Democrats secured the majority of House seats in Tuesday’s Midterm elections, ending Republican majority rule in Washington and giving them the power to determine the course of the nation’s agenda for the next two years.
Democrats took control of the House by securing 235 seats, only 17 more than the needed 218 for a majority. The Republican party secured 197 seats, giving up 30 of their previously held seats, according to The New York Times.
The now-majority Democratic party secured key districts from Florida to Arizona; of the 80 total key races, 29 districts flipped from Republican to Democrat in this election.
This sort of party change in midterm elections tends to be pretty typical after a presidential election. This election in particular, however, may have more meaning to people, Cal Poly political science lecturer Douglas Pierce said.
“First of all, the big picture is that this typically happens in midterm elections, so the party that’s in power usually takes a hit at the polls,” Pierce said. “On one hand, what we saw last night wasn’t all that unusual, but given the current political climate in our country … there might be a greater meaning to this election.”
Since Republicans still hold the majority of the Senate, one of the largest effects that could come out of this election is more partisan gridlock, Pierce said.
“It’s just gonna be that much harder to get anything passed because everything has to go through both Houses and then everything has to be compromised on between the two and it depends on what the Democrat’s governing strategy is,” Pierce said. “So, if they really do wanna work with Trump and wanna find middle ground and compromise, then it might be a workable, divided government. My instinct is that it’s not gonna be very workable.”
While on a national level the House flipping to Democrat will result in more partisan gridlock, it is very unlikely that it will have any effect on San Luis Obispo, since the congressional incumbent for the district, Salud Carbajal, was reelected. However, the intensified partisanship could affect people locally in their interpersonal relationships, Pierce said.
“Everyone has their personal stake in the matter, in the sense of who they’re rooting for and who they’re supporting. Just the regular transfer of power won’t affect us policy-wise, but it will affect us in our relationships with our friends, our social networks, on social media,” Pierce said. “This is probably gonna make a lot of Republicans upset and Democrats happy, and so there might be some more tense moments at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”
The new Democratic majority has pledged to provide a check on President Trump’s power, which could include a subpoena into unanswered questions of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
On Wednesday, Trump announced the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, will now be in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether or not Trump is guilty of conspiring with Russia, according to NBC News.
The president announced on Wednesday intent to use a “warlike posture” against Democrats if they use their majority in the House to investigate his economic or political involvements.
“The House of Representatives will hold hearing and subpoena things. We’ve already seen that Donald Trump is not going to cooperate with those investigations or will probably work very hard to undermine them,” Cal Poly political science lecturer Scott Englund said. “I would suspect that he’ll pick an Attorney General that is more aligned with that thinking than maybe Jeff Sessions was. I would expect that it would be very contentious, very divisive next couple of years.”
Fine arts freshman Beatrice Astle, on the other hand, sees the recent political split of Congress as a good thing and a check on Trump, despite the possible political gridlock. Astle said she still isn’t hopeful Trump’s “polarizing” and “hostile” rhetoric will help the bipartisanship of government.
“Trump was obviously committing all of these super conservatives to different positions and I think that part of our democracy is having a difference in opinion and control,” Astle said. “I think that people need to focus less on the labels of Democrat and Republican and focus more on the issues, and I don’t know if that’s gonna get done with the split of the Senate and the House.”
While Cal Poly recently won the Secretary of State’s Ballot Bowl, with more students registering to vote than at any other participating California college, civil engineering freshman Emily LaDue still believes that young people aren’t voting enough.
“People think … ‘oh one vote doesn’t make a difference’, but in the races I was keeping up on, it was really close. All the people who didn’t go in to vote, that really did make an impact,” LaDue said. “Everyone who is voting and is older probably [doesn’t] have the same views as you, so what you think probably isn’t gonna be encouraged.”
Historically, voter turnout for people 18 to 24 tends to average in the 20 percent range, according to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE). However, for the 2018 midterm elections, CIRCLE estimates that youth turnout was around 31 percent, making this the highest level of midterm youth-voter turnout in the last 25 years.
“It’s especially important for our generation because we are the ones who are most impacted by the current government, especially in terms of the environment,” Astle said. “I feel like a lot of times older generations vote more than younger generations because they know the impact that it can have.”