What actually happened in the US mid-term elections?

Three weeks ago, I attended a lecture at London’s City Literary Institute to discuss what was at stage in the United States mid-term elections of 6 November and this week there was a follow-up lecture to examine the actual results. Both lectures were given by the college principal Mark Malcolmson.

Not all the results are in and there will need to be further detailed analysis, but the broad contours are clear.

As expected, the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives where all 435 seats were up for election. They needed to gain 23 seats and have made a net gain 27, picking up 29 Republican seats but losing two of their own. In the popular vote, the Democrats beat the Republicans by about seven percentage points. So, not a ‘blue wave’ but a solid result.

It was always unlikely that the Democrats would take the Senate, where a third (35) of seats was being contested, because they already held a large majority of the seats at stake (26). In fact, the Republicans have picked up at least two more seats, improving their previously very small majority. But they only polled 33 million votes in those races against the Democrats’ 45 million.

There were elections for 36 state governors. The Democrats took Kansas, New Mexico, Michigan, Nevada, Illinois and (particularly satisfying) Wisconsin, but failed in Florida and Georgia (where they had terrific, but black, candidates).

There were votes on all sorts of propositions too. In Florida, they voted to restore the right to vote to felons which will increase the electorate by 1.4 million. In Colorado, they voted to abolish slavery (honest).

Turnout was exceptionally high for mid-term elections. It was around 47% which is some 10 percentage points up on the norm.

Americans like to think of their political system as a beacon of democracy, but gerrymandering and voter suppression substantially distort results and a Senate where every state has two seats considerably favours the Republicans.

To conclude: the major development is the Democrats taking the House of Representatives which means that they can block Trump’s legislation and instigate enquiries into his affairs. This is the famed system of ¬†‘checks and balances’ playing its vital role. The excitement continues …


 




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