After a record 113 million votes were cast during the November 6th midterm, which set a record for most votes ever for a midterm, it was clear that it was a split decision. It marked the first time there had ever been over 100 million votes cast in a midterm, with just over 49 percent of all eligible voters taking part in the elections. While the Democrats were able to take the House, the Republicans maintained their hold on the Senate, with ballet recounts still taking place Florida as of press time. So what does this mixed result mean for our country? Let’s take a closer look at the major stories of the night to gain a better understanding of what the midterm elections mean.
The Rise of Women
Arguably the biggest story of the night were ceilings broken by women and minorities. An astounding 117 women won office, including a whopping 35 new women winning House seats, which beat the previous record set back in 1992. Among the notable victors were Democrats Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, who became the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who became the youngest women ever elected to Congress. Voters also sent the first Native American women to the House with Democrats Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland in Kansas and New Mexico, respectively. As a result, there will be at least 101 women in the House next year, the highest figure in U.S. history.
Patricia Siplon, professor of political science, said that it was remarkable to see the turnover in Congress. “You can really see [the difference] visually, a lot of older white men getting replaced by women, particularly women of color. It really is remarkable to see a such a shift toward diversity in this past election.”
New Heads in House
The House tipped to a Democrat majority, which will make things more difficult for President Trump’s administration to push forward Trump’s agenda. Democrats will likely use their majority to launch investigations into Trump’s administration, most notably into his tax returns and the Russia investigation. And by using the power of subpoena, Trump and others in his administration would be forced to testify and provide information into these events.
The divide grows
Another major story of the midterm was the decisive shift away from moderates in Congress. Many candidates running from both major parties identified themselves as right wing or left wing, and less willing to compromise with people on other sides of the isle. This will lead to more gridlock on different issues, and with the Republicans holding the Senate and the Democrats holding the House, fewer laws will be passed due to the lack of agreement on various issues. One part of the shift away from the center revolved around voters in suburban districts, who voted firmly for Democratic candidates.
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Interestingly, women and men voted very differently, with 60 percent of women voting for Democratic candidates, while only 47 percent of men supported them.
With the pivotal swing state Florida currently in a recount in both its governor and Senate races, it is evident that America is still very much divided on the Trump administration, as well as each party’s credibility.
“This midterm really has led to a lot of discussion about gerrymandering and voter suppression,” Siplon said. “Many people have been asking ‘Is this the way we want to structure elections?’ Is this a system that we want to keep?”
In another election that went down to the wire, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was victorious over Republican Martha McSally, tipping a seat that had previously been held by Republicans. The vote was so tight that the race had been impossible to call, leading to votes being counted until Wednesday, when McSally conceded.
Vermont’s bottom line
In local elections, the three major incumbent candidates all won re-election. Senator Bernie Sanders romped
to a massive 40 percent win, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman was victorious in his race for re-election, and Governor Phil Scott easily won another term over challenger Christine Hallquist, who had made national news as the first transgender gubernatorial candidate to run for governor.
Overall, Vermont voted in more Democrats to the statehouse, and gave them the numbers needed to override any veto made by the Republican Governor Scott. Speaking during his victory speech, Scott stressed the importance of working together to his supporters. “By electing a governor of one party and a legislature by another, the message Vermonters have sent to us tonight is clear: Work together… Vermonters are saying they want us to work for them, not against each other, in Vermont, we can and will rise above partisan politics.”
In an interview with The Defender, Vermont Senator and St. Michael’s ’61 Patrick Leahy expressed optimism for the future and cited young voters as being a cause for positive change. “One of the most heartening results of this off-year election has been the energy and engagement of younger voters,” Leahy said. “That’s a sharp departure from the past and likely a deciding factor in a host of close contests in Vermont and across the nation. Even more than usual, this election was about the future, and no one will be spending more time in the future than they will be. For me, and I think for most Vermonters and most Americans, that’s a reason for hope and optimism about the future.”
2020, who knows?
With mixed results in the nation- wide elections, there is a lack of true clarity going into the 2020 presidential election. While Democrats were seeking a “Blue wave,” what occurred instead resembled a ripple. While liberals were able to gain support of the House, conservatives were able to not only maintain a lead in the Senate but also in the gubernatorial races. With 26 elected Republican governors nation-wide as of press time, President Trump will still have strong backings in many states across the country, though in some states such as Vermont and Massachusetts, voters elected moderate governors who openly oppose Trump.
Potential Democratic presidential candidates
In the coming months, many Democrats will step forward and announce their intentions to run for President in 2020. Siplon said that it is very tricky to predict which candidates will run against President Trump.
“Many people are looking at Beto [O’Rourke]. He created a lot of energy. Bernie [Sanders] is tricky…he is some- one who I think would have a more difficult time getting out of a primary since Democrats don’t really view him as one of their own, but I think he might be their best bet against Trump.” Siplon said many in Trump’s base could view Sanders as a non-traditional politician with his unique policies, and that Sanders wouldn’t engage or be bothered by Trump’s negative rhetoric. Senator Kamala Harris (CA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) have also been viewed by Democrats as potential 2020 presidential candidates.
If the midterms showed anything, they proved that our nation is very much divided politically, and that come 2020, things may become even more divisive.