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The midterm elections are done, but where does this leave us?

So, the midterms are now past. Well, I shouldn’t say they’ve gone quite yet. The tallying for the elections, which occurred this past Tuesday on Nov. 8, is still ongoing. 

At the time of writing, the Democrats are projected to have taken the wins in both the Arizona and Nevada Senate races, putting them over the 50 seats necessary to control the chamber (remembering that a tie-breaking vote will come from Vice President Kamala Harris). 

This has placed the Democrats in a comfortable position with regards to the special runoff election in Georgia, wherein either a Democratic win in the form of Rev. Raphael Warnock or a Republican in the form of Herschel Walker will not upset their control of the upper house of Congress. That special election is scheduled for Dec. 6, by the way. 

The House of Representatives is another story, with the counting of mail-in ballots expected to take longer due to late-arriving mail, putting the earliest possible announcement on Nov. 15. Let me take a moment to thank those people who took on the unenviable task of actually counting up these ballots, as well as all the election officials who took time out of their schedules to oversee and help the voting process (yes, Dad, thank you for your service).

I would also like to comment briefly on how utterly infuriating it is having to wait this long for the outcomes of an election which literally decides how the government will work for the next two years: ugh. It seems as though the infrastructure for new problems like counting the immense number of mail-in ballots still needs time to catch up, with officials in some of California’s more rural counties reporting that they only have one ballot counting machine. Problems like this are expected to delay the final results of some races in California, pushing the final announcement for the House in that state back to December. Surely, it should be the first priority to be funding our election systems so that we can ensure our citizen election volunteers have all the help they require? Are we, post-2020, guaranteed to have a month before the results for any national election are finally known? For the foreseeable future, it seems as though the answer will remain yes. In the meantime, however, there is much to discuss, including the end results of the congressional elections.

While the Senate is now confirmed to remain with the Democrats, it is essentially certain that the House will go to the Republicans (they have just one seat left to win). What does this mean going into the next two years? Even though the House of Representatives is officially known as the lower house, they still hold a large amount of sway in determining political policy. Firstly, Kevin McCarthy will likely be sworn in as the new speaker, replacing Nancy Pelosi. Now, while the House doesn’t have as many appointment privileges as the Senate, Republicans will now have the ability to start holding investigations into the performance of the president, along with any scandals which might emerge in the next few years. Some things that I suspect we might see are congressional investigations into Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, along with investigations into Biden’s response to the pandemic as well as the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021; all of these being issues which the GOP has promised to look into. Regardless of the veracity of these investigations, House Republicans do maintain the privilege of conducting them. Another conflict we are likely to see from a divided Congress are debates around the debt ceiling, an issue which came up last time the Congress was split in this way back in 2011. Essentially, both houses of Congress as well as the president have to agree on any raises of the debt ceiling, which is the maximum amount of money that the U.S. government can borrow. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the repercussions could be as severe as a recession or a global financial crisis. Republicans are likely to use this as a kind of sword of Damocles over the head of the Democrats, forcing them to the negotiation table, in an attempt to levy compromises when it comes to their achieving their political platform. This could result in mass budget cuts, but again, we will have to see what lies in store. The most consequential privilege which the Republicans now have is the power to bring articles of impeachment against the sitting president, something which famously happened to President Trump twice when Democrats held the House in 2019 and 2020. Of course, we don’t know if they will act on it, but it remains a possibility (The GOP has already introduced over a dozen impeachment resolutions at the time of this writing!). 

These are all definitely massive downers, fo’ sho, but I would like to take a minute to pivot away from the doom and gloom of hypothetical House shenanigans and focus on something a little more positive for progressives. Namely, that the prophesied “red wave” was a total bust.

Had you told me a week ago that we would be looking at Democrats not only maintaining, but actually increasing their majority in the Senate, I would have thought you were crazy. History would agree, as precedent shows that midterm elections, a majority of times, result in overall losses for the president’s party. We seem to have bucked the trend, however: the 2022 elections were the strongest showing for a president’s party since the elections of 2002. These results are especially surprising considering Biden’s low approval ratings, admittedly having come up a bit from their lowest gulch in late July. Midterm elections are often viewed as referendums on the current president, and if we are taking these results to their natural conclusions, it seems as though Biden has more tacit approval from the American people than we may have thought. I would be wary, however, to encourage the president to start patting himself on the back quite yet. Let’s talk about why the election turned out the way it did; and why I feel as though Biden himself was not the catalyst.

