Key Takeaways From the Midterm Elections

November 08, 2018

"I Voted" sticker with Main College Building in the background.

Ambassador (ret) William M. Bellamy, Warburg Professor of International Relations, shares his thoughts on the midterm elections.

There's no question that the United States is experiencing one of the most divided political climates in decades. Both Democrats and Republicans went to the polls in hopes of reclaiming or solidifying their party's power in Washington D.C. 

To help make sense of the midterms, the Department of Political Science & International Relations and the Warburg Program hosted the panel discussion: "The 2018 Midterm Elections: What happened? What happens next?" Here's a glimpse at Professor Bellamy's key takeaways from that event. 


MOST DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN DOLLARS CAME FROM SMALL DONORS

Big donors and dark money don't seem to have mattered much throughout this election cycle. In most high-profile races across the country, Democrats raised and spent more money on candidates than Republicans, often by large margins. Most of this money came from small contributors. 


THE "BLUE WAVE" DIDN'T HAPPEN

The long anticipated "Blue Wave" did not arrive, in large part because GOP voters were energized late in the campaign, almost certainly by President Trump's intensive campaigning. The President's rhetoric was exceptionally negative, focused less on issues or the qualities of the candidates he was endorsing than on fear-mongering and scapegoating.  


REPUBLICANS WILL CONTINUE TO SUPPORT PRESIDENT TRUMP

Many in the GOP accept President Trump's claim that he thwarted the Blue Wave. Republicans in both the House and Senate are now likely to close ranks even more tightly behind President Trump, providing him with an uncritical and obedient legislative base. In particular, the Senate will be even less inclined than before to act as a constitutional check against executive overreach.


DEMOCRATS WILL NEED A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY FOR 2020

Democrats now control the House because they flipped seats in historically "red" districts. Can they expect to retain these seats in 2020? To do so, Democrats need a well-thought out, comprehensive strategy which may be hard for the party to construct. For example, some key decisions the Democratic Party will need to make are the following:

  • Do they keep the unpopular Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker and party leader? 
  • Will they take up President Trump's challenge to work with him to pass "bipartisan" legislation?
  • Will they prioritize investigations into governmental corruption, conflicts of interests and President Trump's Russia connections?  

Big decisions are needed soon.