Unlike in the UK, where we sit twiddling our thumbs waiting for a General Election before, like buses, two come along in quick succession, over in America the democratic process is rather more concrete.
The mid-term elections, which took place this week, signal the halfway point of a presidential reign, and offer a flavour of how the political landscape reflects the first two years of the incumbent’s command.
On this occasion, the mid-terms were eagerly anticipated in that they would hold up a mirror to how society views the, erm, ‘bullish’ reign of Donald Trump thus far.
And the result was fairly convincing. The Democrats, who oppose Trump’s Republican party, regained control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, although the Republications maintained their stranglehold on the Senate.
House of Representatives? The Senate? Yes, the two strands of American politics can be difficult to fathom out, so let’s take a look at the mid-term elections 2018 in greater detail and see if Trump should be concerned (as if he’d have that much self-awareness!) ahead of the presidential election of 2020.
House Rules Limit Trump Power
It should be said that the opposition party often tends to do well in the mid-terms.
Why? Because voting is an emotive subject, and often it is the contrary view that gets bums off seats and down to the voting station.
That said, it was still a damning indictment of Trump’s clumsy presidency so far that the Democrats enjoyed such huge gains in the House.
They now dominate the 435-seat chamber, securing a majority of 26 seats, and that allows them to wield power in ways that could damage Trump’s grip on the White House.
They can also block some of his more ‘regressive’ ideas, like building a wall along the Mexican border, in a legislative sense, and can launch investigations into the president’s business dealings; including his controversial tax dealings and occasional conflicts of interest.
Not that Mr Trump himself is having that. “If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!” was what he tweeted earlier in the week:
If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 7 November 2018
Power in the House of Representatives gives the Democrats a chance to disrupt American politics, rather than overtly influencing policy.
But it’s the first big step on the journey back to the White House in 2020.
Can the Democrats Impeach Trump?To cut a long story short, the Democrats do now have the power to start up impeachment processes against the president.
You only need a majority in the House to make that a possibility, and so there will be plenty of blue support for such a motion if it came about.
Historically, impeachment processes are few and far between – it can backfire on the opposition – but if upcoming investigations into any of Trump’s right-hand men and women, or any Russian involvement in the election, reveal damning evidence then impeachment is a possibility.
Senate Control Pumps Trump’s Tyres
The mid-terms often as confirmation of a president’s power, even if voter turnout is typically lower than during the main elections.
And so by tightening his grip on the Senate, Trump has retained much of his support in the key battlegrounds of American politics.
He is also able to add personally-appointed judges to the courts to the federal system, and senior administrative personnel can be appointed without Democratic intervention.
Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration and foreign policy will continue to garner Senate-level support too, which will help to keep voters on side ahead of 2020.
So What Happens Now?
Not a lot, truth be told, with Congress not reconvening until January 2019.
There will be plenty of new faces and new battles to be wagered, and attention will turn to the main presidential election in 2020.
The mid-terms delivered positives and negatives for both parties, and much of the electioneering for the next election will be derived from that. The Democrats will point to their House win and suggest that it’s a reflection of the appetite for more liberal politics in the US, while Trump can laud hid enhanced mandate thanks to Senate gains.
The president can also blame the Democrats if ‘things don’t get done’, with blocks and legislative interference often a classic excuse for incumbents battling an opposition House.
The Republicans also did well in swinging states like Florida and Ohio, so the mid-terms will probably be classed as something akin to a score draw by both parties.