Pre-Midterm Analysis | Sarah Stook

Every four years, America elects or re-elects a President. Every four years, America elects a new Congress.

2018 is one of the midterm years. Though not always true, the midterms are often marked by two factors: lower turnout and the party opposing the President doing well/winning. It’s very much a winner takes all midterms, with all 435 House of Representatives as well as 35 of the 100 Senate seats and 39 governorships up for election. It’s been a tireless campaign for many, from harsh attack adverts to controversial sound bites, the pinnacle of a 21st century social media election. New figures like Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have broken into the spotlight, as old figures like Paul Ryan begin to finish their time in Congress.

November 6th 2018 will be another influential midterm, perhaps one of the most influential in recent US history. At a time of turbulence in the US political arena, there will no doubt be massive repercussions whatever the result. Before the 2018 election, the Senate is 51-49 Republican and 235-193 also in favour of the GOP.

Before November 6th hits us, let’s see what’s going on:

The Issues

  • The Economy

There’s no other way to put this- the US is economically doing great if you look at all the graphs and figures that are splashed over the media. Only recently, forecasts for growth were smashed when 250,000 jobs were added to the economy and the unemployment rate went down to 2.7%. Unemployment for ethnic minorities, especially African-Americans are at an all time low. Through tax reform, there are reports of more money in the pay checks of many of the working class. Every day, Republicans tweet about the booming economy. For many voters, the economy is one of the key factors in voting, something that bodes well for the GOP.

How well though? The Democrats have made one straight play- claiming that Trump had inherited this good legacy from his predecessor Barack Obama. It is undeniable that one of Obama’s legacies was an improved economy after the disastrous 2008 crash but was he truly the man who made all of his happen? The Republicans argue that tax cuts and deregulation have allowed a positive economic environment, whilst the Democrats believe that these things have harmed people and rigged it for the rich. Whilst the GOP platform remains at tax cuts, deregulation and union restrictions, as compared to increased taxes for the rich, stricter regulation and a higher minimum wage from the Democratic corner. Both use their platforms to advertise being for the working class.

When it comes down to it, the economy can be booming but the people will only re-elect someone if they see this change. For those enjoying bigger pay packets, their vote will go to the GOP. For those who haven’t seen it, it could be for the Dems.

 

  • Guns

Tragic cases of mass shootings are all too common in the USA, with the Las Vegas shooting and Douglas Stoneman attack being the two most tragic and well known ones in the Trump campaign. With stories of shootings from East to West coast dominating the news, in all areas, many are becoming concerned with the frequency and what to do about it. For the Republicans, it’s about more security and concealed carry, for Democrats it’s more restricted legislation and usage.

Since the Douglas shooting, there has been more of an active, organised resistance by teenagers and young people. Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are two Douglas survivors on the more liberal end of this argument, fighting for stronger gun control as part of Never Again MSD. On the flipside you have Kyle Kashuv and Hunter Pollack, more conservative in their views. Both represent a young version of many voters, representing the divide between pro and anti gun control advocates. A huge emphasis is on the NRA, a hugely powerful lobbying group whose funding can make or break a candidate. Critical groups like Never Again MSD seek to stop the NRA’s massive influence and cause them to rethink their policies. These groups often align with the Democrats; much like the NRA tends to go more towards the Republican.

Specific issues towards arms include illegal weapons, who should be allowed to own a gun; gun caused homicide in major cities such as Chicago and which weapons should be allowed. Democrats tend to be more restrictive in what they allow, whilst Republicans believe that restrictions do nothing due to criminals getting guns illegally. For many, it will be an issue but there will be variations in how important it is. For Hogg and Kashuv, it will be an essential part of their voting. In rural areas, there is a likelihood of a GOP vote but for the city areas where guns are not as much of a way of life, then there is going to be a blue vote.

 

  • Immigration

Trump, an ardent opponent of illegal immigration and favourable to restrictions on legal immigration, made it a part of his platform. The comments on the wall and of limiting immigration from Islamic countries were possibly the most memorable parts of his campaign, marking him as a nationalist. This increased his standing with many working class Americans, frustrated with the lack of hard rhetoric on immigration from existing politicians and wanting a change.

Two massive issues have made immigration a prime political talking point, one only occurring recently. The first of this was the infamous child separation policy. Images of children, separated from their families, in cages, crying and screaming, filled the airwaves and received widespread condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans. Melania even got involved, rare for the very shy First Lady. Trump signed an executive order to end the practice, but praised it somewhat for protecting children being trafficked and ICE for their hard work. Common responses to Trump and the GOP on social media are about ‘children in cages.’ The administration pushed it as a Democrat policy, with cases occurring under an Obama time. Still, it revoked a non partisan response that has severely damaged the Republican Party and may cause a resistance vote.

