An 18-year-old was elected mayor in Oregon and a dead Republican brothel owner managed to win in Nevada. These are some of the interesting outcomes from Tuesday’s midterm elections, while another conclusion is that the political divide in the United States is alive and well. Both sides of politics disagree as to which party won on Tuesday, and whether it was indeed a referendum on Donald J. Trump’s presidency.
The Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives back for the first time since 2011, but Trump’s Republican Party increased their majority control of the Senate despite apparent public disapproval for Trump’s job. Although Democrats had a net gain of gubernatorial wins, including an unexpected win in Kansas, they failed to win high-profile battleground states Florida and Ohio.
So, who won?
To answer this question, we need to look into the differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The term for the House is two years, while Senators stay in office for six years. The Congress (House and Senate) holds an election every two years with the entire House standing for election along with approximately one-third of the Senate.
During this midterm, there were 33 Senate seats up for election, of which 24 were held by Democrats and only 9 by Republicans. This meant that the Republican Party was always in the strongest position as they had far fewer seats to defend. On top of this, 10 out of 24 Democratic Senators were from states that voted for Trump in 2016, whereas only one Republican Senator was from a state won by Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps it is no surprise then that the three seats that the Republicans gained in the Senate were from states that supported Trump in the 2016 elections (Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota), and the one seat that the Democrats won was from Nevada, who voted for Clinton.
This gives the Republicans a net gain of two seats and brings their provisional total to 53 in the 100-seat chamber. Arizona and Florida have not yet been declared, so it is possible that the Republicans end up with 55 seats.
Those that worked with me in this incredible Midterm Election, embracing certain policies and principles, did very well. Those that did not, say goodbye! Yesterday was such a very Big Win, and all under the pressure of a Nasty and Hostile Media!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
Voting totals are still to be finalized, but provisional national Senate totals indicate that although the Democrats had a net loss of at least two seats, they won almost 9 million votes more than Republicans. Once again, the Democrats won the popular vote but did not win the election.
How is this possible?
The House of Representatives apportions seats per state based on population, while each state has two senators, regardless of the size of the population. This means that California, with almost 40 million residents, has the same number of senators as the 500,000 residents of Wyoming.
This leads to imbalanced representation. For example, the combined populations Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah is approximately 35 million. These 14 states are represented by 28 Senators, meaning that about one-tenth of the American population is represented by almost a third (28 percent) of all senators. As the Republican Party tends to dominate smaller, more rural-inclined states, the party is dramatically overrepresented in the Senate.
This way of allocating seats is the reason the Republican Party was able to increase its majority in the Senate, even with the Democrats winning 9 million more votes.
With the larger Senate majority, it will now be much easier for President Trump to secure confirmation for executive personnel appointments and judicial seats, which are the sole purview of the Senate.
With more conservative Republicans as Senators, the partisan divide will increase. The influence of moderate Republican Senators such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski is likely to disappear, as even with 53 out of 100 senators (although this number might increase in the coming days) Trump can secure a majority vote in the Senate without Collins and Murkowski. It is for this reason that he correctly claimed a “win” following the election.
What does this outcome mean for Trump’s presidency and the 2020 elections?
The battle lines of American politics are increasingly being drawn along racial lines. A CBS News exit poll showed that more than 90 percent of African American voters and almost 75 percent of Hispanic voters supported the Democrats, while more than half of all white voters supported the Republicans.
The midterm elections demonstrate that despite the Republican Party’s 2016 Never Trump movement, Trump’s message is resonating with key parts of the electorate. The president has been successful in bringing the Republican Party around to his way of thinking, with 2018 proving once again that politics of fear can win an election. This will no doubt spur Trump and the increasingly conservative Congressional caucus to adopt a similar hardline strategy in 2020.
Will that be enough for Trump to be re-elected?
Although Democrats lost three Senate seats, they did win statewide races in six states that Trump won in 2016, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
These states account for 60 of the 520 votes in the presidential Electoral College, and in 2020, the Democratic presidential candidate – whoever that is – only needs to gain 25 of those votes to win the presidency. This means that Trump will need to straddle the political divide to regain favor with mid-western voters who on Tuesday gave Democratic gubernatorial candidates almost 1 million more votes than their Republican opponents.
So, who won?
Both parties won battles, but neither won the war. The big loser though was bipartisanship. The number of moderate or centrist politicians in Congress has decreased dramatically after Tuesday, which has widened the gap between left and right. This means that the bitter state of American politics is about to become even more divided.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.