Blue Wave Washes into the House of Representatives


Cade Heikes, Staff Writer

The 2018 midterm elections had emotions running high with both parties warning of Armageddon, but in fact we are all still alive, surviving yet another ‘most important election ever.’ The 116th congress will be the nation’s most diverse yet, and will have new demographics that will shape federal law making for the next two years. Here is a run-down of our new Congress.

Republicans made gains in the senate, increasing their majority from 52-48 to 53-47. The Democrats, however took back the House of Representatives, creating a divided congress. There are 111 freshman lawmakers, 67 of whom are Democrats and the other 44 Republicans. 60 percent of the seats the Democrats flipped in the House were women. The Senate will be 25% female, and the House 23%. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), age 29, was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

The House gained 23 people who identify to be of color; the Senate gained none. There are now 55 black congresspersons and 44 Hispanic or Latino. The 116th Congress will also now have three Muslims, including the first Muslim women, two Buddhists and three Hindus. Almost 88% of the new congress identifies as Christian (Protestant or Catholic), which is down from 91%.

This is a plethora of raw data, but at the end of the day the Republicans will vote republican and the Democrats democratic. The Congress surely looks different, but the party line divide will remain. A Republican vote in the senate counts just as much as from one race as from any other race obviously. From a political science perspective however, racial, religious and gender representation makes voters feel good, regardless of its effect on policy making or lack thereof. This is something that must be taken into account by the political parties, especially the Republicans. At some point they will have to find quality candidates of diversity if they wish to keep getting elected to office. The Democrats, on the other hand naturally have a strength here.

The 116th Congress mainly resulted from strong political strategy from the Democratic party. Moderates from both sides were attracted to the health care aspect of the party’s platform, promising Medicaid and Medicare expansion. Additionally, the Democrats pulled the suburban votes from white women better than they have in a long time. This seems to be a direct backlash to President Trump’s actions and words in his personal life that have demonized and degraded women. It is clear that Democrats have found a way to tap into historically Republican voters, with help from Trump. The Republicans have two roads: do the same to the Democrats, for example find some way to get votes from the 97% of black women who voted Democratic, or re-secure their base through candidates who appeal back to the white suburban mom.

The Democrat’s success can hardly be characterized by the grand blue wave that was projected. They had extremely good voter turnout, but fell short of making progress in the senate. Their strategy should revolve around continuing to appeal to independents and moderate Republicans. This takes form in avoiding far-left candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; moderate Republicans are fleeing extremism on the right, so if it comes down to two extreme candidates they will vote to the right. It would be much wiser for moderate Democrats to welcome them with open arms.

The new congress tells a lot about the trend in politics and the action each party needs to take. 2020 will be the ultimate arbiter to decide the victor of political strategy, but for now we get two years of arguing and name calling to get through.