Have you ever heard the news discussing the midterm elections and wonder what they are or why they even matter? For those of you who have been in that situation, midterm elections can be a little complicated with regards to who is reelected and how often. The most important thing to know is that the midterms serve as an opportunity for citizens to elect representatives to serve in Congress in order to represent their specific state. These elections happen every two years, but what seats are up for reelection can differ each cycle (refer to the link above to learn more).
For most Americans, the Presidential election is watched with much anticipation, but many citizens do not participate in or even acknowledge midterm elections. Most often, voter turnout rates are much lower in midterm elections than in the presidential ones. In 2014, there was only a 35.9% turnout rate for the midterms whereas 60% of voters came out for the 2016 Presidential election.
Despite the lack of participation in previous years, the 2018 midterms seem to have attracted a lot of attention, particularly due to the controversial presidency of Donald Trump and the actions of his Republican party. Politicians, activists, and voters are ready to lead the charge to bring reform back to D.C.—and for a good reason.
People are enthusiastic about the 2018 elections largely due to the fact Democrats actually have a chance of taking back the House—and possibly the Senate, too. Right now, Capitol Hill is ruled by Republicans: they have a Republican President, Republican Senate, and Republican House of Representatives. This means that the Republican party controls the United States government, making it harder for Democrats to pass any of their legislation without Republican support. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, the current administration has proven to be completely incompetent at establishing an effective lawmaking process, even as they control all facets of the government. For those who are frustrated with the Republican Party’s incapability to regulate the government or simply want to see Democrats represented in congressional seats, 2018 poses a great opportunity to do so.
Because this past year has been utterly chaotic in terms of politics, the leverage Democrats have is encouraging everyone to be motivated for change. Here is a brief breakdown of what needs to happen in order to take Congress back (for a more comprehensive analysis of the 2018 midterms, click here).
The House of Representatives
The House has 435 seats. As of right now, Democrats only control 194 of them, making them the minority. In order for Democrats to take back the House, they need to win back 24 seats. According to Swing Left, 70 of the 435 seats are considered to be competitive, meaning there is a possibility for the left to win more than just the 24 needed seats. Of course, the representatives already in office must defend their seats, but the chances are looking up.
The Senate has 100 seats. Currently, Democrats hold 49 seats and Republicans hold 51. There are 34 seats up for reelection, more than half of which are Democratic. This means that Democrats need to defend the 26 contested seats as well as win two more seats in order to switch the Senate to a Democratic majority (see map below for more information on the Senate elections).
Taking back Congress is not going to be easy. It will be hard work, and everyone will need to do their share in bringing attention to the elections and conveying the message of why these midterms are especially important. This is about more than just winning political gains. This is about having the chance to have a say in our government snd making sure there are people in office who will help to those who need it and who will delegate with the American people in mind.
For those who follow politics, many recognize that the actions of the Republican party have highlighted the apathy of the right-wing politicians. From raising taxes on the financially disadvantaged to using DACA recipients and CHIP as a bargaining tool, the party has proven the interests of the common Americans are not their concern.
It is for those reasons that it is our job as citizens to mobilize and to hold each other accountable in our fight for political empowerment. While the midterm elections are more than eight months away, there are still things you can do now to help:
Educate yourself on the politics and the politicians of the upcoming elections. If you need a starting place, visit Swing Left, an organization dedicated to helping take back the House. On their website, you can find and learn more about swing districts in your area. Pod Save America is also a great resource to stay up to date with current politics, as well as other news sites across the internet.
Donate to candidates that are running for office. Campaigns run off grassroots donations. Even the smallest donation can make a difference!
Volunteer for your local candidate and canvas your neighborhood in order to raise awareness about the people running in your area
Talk to your friends and family about the elections. As we all know, word of mouth is the most effective way to spread information.
And most importantly, register to vote. You can make a difference, but only if you vote. You can register to vote here. Remember, your voice counts!
Get ready, America, we are coming.