This Tuesday, Americans will go to the polls in one of the most contentious elections in decades. To find a time when Americans were more angry and polarized than they are now, you’d probably have to go back to 1968, another marked by racial tensions, bombings and violence.
This election won’t have the same impact - unlike 1968, this election does not include a race for the Presidency - but it could see a result similar to 1994. That election saw the GOP, led by Newt Gingrich, grab 54 seats from the Democrats in the so-called “Republican Revolution.”
Why is this election so contentious?
There is no “one” reason, although it’s safe to say most of issues at stake in this election have one common denominator - US President Donald Trump. Over the last two years, Trump has been a lightning rod for controversy, including, but not limited to, women’s rights (including the #metoo movement), economic protectionism, immigration, the environment, foreign policy, guns, media bashing, health care, and just about every racial issue that exists in the US, from white supremacy on down.
These issues have all repeatedly boiled over during the first two years of the Trump presidency, resulting in a never-ending stream of protests, counter-protests, and more anger.
Another factor contributing to the anger is the use of social media. Facebook and Twitter have both been trying - and failing - to stem the constant stream of propaganda on their sites, but that hasn’t stopped “fake news” from having real-world consequences on multiple occasions, such as shootings and bombing, and bizarre conspiracy theories, such as QAnon and PizzaGate.
What’s at stake?
Even though this isn’t a presidential election - that’s not until 2020 - there are still 470 races at the Federal level, which include 35 races in the US Senate and the other 435 in the House. There are also thousands of state-level elections, including 36 races for state governor.
What are the issues?
Despite the rhetoric, the main issue in the election is not Trump, although he’s likely to have spoken out (or tweeted) on all of them. Arguably - because the issues vary state to state - the biggest issue in the election is health care. Other significant issues include education, guns, taxes, and jobs.
Who is going to win in the US Senate?
The Republicans are likely to hold on to the US Senate, simply because the majority of Republicans in the Senate are not up for re-election. A third of the Senate is up for election every two years, and in 2018, most of those Senators are Democrats. Polling site fivethirtyeight.com gives the Republicans an 84 per cent chance of holding the Senate, with the most likely outcome being the GOP holding 51 seats to the Democrats’ 49.
Who is going to win the House?
The House is where things could get interesting. Most pollsters won’t argue over who is going to win; instead, it’s a question of how much. According to fivethirtyeight.com, Democrats are expect to pick up as many as 59 seats, although 38 is a more likely gain. Democrats need 23 to gain a majority. Currently, Democrats have almost an 86 percent chance of winning control of the House back from the Republicans.
What does it all mean?
If the Democrats gain a majority in the House, it will mean problems for the GOP and Trump. The House controls the government’s purse strings, and its ability to launch investigations into Trump’s activities in the White House will certainly hinder the president. We might even see an impeachment, although with the Republicans in control of the Senate, Trump will likely remain in office until 2020.
That means we’re looking at another two years of highly partisan politics in the US. With each party controlling a chamber of Congress, political gridlock is likely to be the order of the day. That means the stakes will likely be in higher in 2020, and the politics just as nasty.