America Votes 2014: Once More ‘Round the Carousel: What the midterm elections really do and don’t mean for America
The Washington echo chamber has spent the past year or so rattling away about the repercussions of the impending midterm congressional elections. As always, partisans on both sides of the political spectrum claim that, on November 4th, the nation’s fate will once again hang in the balance as Americans decide the future of the country.
But are the stakes truly this high? What impact is this election really going to have on the future of our country?
Let’s look at the possible outcomes. For starters, the House is a lost cause for Democrats. As observed by election watchers like Larry Sabato, there are only 37 truly competitive races in this cycle, with 21 of those races against an incumbent Democrat. That means that, in order to regain the House Majority, Democrats would not only need to hold onto these seats, but take an additional 17 more in the process. That’s a tall order during a President’s sixth year in the White House, when a President’s party has historically lost seats in both chambers of Congress.
So what about the Senate? While control for this chamber seemed up in the air just a few months ago, the last few weeks have brought with them a sense of dread for Democrats – underwater poll numbers for Senate candidates in Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky have increased the perception that Republicans are likely to take back the chamber for the first time since 2007. As it stands, the New York Times’ the Upshot puts the Republicans’ chances of gaining a majority at 58% – nothing to sneeze at, but certainly not a lock for the GOP.
Either way, the next two years look bleak for Washington: should the Democrats hang onto the majority, what is going to change? The House will continue to be the graveyard of Senate bills and visa versa, budget battles will rear their heads once again, and so the toxic political climate that has gripped the world’s greatest deliberative body will remain toxic.
And if the Republicans find themselves in the majority? Sure, we’ll see some change – expect the President to wield his veto pen more often, the approval of judicial nominees to grind to a halt, and the Administration to deal with more paperwork than ever as Senate committees start re-investigating Benghazi, Fast & Furious, healthcare.gov, and everything else on the GOP’s list of greatest hits. Even the most optimistic electoral predictions see no way for the GOP to reach 60, let alone 67 seats, giving them no way to override a veto or invoke cloture solely on party lines, limiting their ability to overcome Democratic opposition – and leaving the Senate as stalemated as it is today.
What changes for everyone outside of Washington? The short answer: nothing. Both parties will remain at loggerheads on nearly every issue, and we can only expect party lines to harden as the 2016 campaign season begins (but let’s face it – in the eyes of many, that has already begun). The only thing that seems to have stirred Congress out of its slumber recently is the rise of ISIL – if it takes the beheading of Americans to make Congress agree on an issue, then we’re in trouble.
Some may say that this all makes for a cynical prognosis. The sad part is that many would say that this isn’t cynical – it’s simply the way things are.
- Alex Hasapidis