US Midterms: Winners and Losers

The White House. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Democrats, Republicans, diversity and Taylor Swift

By Sam Tilley

LOSER – Donald Trump

For the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency, he has enjoyed overall control over the three branches of the U.S. government; both chambers of Congress, the Supreme Court and, of course, the presidency itself. However, with the Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, President Trump will face an upwards battle in getting his legislation through Congress. In addition to this, a number of congressional committees have now passed into the hands of the Democrats meaning that they could now have the power to demand the release of the President’s tax returns amongst other official documents.

WINNER – Donald Trump?

How can Donald Trump be both a winner and a loser of these elections? Well, as much as Democrats are like to parade the fact that a ‘blue wave’ sunk the Republican’s control of the House of Representative, President Trump can point to the fact that for only the third time in 100 years, a President has increased his majority in the Senate. On a purely personal level, many of the candidates officially endorsed by President Trump did in fact manage to triumph over their Democratic opponents whilst a large number of the ones that point-blank refused to accept his endorsement failed. For a President that relies heavily on his own personal style of governance, this can be seen as an acceptance amongst Republic voters of his presidential tone and one that he hopes will stand him in good stead to win a second term in 2020.

WINNER – Nancy Pelosi

It was a good night for the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. After becoming the first ever female Speaker in 2006, Nancy Pelosi hopes that the 26 seats her party won from the Republicans will be enough to secure her a second term as Speaker of the House, the position she lost in 2011. If she is able to reclaim the position of Speaker, she will have the power to potentially block legislation and, perhaps more importantly, have control over the various committees that operate in the House. As these committees now being chaired by Democrats, they can force access to a lot more information, including the tax returns of The Donald.

LOSER – Republican Governors

Tuesday was undoubtedly a bad night for Republican Governors. Seven Republican incumbents lost in (deep breath) Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin, whilst the party only gained Alaska from an independent. Whilst a governor’s authority is limited geographically, they act as both head of state and commander-in-chief of their respective state, having the ability to pass laws, appoint members of the judiciary and, perhaps most importantly, are able to veto legislation. The loss of the above seven states, and the additional loss of Guam, means that the balance of power between Republican and Democrat governors has shifted for at least the next four years.

WINNER – Beto O’Rourke

Senate races in Texas don’t usually attract as much media attention as the one that took place this year between incumbent Ted Cruz and Congressman O’Rourke. O’Rourke’s campaign was marked by both his refusal to accept donations from PACs and the fact he managed to visit each and every one of Texas’ 254 counties – a far cry from the usual Democrat strategy of concentrating their efforts purely on the four or five major population centres. In a state that has voted Republican in every election since 1994, O’Rourke somehow decreased Cruz’s seemingly unsurmountable 18-point poll lead to around 5% on polling day. Despite eventually coming up 220,000 votes short, O’Rourke’s campaign was not only considered to be the best Democratic attempt to wrest control of the Lone Star State in decades, it also painted O’Rourke in such a good light that, in the hours following his concession speech, one of the top trending hashtags across social media was #Beto2020. Time will only tell if the Democrat rising star will lead the charge to dethrone Trump in two years time.

WINNER – Mitch McConnell

The leader of the Senate Republicans will be enjoying an increased majority when the new senators take their seats in America’s upper house. Wins in the previously-Democrat states of Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota meant that the balance of power shifted even further towards the GOP. This was always going to be a tricky election for the Democrats as they were defending 26 Senate seats compared to only 9 Republican defences, but they will see their only gain in Nevada as a disappointment, especially considering the tight races in both Texas and Tennessee. New Republican senators include former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose election in Utah makes him the first modern American politician to hold elected office in two different states.

LOSER – Stacey Abrams

In a much-publicised gubernatorial election in Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams was unable to clinch victory against her Republican counterpart Brian Kemp. This race has had plenty of controversy with Kemp coming under pressure for allegedly refusing to grant voter registration to hundreds of voters for seemingly minor issues with paperwork. Because of this supposed voter repression, and the fact that there were still a large number of absentee ballots waiting to be counted; Abrams refused to concede the race on Tuesday night and, at the time of publication, has said she intends to sue the Georgia Electoral Commission for the host of problems that plagued electronic equipment on election day. Regardless of this, Abrams lost an incredible chance to become the first female black governor despite gaining endorsements from both Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, and this failure to clinch victory against a controversial Republican would be classed as one of the biggest Democrat failures of these elections.

WINNER – Diversity

This was a good election for minorities. In the build-up to these elections, much was made of the so-called “pink-wave” of female voters and candidates. This was apparent in the results – with a record number of female candidates successfully gaining election to the House of Representatives. These include the youngest woman ever elected for Congress, 29-year-old Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez; the first Muslim women, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar; and the first two Native-American women being elected in New Mexico and Kansas respectively. This election also saw Jared Polis being elected in Colorado as the first openly-gay Governor in U.S. history, and the first Korean-American woman being elected in California. There is of course a long way to go before there is equal representation across all levels of U.S. government, but the results of this election are a good first step.

LOSER – Future Democrat Stars

Going into these elections, there were hopes amongst Democrats that some of their stars of the future would clinch defining victories states that had swung to Trump in 2016. This, however, did not happen. Already documented losses for Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams – in Texas and Georgia respectively – dampened Democrat hopes of a ‘blue wave’. Further losses in Florida and California for progressive Democrat candidates meant that the party still has no clear frontrunner to take on Donald Trump in 2020. Arguably the biggest loss for Democrats was their failure to take the governorship in Florida, a key bellwether state. Democrat Andrew Gillum was touted as a potential candidate for the 2020 primaries but his loss to Rick Scott in the Sunshine State has led to a lot of soul-searching for the progressive wing of the Democrats nationwide.

LOSER – Taylor Swift

One of the biggest surprises in the build-up to the Midterm elections was the political intervention of global superstar Taylor Swift. Previously keeping quiet over political issues, she felt compelled to openly back the Democratic candidate in her home state of Tennessee against the Republican incumbent Marsha Blackburn. In a passionate Instagram post, Swift decried Blackburn for voting against congressional measures advocating equal pay and women’s rights, going as far as the state that her voting record “appalls and terrifies” her. Despite an influx in voter registration following her endorsement, it was in vain as Blackburn was elected with 54% of the vote meaning that Swift still has some way to go before truly being able to swing elections one way or another.

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