2014 Midterm Elections Recap: A Republican Wave
Heading into this year’s congressional and gubernatorial elections, most analysts expected a good showing from the GOP, given the country’s continually slow economic rebound and President Obama’s middling, and falling, approval rating. On Tuesday night, we learned the just what the extent of the Republican Party’s big night was.
And simply put, it was a rout. After the 2010 midterm elections, President Obama described the outcome as a “shellacking” for Democrats. While this election will likely have a much less dramatic effect on how the nation is governed, the results were not much better for the Democrats. Conservative politicians and advising teams largely adopted the strategy of making the election a referendum on Obama’s presidency and the Democrats’ leadership-and their tactic proved wildly successful.
The Republicans gained control of the Senate, picking up at least seven seats and winning almost every closely contested race. While the GOP was always likely to capture Democrat-held seats in ruby red states like Arkansas, Alaska and West Virginia, Republican candidates also managed to win in states that President Obama carried comfortably in 2012 such as Iowa and Colorado. The Republicans’ dominance also extended into the various governors’ races around the country, with previously embattled governors like Florida’s Rick Scott and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker winning their re-election campaigns. Current polling results show that the Republicans will likely have 53 senators (to the Democrats’ 44), now control 31 governorships, and maintain their commanding control of the House. All things considered, these results clearly put the GOP in a good position heading into what is sure to be a more competitive 2016 presidential election.
What might these results actually affect in in Washington, D.C.? In the short term at least, not much. U.S. citizens are faced with the same basic situation of the last four years: divided government. While it is true that the Republicans should now be able to move their bills through both chambers of Congress with greater ease, observers should still expect ever-more partisan gridlock due to the presidential power of veto.
An unpopular president seeking to solidify his legacy and an antagonistic Congress determined to change the way of the government’s “business as usual” seems like an unlikely combination leading to any significant legislation or reform. However, the similarly implausible pairing of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich saw some meaningful results in the 1990’s which may give Americans hope. With immigration reform probably off the table due to the aversion of newly-elected Republicans of alienating their base, small economic, regulatory, and structural reforms may be the best bets to create opportunities for cooperation between the parties.
Escaping the Republican narrative for a moment, other notable results came by way of specific policies that arrived on voter’s ballots in several states. The other big winner of the night turned out to be the case for raising the minimum wage, which won in four conservative states. Marijuana activists and advocates on both sides of the abortion issue faced mixed results, with Californians perhaps finding greatest interest in Oregon’s new legalization of cannabis and its unknown effect on California’s own drug policies and usage rates.
As November 4th fades into memory this year yet again, Americans have made their political choices on wide array of different offices and policies. Time will tell if they have chosen wisely.