Home Election 2018 OPINION: What did we learn from the midterm elections?

OPINION: What did we learn from the midterm elections?

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The New Political

This midterm season was a roller-coaster for all involved. From the dramatic primaries, to the mail bombs, all the way through the surprises and twists of election night and the tense recounts, 2018’s election season is certainly no less exciting than 2016 was.

While everyone’s eyes are to the 2020 presidential race, where a massive field of Democrat hopefuls are preparing to take on President Trump, we thought we should hit the brakes, catch our breath, and take a look at where we’re at now, almost two weeks out from results.

We asked our opinion writers: What do you think the results of America’s 2018 midterm elections mean? Our diverse and shrewd opinion team didn’t disappoint; below you’ll find five articles discussing this question from a wide array of angles.

Azavieria Payne wrote of the danger of a growing political divide. Stephen Sponhour analyzed the role of Twitter bots in the midterms. Maddie Kramer discussed the future of Ohio’s Democratic Party. Charlotte Caldwell warned of the danger of Democratic obstructionism. I argued Democrats need to temper their expectations for 2020.

2020 is certainly going to be a wild ride, but we’re not there yet. Let’s take a look at what lessons we’ve learned from this past election cycle.

Tim Zelina, Opinion Editor

Opinion writer Azavieria Payne is a freshman studying Political Science. Azavieria wrote her piece on how Democrats and Republicans need to carefully address the growing political divide, and not spend their time in Congress attempting to obstruct each other.

This year’s midterm election was both exciting and nerve-wracking, but may potentially be harmful given the toxic partisan divide that has swept the nation. We can only hope it doesn’t trickle into the White House.

As the polling results came in, it signaled a shift in the composition of state governments and the national government. The Democrats secured control of the House, while the Republicans retained control of the Senate.

History was also made during this year’s midterm in states like Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Texas, Michigan, and several others. Florida passed Amendment 4, which is a monumental law that will restore voting rights to felons; 1.4 million people regained their right to vote.

Kansas and Texas alike saw a shift from voting majority Republican to Democrat. Kansas, which is typically a red state, elected Democrat Laura Kelly as governor. Similarly, in Texas, Democrats flipped 12 seats in the Texas House.

Minnesota and Michigan elected the first Muslim women into Congress, Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Tlaib and Omar join several other women of color elected to office which now sets a record of 40 women.

The midterm election did not single-handedly favor one party over another; Instead, the election caused a divide within Congress. It’s safe to say initially there will pushback between both parties, but they must find a common ground for the sake of the country.

If Congress cannot work together, it will further the nation’s political divide, because the public will feel their interests are not being reflected in legislation. The future of America will be one of compromise if we want to see change. As the midterms come to a close, we will have to wait and see how our new state and national governments will adapt to the change.

Opinion writer Stephen Sponhour is a junior studying Communications. Stephen examined the effects of Twitter bots in tilting the results in select midterm races, and the dangers this reflects.

With the investigation into Russian election interference still looming over the GOP, there was concern leading up to midterms that the same social media tactics used to promote Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign would be utilized in the 2018 races.

Several months before voters took to the polls, Twitter announced it had removed 10,000 propaganda accounts focused on discouraging Democrats from voting.

Facebook received a tip from law enforcement just days before midterms regarding propaganda accounts that resulted in the removal of 115 profiles: 35 on Facebook itself and 80 on Instagram. With these removals, it is clear that foreign, online election meddling is here to stay.

The fact that the FBI was the organization to notify Facebook of these accounts shows that our government is taking this threat extremely seriously. Does that mean that the accounts are effective? And were the social media giants effective in curbing propaganda on their platforms?

At first glance over Tuesday’s voter statistics, it may seem as though the left was not at all discouraged. Nationwide, voter turnout for Democrats was the highest it’s been in years.

Taking a look at voter activity in swing states, however, tells a different story. All but six districts in Florida, a purple state, experienced record turnout. The six that didn’t? All blue districts.

Republicans may wishfully attribute this low turnout to poor voter motivation, but for blue voters in a swing state to be unmotivated in the first midterms since the election of an unpopular Republican president defies voter patterns that campaigns bank on.

By the time Twitter removed those 10,000 accounts, they had likely spread anti-voting rhetoric to millions of predominantly young liberals. Maybe their messages had no effect, and the people reading them laughed at the thought of not voting. Or maybe, whatever doubts impressionable viewers had about their civic duty were amplified by well-placed propaganda posts.

What makes these messages so hard to fight is that it’s hard to tell if and when they are effective. For propaganda to be useful, it has to be sneaky — nobody thinks they fall for it. Nobody will come to the media and admit they didn’t vote because a random Twitter account told them not to, even if those nobodies realized the accounts impacted them to begin with.

We’re never going to definitively be able to blame any election wins or losses on social media propaganda. But we can look at the massive scale of their use, understand how social media sites often amplify their messages, and deduce that a sophisticated campaign reaching millions of people has to have some effect on how those people think.

Opinion writer Charlotte Caldwell is a freshman studying Journalism. Charlotte rang the alarm bells on the danger of Democrats obstructing and destabilizing Trump’s administration through their control of the House of Representatives. 

No one was more stressed during this year’s midterms than President Trump and his administration. The gridlock that could result from the multiple investigations on Trump put in place by Democrats could cause problems across the whole country.

Since Democrats took over the House, Trump’s legislative agenda is sure to be derailed. He’ll have difficulty making progress on his ideas about tax cuts and global trade, and any agenda afterward for that matter. Even worse, Republicans are betting that Democrats will try to impeach the President, a last resort tactic that will start in the House and end with the Senate.

