Opinion: Mid-term Elections Shake Up Congress

Tom Bonan, Opinions Editor

This year’s midterm cycle was one of the strangest in recent memory–which, as a whole, has already been a fairly bizarre time in American political history. The Republicans surged in the Senate and in state legislations, and even picked up a few seats in the House, creating distress for Democrats that were hoping to finish out this presidential term strong.

This election also saw measures to legalize recreational marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., and some fairly powerful gun-control legislation in Washington state, which was largely surprising given how well conservatives performed nationally.

Unlike the midterms of 2010, where Republicans saw major gains and took control of the House, this election did not have a central issue. The economy is growing (albeit slowly), the financial markets have recovered, unemployment is hovering around 6 percent, and President Barack Obama is making firm strides with regards to foreign policy (it can be argued that his tentativeness cost the Democrats, but foreign policy is not a major issue for senators and congressmen).

Since this summer, media pundits have been calling the election for Republicans, and resignation towards that prophetic attitude made this election seem destined to happen. Obama was largely absent from this year’s election cycle and many Democrats saw him as a liability that they needed to be distanced from, adding more tension to the mix.

While all might seem lost for Democrats or any sort of bipartisan agenda, there may be some silver lining to the results of this week. Midterms have historically favored the party that doesn’t hold the presidency and the last five presidents did not have their party control both chambers of Congress for the final two years of their administration. This election is far from a historical anomaly and, if anything, it comes across as fairly predictable.

The current circumstances really leave two courses of action: either there will be even greater partisanship and no bills will pass through both chambers (which is essentially what has been going on for most of Obama’s second term) or Republicans will come together with the president to draft legislation that would pass and be acceptable for all parties. Given that the new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prioritized making Obama a “one-term president” just a few years ago, I presume the former will probably be the case.

The Democrats must look out for the upcoming presidential election. I think that there will be a much stronger mobilization of their base in 2016 and even a potential backlash against the Republicans if, as a party, they continue to obstruct legislation and refuse to cooperate with the president (which could become a much more serious issue if they begin churning out legislation through cooperation between both chambers).

Surely this election was one of triumph and failure, but both major parties are witnessing historic changes occurring in the country and the next few cycles are definitely going to be more tumultuous and unpredictable than anything we’ve seen over the last decade or so.

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