Let’s turn to Mr. Trump. From his coveted, gaudy, gold-encrusted throne at Mar-a-Lago, the ex-president has spent the better part of two years hand-picking particular candidates whom he knew he could count on to be personally loyal to him and him alone. After the perceived “disloyalty” of his vice president Mike Pence in certifying the votes confirming Trump had lost in 2020, the former president has been careful to suss out any would-be “unfaithful” GOP candidates, leading to a rather… let’s say colorful array of nominees. Notable picks were Mehmet Oz for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat, a doctor and former TV health guru, and J.R. Majewski, his pick for Toledo’s House seat, who was present for Jan. 6 and openly regretted not entering the Capitol Building. These of course are just two candidates, but the numerous others Trump chose to essentially represent himself all held one major issue in common; they were all just really awful. Indeed, it was reported earlier this year that the Democrats were actually funding some of these Trump-backed candidates in the hope that they would actually be easier to defeat than more mainstream, moderate Republicans. I believe that this election has completely vindicated this theory, as a ton of Trumpists ended up having their campaigns blow away like sand in the Sahara, leaving behind a lesson in the fact that local elections are still very much local. The inability for the GOP to retrieve the Senate is also likely in large part due to the stinging reality of the three Trump-appointed judges to the Supreme Court, especially in regards to their shocking reversal of Roe V. Wade, the court case tied to the protection of abortion rights across the country. 

This was, and is, incredibly unpopular with a wide majority of Americans; and let me just say, that wide majority is correct. It is a horrible idea, and unethical as well, to allow state governments the right to control what a woman chooses to do with their own body. This is not the only controversial topic SCOTUS has taken on in the last year, however, with further attacks on judicial rights as well as marriage equality planned for the future. I think this really woke Americans up to the fact that, yes, what Republicans have said would happen in a conservative-controlled Supreme Court would actually happen. This realization has led the country through a very uncomfortable soul-searching, and the result was this election. Even in a year where the basic necessities people depend upon are getting harder and harder to secure, people looked past the immediacy of their frustrations and believed. Believed the future which Republicans promised, and the Democrats foretold. What a strange time we’re living in, that a politician loses because people are afraid they might actually do something!

Honestly, I think the issue comes down to the frame of mind in which the parties are operating. Democrats are geared for the future; pursuing infrastructure upgrades, student debt relief, transitioning to clean energy. Whether you agree with these policies or not, it’s hard to deny that the Dems are the ones pushing the conversation forward: “What’s next? What do we need to tackle to make sure this country keeps working?” It’s my opinion that Republicans, under Trump, have no future. Not just in the electoral sense. What policies does the former president intend to pursue to safeguard America for the future? It doesn’t matter. What matters to Trump is the results of an election which happened over two years ago, an election he refuses to let go of, an entire party trapped in ice. What really matters to Trump is what has always mattered to him; Trump. If America wins, fine, if he wins, great! If America wins, but not Trump? It is up to the Republicans to choose.

Where does this leave the Democrats? Well, with the House very likely gone, any major legislative plans the Dems had in store are going to be significantly harder. Not impossible, though. And control of the Senate, very importantly, opens the possibility of President Biden continuing to appoint judges to the federal courts. This is nothing to scoff at, it’s a position that former president Obama would have killed for back when the GOP refused to appoint Merrick Garland in 2016. 

This is a distressing moment for America, and the world. We have not healed from the pandemic, we have not bounced back, we are still sick and wretching. We have leaders who would take us backwards if they could, and leaders who refuse to be pulled forward in the face of common sense. Still, progress has been made, and continues to be made in the mess of it all. Let’s try and hang together, for if not, we will all most assuredly hang separately (John Fetterman is the type of dude to put barbecue sauce on Pringles).

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