comes a new challenger…- One of the underlying narratives that underscored the midterms was the surprising amount of challengers, some of whom are first-timers, squaring up against experienced political animals, with varying levels of success. This makes sense in a current political zeitgeist does not favour the experts and the experienced.

 The moment that Beto O’Rourke concedes his defeat (Credit: Chip Somodevilla- Getty Images

The moment that Beto O’Rourke concedes his defeat (Credit: Chip Somodevilla- Getty Images

Down to the wire- Some of the results in some places ended in a dramatic and/or historic fashion- in Wisconsin, Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin since 2010 and made his name as an union-buster, was ousted by Tony Evers. Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke narrowly failed to beat Ted Cruz (who may or may not be the Zodiac Killer). Brian Kemp probably narrowly defeating Stacy Abrams.

 New faces.  (Top L-R: Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, Veronica Escobar, Jahana Hayes)  (Bottom L-R: Ayanna Pressley, Sharice Davids, Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez)

New faces.
(Top L-R: Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, Veronica Escobar, Jahana Hayes)
(Bottom L-R: Ayanna Pressley, Sharice Davids, Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez)

Smashing the glass ceiling- A historic 92 women won their races, along with further African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Americans who believe in Islam, across the political aisle. The names are simply too many to list here.

WTF candidates- Dennis Hof (R), who won the dubious of honour of being the first deceased person to win a House seat against a living opponent, and Denver Biggleman (R) who in his spare time writes Bigfoot erotica. Then there’s also Dan Crenshaw (R) who looks little like Naked Snake / Big Boss from the Metal Gear Solid games EDIT: The Democrats can now claim a meme candidate of their own in the form of Nathan Johnson, who provided the score for Dragon Ball Z cartoons / animated films (however, only the FUNimation releases in the US).

Key statistics- Please check the exit polls statistics provided by CNN- link provided below.

The Future

There are a lot of outcomes to take out of the midterm election. One of the main signs is that the American pollity is starting to correct itself- whilst it is no ‘blue wave’, there was enough objection nationwide to Donald Trump’s antics that saw the House flip blue.

However Democrats should tread their narrow victory with much caution, with an understanding that they despite pulling ahead, their lead is still fragile and sailing in uncharted, potentially treacherous waters at large, and if they are serious winning about 2020, they would have to avoid situations that can spiral towards a farce- so a Trump impeachment might be emotionally satisfying, but political suicide- not to mention that even if the House can begin a motion, the Republican majority Senate is highly unlikely to approve it (checks and balances are a two way street, by the way), and then playing right into the Republican’s best weapon- attack ads.

Paradoxically having some forms of checks and balances might actually help the Trump administration- either you could interpret in this cynical manner- that the Trump administration will blame any attempt at obstruction on his agenda on a hostile House of Representatives, or you can interpret in an optimistic, sweet summer child manner- that the significant opposition can tamper down his antics, or at least his influence on national policy-making.

In regards to the increase in diverse candidates- it is important in its own regard, but in the greater scheme of things, not that important. Ultimately candidates are going to be judged on how they perform and whether they deliver- and the pressure is no doubt worse for female representatives / representatives from minority backgrounds, and doubly so for those who ticks both boxes. Whilst currently this angle is by and large the preserve of Democrats, the same could not be said for the future when Republicans do one day catch up and start running their own. What simply has happened here is that the representation of representatives is beginning to catch up with changes in demographics. In any cases voters, fans and advocates must be prepared to see their candidate of choice disappoint, fail, or turn out to be a corrupt slimeball.

Ultimately the 2020 race will be about two things- healthcare and jobs. A successful campaign must pursue both at the same time, and the party that presents the best case on these, or presents the least worst case, is going to be the one that steals the election. The Democrats also has the added challenge of choosing a candidate that can capture the Obama-Trump voter (otherwise known to Australians as homo swingvoterus).


Sources:

https://www.axios.com/live-map-axios-2018-midterm-elections-results-e54da558-b5e9-4b09-ad1e-5663cc78f1b7.html

https://edition.cnn.com/election/2018/exit-polls

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/06/midterms-2018-first-history-making-election-wins