US midterm elections: A blow, or clear win for Trump?

Muna Shikaki

Published: Updated:

A record number of American voters are participating in one of the most divisive and crucial midterm elections in recent history, widely considered a referendum on President Trump’s policies and fiery rhetoric.

The Democrats will need to capture 23 seats currently held by Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives, a likely possibility. The Senate, where only 35 seats are up for grabs, has a map that favors the Republicans.

In Fairfax County a crucial race between a Republican incumbent, Barbara Comstock and her Democratic challenger, Jennifer Wexton, is playing out. Wexton is part of a ‘blue wave’ of Democrats who are expected to flip the House. Polls show Wexton claiming the seat, which has been held by a Republican for over 30 years. Money from both sides has poured into the race, which broke the record for the most expensive race for a House seat in history. Fundraising for both candidates topped $11 million.

Democrats vs Republicans

Carol Harvey, a McLean resident who says she always votes for Democrats, stressed the importance of this year’s election, saying that “it’s critical, Republicans aren’t normal. I’m voting against the racism, the antisemitism and the violence.” Recently a gunman shot and killed several Jewish worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Democrats blamed the charged political atmosphere for the increase in anti-Semitism. And even though Harvey says none of the candidates particularly excite her, she is planning on voting for all the democratic nominees on the ballot.

Tom Mooney, a voter in the same district said he was casting his vote for the Republicans. “Trump needs help in Congress,” Mooney said, adding that he was “disappointed and embarrassed” by the way Democratic senators treated Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, during his confirmation hearings. “I just couldn’t believe it,” he said, referring to Senate hearings were held where Kavanaugh was accused of sexually assaulting a woman when they were both teenagers.

The results of the vote will be consequential for the last two years of Trump’s term and are considered a big indicator of his chances to be re-elected in 2020. Historical patterns and current polling shows the majority party, the Republicans in this case, losing seats during a midterm election.

Carol Burton, another Democratic voter says she voted against the Republicans: “We need a curb on Trump, there won’t be any checks on him if Republicans win.”

Democrats and ‘oversight’

Should the Democrats take back the House of Representatives, they would be in charge of setting the overall agenda for the chamber says Lara Brown, the director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. Democrats would control every committee and subcommittee in the House.

Since it seems unlikely that the Democrats will win the majority in the Senate, it also doesn't seem likely that the House will spend most of its time focused on passing legislation next year, because if bills “die” in the Senate before making it to the President’s desk, few will want to spend much time on bills that won’t become law, or at the very least, force the President to issue a veto.

As a result, most congressional analysts believe that the one thing that the Democrats in the House will be able to do without help from either the Senate or the President is “oversight.” Most notably, this would mean that Democrats would be able to investigate the President and his cabinet secretaries on a whole range of questionable decisions and issues.

“From obtaining Trump’s tax returns to investigating the trademarks his family has received from China to the profitability of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., to the question of Russian collusion in the 2016 election, the Democrats will be able request information from executive branch officials and private parties, using the power of a congressional subpoena and the threat of being held in contempt of Congress should one not comply. In short, should the Democrats take the House, we can expect more policy gridlock and the revelation of more political scandals,” Brown said.

Jay Ghazal, a political consultant and former Congressional aide says the Democratic majority in the House will also have some effects on Trump’s foreign policy: “The House will be able to vote to increase foreign aid, something the president has been cutting.” He says this may mean a resumption in funding for the Palestinian Authority.

The House may also be able to force the administration to clarify its policy on Syria, by holding hearings to revisit the issue. “Democrats will also demand the administration more aggressively push Saudi to halt its campaign in Yemen,” Ghazal says. On Iran however, there seems to be little disagreement between the two parties in favor of increased sanctions.