The second is the issue of immigration from Latin America. Though the rhetoric on the wall has limited itself to chants at Trump rallies, a very recent event could bring it back to the forefront. Around October 2018, a group of one thousand Hondurans left a bus shelter in the city, beginning a journey on foot to the USA. On their way, they were joined by several thousand citizens from Guatemala, El Salvador and other nationals in an effort to reach safety in the USA. This so called caravan, a very new phenomenon named for the large group, is hoping to seek asylum/become refugees from the crime and insecurity in their own lands. Some are calling for their inclusion, but others want them turned away. They are called refugees, but also economic migrants. Worries about crime are a major part of the Trump playbook, something that he is using to drum up support for the midterms.  This zero tolerance is designed to appeal to the disenfranchised, but it remains to be seen whether this will shore up support from the undecided. Immigration is always high up on voters’ minds, so will this tip the balance?

 

  • Healthcare

John McCain’s 11th hour intervention prevented the Obamacare repeal that many Republicans (and others), wanted, leading to it still being active legislation. Healthcare in America is a totally different ballgame, from worries about insurance premiums to people not being able to afford a doctor, making it something that affects everyone. Democrats favour expanded government mandated healthcare, capped prescription costs and even universal healthcare in some cases. Republicans favour open market healthcare, cross state coverage and tax benefits.

It’s easy to say everyone wants decent quality healthcare at an affordable price- that’s everyone in the world arguably. Though there is a move towards single-payer healthcare, with a recent survey discovering that 69% of millennials believe in it. Whilst still a minority in the Democratic Party, it is growing and will continue to grow as people grow tired of high premiums and lack of affordability. Across the aisle, they wish to make healthcare affordable by opening up markets and deregulating the industry. For them, universal healthcare is not ‘free’- it is paid for by taxes.

Healthcare seems to be an unanswerable question in the US, but an important one nonetheless. With no whole party platform issue on either side, it remains to be seen by how it will affect the midterms.

Races to Watch:

  • Texas Senate Race- Incumbent Ted Cruz (R) v Robert Francis ‘Beto’ O’Rourke (D)

Texas may be one of the safest Republican strongholds, but the race is unusually competitive. Ted Cruz faces a challenge in charismatic media darling Beto O’Rourke, a man who has become a hero for many on the left. Cruz, an unpopular figure all around, is likely to win as a Republican but the polling varies on closeness. O’Rourke’s previous DUI and apparent race faking has been brought up by opponents, whilst Cruz is placed as corrupt and not a good public servant. The Democratic challenger has found himself popular on social and traditional media, leading to an unusually documented race.

Likelihood: Very likely Republican, but could depend on turnout in more liberal areas like Dallas and from ‘resistance’ voters. Texas went Trump by 9 points and has not had a state Democrat since 1994.

  • Iowa 4th Congressional District- Incumbent Steve King (R) v J D Scholten (D)

A Republican in conservative Iowa, Steve King would usually be fine but recent controversies have sprung up. His links to European far-right groups, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic groups caused Republicans to pull funding from him and many to rescind endorsements. J D Scholten does not have the media profile O’Rourke does, but benefits from the negative press given to King. The result will probably be obvious but it’ll be interesting to see how many votes between them.

Likelihood: Probably Republican again, but closer this time. This district was very Trump in 2016.

 

  • Arizona Senate- Martha McSally (R) v Kyrsten Sinema (D)

After the retirement of Trump enemy Jeff Flake, two US Representatives are fighting for gold. Arizona, the home of conservative legend Barry Goldwater and the maverick John McCain (Goldwater’s successor), tends to swing right but not as much as other states. Sinema’s comments on the state have been questionable but some polls have put her ahead of her opponent. McSally, a centrist more McCain than Trump, follows the history of light conservativism. A former fighter pilot, she is popular with many but not a Trumplican by any means.

Likelihood: Likely Republican but a Democratic victory is definitely not out of the question. Trump won in 2016, but the margin was slim between him and Clinton.

 

  • Missouri Senate- Josh Hawley (R) v Incumbent Claire McCaskill (D)

A blue in a red state, McCaskill is on thin ice with her constituents after voting against confirming controversial Supreme Court nominee Justice Kavanaugh. A strong supporter of Clinton in 2016, she is seen as a member of the Democratic establishment and is full of controversy. Other Democrats in Republican states are in trouble, but McCaskill is the one who is likeliest to fall. Hawley got strong support from President Trump and is backed by both the establishment and the Trumplicans.

Likelihood: Flipped Republican but not close.

 

  • New York 14th Congressional District- Anthony Pappas (R) v Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D)

Next to O’Rourke, Ocasio-Cortez is the breakout star of the 2018 midterms. A die hard socialist known for her passion and support, she is also deemed unintelligent for many questionable comments (think Diane Abbott). She surprised everyone by beating incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary, who will be running for the Working Families party instead. An ally of Bernie Sanders, she represents a new generation of Democrats.

Likelihood: 100% Democrat, a very left wing district in a very left wing city. Very much a Clinton city.

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