Is Congress Due for a Red Wave?

By Esther Fultz

Presidential elections get a lot of attention, both by the media and voters. Midterm elections, while less publicized, play an equally important role, giving Americans the opportunity to rearrange the political makeup of Congress, both in the House and the Senate. With midterm elections approaching this year, Americans are already discussing possibilities and predicting outcomes.

“Historically, it is more common that the party represented in the White House will lose seats in Congress in the midterms,” said Dr. Robert Clark, assistant professor of History at Cedarville University.

According to Clark, several factors point toward such an outcome in 2022, including the pandemic, which has impacted both congressional and presidential approval ratings.

“Biden came in as president with a strong agenda to help Congress work together between the parties and create bipartisan legislation,” Clark said.

While some success has been achieved in this area, much more has been promised. Whether the Democratic Party and the American public at large will be satisfied with these results remains to be seen.

“I think it will be a Republican year,” said Dr. Kevin Sims, senior professor of Political Science at Cedarville University. “A number of long-time serving Democrats in the House of Representatives have announced their retirement because they think they’re going to lose. I’m predicting a huge Republican turnover, and by that I mean anywhere from 60 to 80 seats.”

According to Sims, it’s not unusual for 20 to 30 seats in the House of Representatives to change in a normal year, and these trends are likely to be exaggerated due to the challenges associated with the first year of the Biden administration.

Sims and Clark agreed that outcomes in the Senate are difficult to predict. Clark mentioned divisions within the Republican Party as a determining factor in the election, describing what he considers three groups of Republicans: Trump-supporting populists, moderate business Republicans and traditional right-leaning conservatives.

“Currently, we have a 50/50 split in the Senate,” Sims said. “I think there is a strong possibility the Republicans will take control of the Senate just because everything else has gone so poorly for the Democrats, but I don’t think there will be anything like a 20- seat pickup.”

In respect to midterm preparation efforts, both Republicans and Democrats are urging voters to consider the past. Democrats are emphasizing the positive changes that have taken place within the last year while Republicans emphasize shortcomings of the Democratic Party and stress areas for improvement.

According to Clark, the Democratic party is trying to show that it’s the party of good governance and making progress. Highlighted achievements include leadership through the pandemic and passing legislation.

“The Democratic Party wants to show that its leadership has been handling current circumstances as effectively as possible, that it’s dangerous to switch jockeys in the middle of this horse race,” Clark said. Meanwhile, Republicans seek to draw attention to disunities that exist within the Democratic Party.

“The Democrats failed to pass their biggest legislative benefit package not because of the Republicans but because two Democrats refused to vote for it,” Clark said.

This is an easy opportunity for Republicans to criticize Democrats and remind the American public of what they will achieve as a result of working together as a party when they are in power.

Other common areas of Republican criticism include inflation rates and supply chain issues.

“Inflation is somewhere around 6-7% right now,” Sims said. “Prices are still rising, and the supply chain further complicates that. Currently, we have anywhere from 50 to 70 ships sitting off the coast of California just waiting to unload, and some of them have been there for over two months.”

These are pressing issues Sims believes Republicans want to work to address.

State elections are also a major focus in the 2022 midterms, with several governorships open, including Ohio’s. Just as American voters are evaluating President Biden and the Democratic Party to determine their loyalties in the midterm elections, voters from Ohio and elsewhere are analyzing their governors’ past decisions. Incumbent Ohio governor Mike DeWine is eligible to run for reelection, and there are also several new faces on the scene, including U.S. representative Jim Renacci and political unknown Joe Blystone.

According to Sims, the results of this race will be difficult to predict. However, it’s no secret Gov. DeWine has struggled to find support from many within his own party, similar to President Biden.

“Ohio is pretty much a Republican state, so on the face of it, Gov. DeWine should have an easy time getting reelected,” Sims said. “But he hasn’t been very popular. He’s been pretty hard-nosed on the vaccine, the mask mandates, closing down schools and lockdowns. It hasn’t played out well for a lot of people. A lot of Republicans are pretty mad at him.”

While Ohio’s state elections remain up in the air at this point, it’s worth noting that other recent state election results align with predictions for a national Republican takeover.

“Last year, a Republican governor was elected in Virginia for the first time in 10 years,” Sims said. “In New Jersey, the incumbent Democrat governor ran against a relatively unknown Republican and only barely won. This tells me the voters are looking for change.”

Both on a state and national level, the 2022 elections have strong implications for America’s future. As previously mentioned, if this Republican turnover plays out the way many Americans predict, newly elected representatives are likely to address issues such as inflation and supply chain concerns. Given differences of opinion between the parties regarding issues such as vaccine mandates and welfare spending, it will be interesting to potentially see more Republicans working with the president. While this may be helpful in achieving the president’s goals for bipartisan legislation and cooperation, it’s also possible these differences in opinion will hinder progress toward any constructive goals.

“In more recent decades, since the Clinton era, there’s been increasing animosity that leads to government gridlock when you have a president of a different party than Congress or when the houses of Congress are controlled by opposite parties,” Clark said. “If that happens, it’s not going to bode well for the next election cycle. It’s going to be a rancorous election cycle again.”

Esther Fultz is a sophomore Social Work major and an Off-Campus and On-Campus writer for Cedars. She enjoys writing songs, spending time outdoors, drinking coffee and hanging with friends.

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