With midterm elections around the corner, pollsters predict Republicans will win a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives. On Nov. 2, FiveThirtyEight predicted an 85 in 100 chance of Republicans winning the House majority, and the RealClearPolitics average had Republicans at a 3-point lead over Democrats in the generic congressional ballot.
Historically, this is nothing new. The president’s political party has almost always lost seats in the House because midterm elections are often a referendum against the ruling political party, blaming them for the current state of the economy, the current state of foreign affairs, crime rates or any other relevant issues.
In the 19 midterm elections since the end of World War II, the party that controls the White House has lost seats in the House of Representatives 17 times. Additionally, the ruling party lost 27 seats on average, and Republicans only need nine this year to flip the House.
However, even if the Republicans do take back the House and Democrats maintain the Senate, the government will be divided. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will be able to pass anything without the other side reaching across the aisle in some sort of compromise.
In the aftermath of this election, the most likely difference will be that in the case of a Republican-controlled House, we will likely see congressional investigations into the Biden Administration, abortion bans that will die in the Senate, and refusal to act on Biden’s legislative proposals. All this is to say that a divided government will simply stagnate the Democratic agenda and cut Biden at the knees, making him a lame-duck president for the rest of his term.
On the other hand, the Senate majority is not as easy to predict. The race relies on the outcome of several close elections in specific states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia. The FiveThirtyEight prediction is close, at a 53 in 100 chance of Republicans winning the Senate majority.
And even if the Republicans do take control of the Senate, the Senate filibuster would prevent Republican Senators from passing any legislation without a few Democrats voting alongside them. Republican Senators may be able to block Biden’s judicial or administrative nominees, but that would require moderate Republicans like Susan Collins to vote with her party, depending on the size of the Republican majority. Seeing that she and a few other senators voted for Justice Jackson’s confirmation, that’s not likely.
The only way Republicans can theoretically pass legislation is as a budgetary measure through the reconciliation process but that could be vetoed by Biden. While the veto could be overridden by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, such Republican majorities seem unlikely.
Regardless, if Republicans do take either the House or the Senate, it would be because this election is a clear repudiation of the ruling political party and the policies they have passed.
Despite the overturning of Roe v. Wade just months before the midterm election, I believe the most pressing issue for Americans in this election is undeniably the economy and high inflation rates. A recent national poll by Pew Research found that the economy is a “very important” issue for registered voters.
More specifically, the national survey found that 73% of registered voters are “very” concerned with the price of food and consumer goods, 69% are “very” concerned with the price of gasoline and energy and 60% are “very” concerned with the cost of housing.
With the Democrats currently in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, the finger of public opinion is pointed at their leadership and the fiscal policies they enacted within two years. Earlier this year, an April poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies found that 73% of respondents found that the primary cause for high prices was increased government spending, and 61% blame Biden and his policies.
Combine this sentiment with Biden’s underwater approval ratings at 42.5%, and Republicans can take at least one chamber of Congress by painting themselves as a viable obstacle to Biden’s legislative agenda.
So in this altered political landscape, the big takeaway is that politicians must understand the mandate people give them.
One of the biggest reasons President Biden and the Democrats won the White House and control of Congress was that the 2020 election was a referendum against Donald Trump’s four years in office.
If Republicans do win unilateral or partial control of Congress, the Democrats should reevaluate their political positions and analyze why the public has lost confidence in their leadership. If anything, instead of doubling down on their political agenda, they should focus on understanding why large voting blocs of independent and Latine voters are gradually moving across the political aisle. The very idea that Oregon may have a Republican governor for the first time in 40 years is reason enough for Democrats to step back and assess their political platform.
Hopefully, this election is a wake-up call to politicians about where citizens stand. The mark of effective political leadership is understanding and acting on the people’s will, and the way I see it, Democrats might just lose power because they failed to do exactly that.