Since the Republicans have managed to keep control of the Senate, impeachment will most likely not succeed. But the overall turmoil that the Democrats could cause by overtaking the House could potentially create a bigger divide in the country and further decrease the public’s trust in government.

If Republicans kept the House, President Trump could have gotten to work on the issues he promised he would resolve on the campaign trail in 2016, with a solid group of lawmakers to support him. One particular issue that would have immediately benefited the public was his initiative to cut taxes for the middle class by 10 percent. While no specifics were laid out yet, it will most likely never be acted upon now.

The only thing that should matter now is trying to solve the division facing our country — but the new agenda in the House could overshadow this important task.

The past has shown that government shutdowns and gridlock, that are likely to happen with a divided Congress, do not serve the public efficiently, which should be a lawmaker’s primary goal.

Attempting to divide the country further and stalling issues that need immediate attention by holding countless investigations that will evidently lead nowhere will never provide a good outcome for America’s future.

Opinion writer Maddie Kramer is a sophomore studying Political Science. Maddie took note that while the poor performance of Ohio’s Democrats may have demoralized the left at home, successes in other Midwestern states should be considered a positive sign for the future of the Ohio Democrats.

As a voter excited to turn Ohio blue, Tuesday night came as a surprise. The major state races went to the Republicans. Democrat incumbent Sherrod Brown kept his seat, although he was the only Democrat to win a major state election. This is no surprise, as it is hard for a new candidate to take an incumbent’s seat. Although Ohio stayed largely red, there were important Democratic wins in other states such as Michigan and Illinois.

In Ohio, the only statewide race that went to the Democrats was Sherrod’s U.S. Senate seat. Brown won the race for the third time, securing 53.2 percent of the votes on Tuesday night. The race was called for Brown just 30 minutes after polls closed. This was a big win for Democrats, although somewhat expected.

Michigan was more promising for Democrats and voters seeking the “blue wave”. Democrats flipped the governor’s seat from Republican Rick Snyder, who was not seeking re-election, to Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow was re-elected, and Michigan’s progressive Democrat Rashida Tlaib became one of two women to be the first Muslim women in Congress.

Michigan also flipped House district 8, where Democrat Elissa Slotkin took Republican incumbent Mike Bishop’s seat. Democrat Haley Stevens also won House district 11. These women furthered the “blue wave” and the Democrats taking the House.

Illinois flipped two House seats, Democrat Sean Casten took Republican incumbent Peter Roskam’s seat and Democrat Lauren Underwood won Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren’s seat. Overall, Illinois secured 13 Democratic House seats. Like Michigan, Illinois also elected a Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker. Illinois Democratic wins made up for Ohio’s Democrats falling short.

While Ohio Democrats may have been discouraged following the statewide results, it is important to remember the wins nationwide. Michigan and Illinois had important, and even historic, results. With many Democratic wins Tuesday night, liberal voters are looking forward to 2020.

Opinion editor Tim Zelina is a junior studying Journalism. Tim warned Democrats should take caution of overextending in 2020, as President Trump still stands a formidable figure who won’t go down without a fight.

There’s no rest for the weary here: with the much-anticipated midterms now behind us, pundits and politicians are already gearing up for what is sure to be a hectic, divisive 2020 presidential race. As Democrats from all walks of life toy with the idea of the presidency, the Republicans are hunkering down in defense of the Trump administration. But before we begin talking about who may win the next presidential election, it’s important to examine where this chaotic midterm cycle has left our political scene at.

Tuesday night may have left many liberals elated, as the Democrats managed to seize control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, but such joviality should be tempered. The results of last night do not paint a rosy picture for the Democrat’s ability to unseat President Trump in 2020.

Turnout across the midterms was stunningly massive, the highest midterm turnout in fifty years. If you had told Democrats this on Monday, they would have thought they would win the Senate, absolutely demolish Republicans in the House, and sweep Governor’s races in Ohio, Georgia and Florida.

This did not happen. Democrats may have managed to win 35 House seats, with 5 still too close to call at this time, but their promising gubernatorial candidates in Georgia, Florida and Ohio all lost. Turnout, it seems, helped Republicans as much as Democrats. Trump fever is still alive and well in much of the country.

The Senate was, as expected, a disaster for Democrats: Republicans toppled Sen. McCaskill of Missouri, Sen. Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sen. Nelson of Florida, and, interestingly, Sen. Donnelly of Indiana

Not only did Republicans expand their majority, but the Senate’s composition has a more subtle boon for President Trump: many of his harshest detractors in his party are now gone. Sen. Corker of Tennessee and Sen. Flake of Arizona will both be out of office come January, and the legendary Sen. McCain passed away in September. Trump loyalists now occupy two of these seats, though Flake’s would-be Republican successor was defeated by Democrat Krysten Sinema. 

Trump has evidently taken note of this cushion for his judgment, as he immediately fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the midterms, ostensibly because he was not controlling Mueller’s investigation enough.

Trump will no longer have to worry about tight majorities sinking his nominations, nor should he be concerned of any impeachment, so long as Mueller does not discover a ‘smoking gun’, as reaching the 60-vote threshold the Senate requires for impeachment is going to be extraordinarily difficult.

This should be of particular concern as the health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes into question. Should Justice Ginsburg, who is 85, pass or have to resign before 2020, Trump could easily slip in an ultra-conservative nominee. This would render the Court radically conservative for a generation, making any future Democratic presidency a nightmare.

So while Democrats may be rejoicing their House wins, and the sweeps in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, they should remember the primary lesson of this midterm: Trump is still inspiring his base. The 2020 election will be a fight, and if Democrats think he’s going to be easy to beat, they can expect a repeat of 2016.

 

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