Chances are high that the midterm elections have been covered in almost every newspaper and magazine throughout the course of this autumn season. There’s a reason why. Congressional elections that are held in the middle of a president’s term are essentially referendum on the president’s politics and there’s a distinct history of these elections not reflecting lightly on those policies. In fact, only twice has the sitting president’s party gained more seats in the midterm elections.
But why is that?
Surely if a president is elected through the democratic system, voters are likely to be satisfied with their policies and will want to continue to vote in that party. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most voters suffer from apathy, and think that their vote doesn’t matter (link to your article here, Jo). They believe that the presidential election is the most important and that therefore it doesn’t matter who is elected in Congress. Other voters are angry. They are the disenfranchised part of the population whose party was not elected to the presidency and they vote accordingly.
Here are some notable midterm elections:
1938: After campaigning for the New Deal, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt hoped to gain seats for his party, the Democrats. War loomed in Europe, and the American economy was just beginning to raise its head from the Great Depression. However, his pleas for support were ignored and the Republicans gained 81 seats, taking the majority
1974: In the wake of President Nixon’s resignation, President Gerald Ford was in office during the midterms of 1974, granting Nixon a pardon that September as the country was going through an energy crisis. In total, the Republicans lost 63 seats in Congress.
1994: President Bill Clinton lost heavily in his first midterm election as the Republicans campaigned for the Contract for America. The Democrats lost 60 seats in total in both the House and Senate. Keep in mind that his affair and subsequent impeachment took place in 1995 and had nothing to do with this first midterm loss.
2002: This midterm election was an exceptional year, completely bucking the trend of midterm losses. After the impact of September 11, President George Bush and the Republicans swept through the polls, winning ten seats in total.
2010: After his first two years in office, President Barack Obama received a referenda for his actions at the polls, and in his own words, it was a “shellacking.” In total, the Democrats lost 69 seats in the House and Senate.
2018: This year, we don’t yet know the outcome of the midterm elections and each side is convinced that their party will sweep the polls. History can tell us that it is likely that the Democrats will gain seats in Congress if more angry voters come to the polls than satisfied voters. However, this presidency has been anything but ordinary. Hopefully, we can rely on history to give us a better picture of what is to come.
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