The American Midterm Election Results – What Do They Mean?
So if you follow any American celebrities, on any social media platform at all you will have been aware that there was an election this week on the 6th of November. My Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds were inundated with celebrities either canvassing for particular (mostly Democrat) politicians, or with the simple plea to go out and vote. For us Europeans it seems rather intense, and we’re wondering why these “Midterms” are so very important?
Supernatural Stars Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki, and Jensen Ackles were among those who campaigned for young people to vote. (Source: @mishacollins )
Midterms are when Americans vote on their state senators, governors, and who will stand for them in the house of representatives and that means it has a significant impact on the American government. The reason there was such heavy campaigning for people to go out and vote is because in the last midterm elections held in 2014, only 36.4% of people eligible to vote actually did, and only 58% voted in the Presidential election – for comparison, in the last UK General Election, 68.7% of eligible people cast their votes. The reasons for low voter turnout are the same in most countries, there’s a lack of desirable candidates, or voters feel like their voice doesn’t count. In the last few weeks leading up to the Midterms, there’s been heavy campaigning to get young people in particular to vote. Despite 18-25 year olds being the one who are often most heavily affected by political decisions regarding education, LGBTQ+ issues, and healthcare, their voter turnout is always surprisingly low – only 26% of those voting in 2014 were under the age of 40.
Democrats thought they had a good chance of managing a “Blue Wave” of Democrat wins across the country, however they loudly spoke out about how they might be hindered by so-called voter suppression. In the state of Georgia, thousands of voters were denied their right to cast their votes, as Governor Brian Kemp – in what was most likely a highly illegal move – purged an estimated 1.4 million people from the voter registration rolls. In a very unlikely coincidence 70% of those purged were African-Americans who were likely to not vote for the Republicans. What makes this suppression even more blatant, is that Brian Kemp was not only running for re-election as Georgia’s state governor, but he is also the current Secretary as State meaning that he oversees the elections nationwide. Furthermore, in North Dakota, Native Americans have been denied the right to vote as they are required to have an address with a postcode, street name, and house number – which many reservations do not have. It makes one question the validity of an election where it seems the government has gone to great lengths to stop its own people – many of whom were predicted to vote Democrat – from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
So what were the election results, and what do they mean?
Well, the Democrats managed to take control of the House of Representatives with 222 seats vs. the Republican’s 199 seats, however the “Blue Wave” many were hoping for didn’t quite make it to the Senate. The Republicans managed to win the majority, with 51 seats as opposed to the Democrats’ 45 seats.
Despite the red Senate, a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is actually a huge win. This means they can fight potentially damaging legislation introduced by Donald Trump – and most importantly: They have the right to start impeachment proceedings against the president!
This will probably begin with them subpoenaing his tax records, which have long since been suggested to be evidence of his tax evasion – and which he has refused to produce until now – and will most likely be the first in a line of potentially damaging investigations against the president.
While some of the very closely watched races such as the run for Texas State Senate did not yield the expected results – Democrat Beto O’Rourke lost closely to former Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz – there were many firsts for candidates from marginalised backgrounds. Michigan elected the first ever Muslim woman to congress, Sharice Davids became the first Native American woman (who is also openly gay) elected to Congress in Kansas, Guam elected its first female governor, and Ayanna Pressley beat a ten-term Republican Congressman to become Michigan’s first black Congresswoman.
So while it may seem all very far away from Europe, wins like those above are wins for female politicians everywhere, and despite a Republican majority senate, a Democratic House of Representatives will be very important when it comes to presidential attempts to push through legislation regarding his “wall”, as well as bills that are damaging to People of Colour, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community – and who knows, maybe they will even succeed in impeaching Trump.