Midterm elections usually favor the opposition, but will 2022 affect history?
History suggests that the Democratic Party’s narrow control of both houses of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives – could end after the midterm elections in November.
But the Supreme Court’s unpopular, conservative decision to end a woman’s constitutional right to abortion could be the catalyst driving history.
“Historically, the president’s political party has always lost seats in Congress in midterm elections,” says Mark Rozelle, dean and professor of politics and government at George Mason University in Virginia. “So if this is just a normal normal midterm election year, we would expect the Republicans to make very significant gains, especially given that the historical pattern is not only in favor of the Republicans, but that there is a relatively unpopular Democratic president.”
Midterm elections take place in the middle of the president’s four-year term. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives — where members serve two-year terms — and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate are up for grabs. Across the country, there are seats in several state legislatures and about half of the nation’s governors are also on the ballot.
Bolstered by Democratic control of Congress, President Joe Biden scored a string of legislative victories and signed bills into law to strengthen gun controls, overhaul American infrastructure, combat climate change, and reduce drug prices. The results of the midterm elections will affect his ability to continue implementing his agenda for the country during the second half of his term.
“the majority [party in Congress] “They control who gets appointed to which committees, and … they’ll determine what gets thrown on the floor,” says Mary Brennan, professor of history and dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas State University. “Assuming the other side of the president’s party is in control, they can disrupt the president’s agenda.”
Over the past century, the president’s party has won seats in the midterm elections only three times. First, in 1934 during the Great Depression when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was Commander-in-Chief; in 1998 after the impeachment of President Bill Clinton; And in 2002, shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
“In each of these three cases, there was a very strong support for the incumbent president: the Great Depression in 1934. The unpopularity of the Clinton impeachment led by the Republicans. Then the enormous popularity of George W. Bush in 2002 after the 9/11 attack.” So, These are three truly exceptional circumstances. And in the past 100 years, in every other midterm election, the party that controls the White House has lost seats, usually by a significant number.”
Voter turnout in midterm elections is usually much lower than it was during presidential elections. Fifty-three percent of eligible voters voted in 2018, but that was the highest midterm turnout in four decades. In 2014, only 41.9% of eligible voters cast ballots during the midterm elections, while 66.8% of eligible citizens voted in the 2020 presidential election.
“The reason midterms don’t usually go the ruling party’s way is because their supporters are satisfied, and so they stay home,” says Brennan. “And it’s the unhappy and angry people who come out during the midterms.”
What is the voter weight?
Republicans hope that voters will punish Democrats for decades-high inflation, economic uncertainty, uncontrolled immigration across the US-Mexico border, America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and other factors. Democrats hope their track record in Washington and former President Donald Trump’s continued prominence in national headlines will energize their core supporters and push them to the polls.
“We have some circumstances in this quite unusual election cycle that could push voting decisions in a different direction than usual,” he said.” Rozelle says. These are the things history just can’t capture… The Supreme Court’s abortion decision may just be a case in point this year. This may have changed the dynamics of a number of highly competitive congressional races this year in favor of the Democrats, since the Supreme Court’s decision is deeply unpopular across the country.”
More mundane, hard-to-quantify factors will also come into play during next November’s midterm vote, Brennan says.
People tend to think it doesn’t make much difference. It is not a presidential election. Not all campaigns have been seen. “They don’t know,” she says. It could also be something like the weather. It could be, “It’s raining.” I can’t get out on this. It’s very hot. I can’t stand in line. It could be, “I don’t have a trip to the polls, and will they close before I leave for work?”
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