So, the results are in and much political hay is being made. The Republicans took the Senate and now control both the Senate and the House. They also took a great handful over governorships, including the governorship of Massachusetts. Despite all the notes below, it is worth looking at this link – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/11/04/5-maps-that-perfectly-illustrate-the-red-blue-divide/. This demonstrates how, actually, red and blue America live side by side, a point often forgotten when looking at the electoral maps where whole states are one colour.
There are obviously a barrel-full of examples available from these mid-terms but this post will try to condense the key points and links into one handy guide. These elections are going to be key fodder for your exams as, obviously, these are the last elections before both the 2015 and 2016 summer examinations series.
1. Gridlock and Divided Government (bi/partisanship?) (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-29412354)
It has been an accepted norm since the 1960’s that divided government is more commonplace. As with Bush in 2006, Obama now faces two-years of a completely opposition dominated Congress. Mitch McConnell, the new Senate Majority Leader, laid down the gauntlet to Obama, saying he will challenge his policies on coal and healthcare amongst others. Indeed an article on the New Republic advocated Harry Reid filibustering everything the Republicans put forward! (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120131/harry-reid-should-copy-mitch-mcconnells-use-filibuster). Whatever the case, it likely to see a decrease in bipartisanship, despite Obama’s invite to Congressional leaders to meet later this week.
2. Lame Duck Presidents (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-29908199)
It is commonly touted that a lame duck president will occur, if at all, at the sixth year of a presidency. This is often because in the eighth year, the public are more interested in who will be next so the sixth year can be described as a referendum on the current President. In the case of Obama, his poor poll ratings have been much touted as the reason for this result. However, it could be argued he was a lame duck before this (see 2013 shutdown), or indeed that this will actually strength him – it will be much easier to criticise and blame Congress now it is wholly of the opposition party. Many Democrats did not want Obama to come and campaign for them in their State as he was considered so unpopular (http://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/2014-elections-republican-senate-112569.html?hp=f3). Certainly, he has ground to make up! (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/where-did-obama-go-wrong/2014/11/03/f0196c0a-61e2-11e4-8b9e-2ccdac31a031_story.html)
3. Elections, Money and the Supreme Court (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-echochambers-29821328)
This was the most expensive mid-term in history, at nearly $4bn (http://www.channel4.com/news/midterms-us-democrat-republican-begich-perdue-davies-grimes). This has a clear relevance to campaign finance but also points to the impact of Supreme Court cases such as Citizens United v FEC 2010, and therefore could also be used as an example of the impact of replacing Day O’Connor with Roberts.
4.States still matter.
The importance of governorships serves to demonstrate how important States within America are today. The Constitution lends sovereignty to the States and they have a considerable amount of power to direct their own policy. Therefore the importance of retaining governorships is crucial and the fact that these positions are making international news demonstrates the importance of these roles.
5.The Make-Up of the Senate has changed little (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/2014-midterms/senate-demographics/)
One of the areas in the Congressional topic (Unit 4) is looking at the demographics of Congress. Despite more women than ever before being elected, topping 100 for the first time, in the Senate the demographics have changed little and are as unrepresentative as ever.
6. Initiatives and Propositions (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-29910979)
These elections were about more than just seats, with laws on minimum wages and marijuana also on ballot papers and are therefore a good example of these. “Washington DC and Oregon voters approved measures legalising marijuana for personal use and a vote permitting medical marijuana in Florida fell short of the required 60% threshold. Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota – all states dominated by Republicans – voted to raise the minimum wage. Colorado and North Dakota elected Republicans but also rejected anti-abortion measures that would have given “personhood” rights to foetuses.”
7. 2016 is now firmly front and centre (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/10/16-charts-that-explain-2016-112307.html?ml=m_pm#.VFoD7ha6TTo)
The invisible primary has notably been growing in recent years, but this year it does seem to be in full swing even before these midterms. This article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/hillary-clintons-45-events-in-54-days-midterm-stops-and-maybe-a-2016-preview/2014/11/03/fed9688c-63a2-11e4-9fdc-d43b053ecb4d_story.html) tracks Hillary Clinton’s 45 various State visits in 54 days.