After two years of fervent anticipation and excitement by many, the 2018 midterm elections finally came and went here in Minnesota. The final political pitches were given, the polls opened and the votes were cast. At the time of writing there are some races that are still left to be determined. But with the information we have now, we can have a reasonable expectation of what the next few years might have in store for us as a state and a nation.
As this was the first regular election I was old enough to vote in, it was especially interesting to see the dynamic that took place this election cycle. Being on a college campus, I could also see how my peers were perceiving and reacting to the campaign as well. Overall, like during the 2016 election, there was a lot of engagement this time around. However, this being a midterm year makes that engagement even more encouraging, and perhaps surprising.
It’s a common trend that voter turnout falls significantly during midterm years compared with when we elect the president. And it does make sense, generally the presidential race is covered extensively nationwide and it is easy to pay attention to and formulate opinions about the candidates in just one race. During the midterms, when the House of Representatives, Senate seats, and state and local races don’t have a Presidential race to pull them along, it’s easy for some people to miss out on the importance of these races on their own merit as well.
These midterms were anything but ordinary, as the turnout increased dramatically compared with the last midterms in 2014. Though exact numbers are not yet totaled, this is the first midterm election to exceed 100 million voters. About 48 percent of eligible voters turned out this year nationwide according to the New York Times, compared with only around 36 percent in 2014. This is still less than the presidential election in 2016, although, that garnered about 56 percent turnout.
So perhaps this is a sign of more public involvement in the voting process, or a rebuke of the status quo? We won’t know for sure. If the goal was to break the partisan deadlock, things may be about to become more heated in Washington, D.C., and in St. Paul. On the state level, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party statewide candidates swept the board, with the top job of governor going to Tim Walz. In the state legislature, the DFL flipped the state House of Representatives in their favor, while the Republicans kept control of the state Senate with the election of Jeff Howe in our local special election. Democrats now have the governor’s mansion and the state House, but divided government will continue here as it has since the beginning of outgoing Governor Dayton’s second term.
On the federal level, the highly favorable Senate map for the Republicans ended up making both houses of Congress move in opposite directions. The Democrats took the House of Representatives and look to have a fairly large majority to advance their agenda opposed to Republican President Donald Trump. However, the Republicans look to gain up to three seats in the Senate with the announcement of final results, setting up for a strong showdown in Washington for the next two years.
What remains to be seen though, is how deep these partisan divisions will go, and how long they will last. Granted divided government is not always the most efficient situation, but it can perhaps temper the passions of each side and make sure that some real, good bipartisan legislation is passed to mutual benefit. With preparations now gearing up for the presidential election in 2020, this time period will be important to watch to see who will earn your vote two years down the road.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.