The Uphill Battle for Democrats

With two weeks left until the U.S. Presidential election, voters have grown exhausted. Not surprisingly, the bizarre Presidential election has overshadowed down-ballot races. Electing Clinton is only one piece of the political puzzle for the Democratic Party. While the election is important, the Democrats will nonetheless face a grueling legislative war if Hillary Clinton wants to successfully implement her agenda.

Despite facing an opponent that journalists are running out of words to describe, the largest battle for Democrats will be the Congressional elections that take place that same day. The congressional elections have received disproportionate media though they are critical to legislative outcomes in the possible Clinton presidency, especially since both chambers of Congress are currently Republican-controlled.

Party majorities in Congress are important because the Founding Fathers of the United States, fearing an absolutist government, set up a system using a drawn-out legislative process to counteract executive ‘ambition.’ In recent years, Republicans have taken advantage of the legislative process, hindering the Obama administration’s efforts to pass several initiatives. Senate Republicans managed to successfully filibuster the DREAM Act, a bipartisan immigration bill, as well as a bill to extend background checks for gun purchases. And when nominating a Supreme Court Justice this past year, one of the main duties of the President, Senate Republicans refused to even consider Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee. Republican obstructionism consequently forced Obama to implement his initiatives through executive orders, and without increased Democrat presence in Congress, Clinton will be forced to do the same. If the status quo in Congress remains, initiatives from the Clinton camp will be met with just as much, if not more (given Clinton’s bad reputation with Republicans), obstruction and political gridlock as witnessed during Barack Obama’s second term in the oval office.

It is projected that Republicans will most likely retain their stronghold in the House – currently the largest majority the Grand Ol’ Party has achieved since 1928, even with a Democrat in the White House. In fact, Republicans have controlled nine of the last eleven Houses of Representatives, which is largely attributed to gerrymandering efforts. Nevertheless, 34 of the 100 Senate seats will be up for grabs this upcoming November. And Democrats may have a chance to retake control of the Senate if they play their cards right.

Republicans currently control 54 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Of the 34 seats up for grabs, Democrats currently only hold 10. In order for the Democrats to take back control of the Senate, they must win at least an additional 5 seats in this year’s election (or only 4 seats if the Clinton-Kaine ticket wins the presidential election).

Luckily for the Democrats, regaining control of the Senate has recently become feasible, given the unravelling solidarity of the Republican Party during Trump’s campaign. Trump has divided Republican Party lawmakers into two: those who support him in the name of party unity, and those who refuse to actively support his campaign with the aim of securing reelection, thus preserving Republican dominance in Congress.

Prominent members of the Republican party, such as Reince Priebus and House Speaker Paul Ryan, have acknowledged that Trump’s asinine policy positions and repugnant rhetoric may have adverse down-ballot effects on the reelection of Republicans in Congress, many of whom were elected during the rise of the Tea Party in 2010. Trump’s temperament has continued to repulse voters, specifically Christian evangelicals and Mormons. This may ultimately result in reduced support for Trump-backing, Republican congressional candidates. While Ryan has not officially jettisoned his support for Trump, he has sparked a massive debate within the GOP about encouraging Republican lawmakers to distance themselves from Trump – a desperate, yet moral and strategic attempt to salvage Republican prominence in the Senate.

But the majority of Republicans senatorial candidates in tossup states still support Trump, giving the Democrats their best chance at gaining a significant advantage in a seemingly tied race. And as Ryan attempts to save his party’s name from the woes of Donald Trump, Democrats must take advantage of the deteriorating Republican situation by continuing to link Republican senatorial hopefuls to their party’s presidential candidate. Even if more Republican senatorial candidates rescind their support for Trump, Democrat challenger candidates must not let them off the hook. Democrat Governor Maggie Hassan, who is challenging Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte for her seat in the swing state of New Hampshire, is now using new advertisements to exploit a statement Ayotte made about Trump, in which she promotes him as a role model for children, including her own daughter.

While the outcome of the American presidential election has tremendous effect internationally, the congressional elections will have an even bigger impact at home. There is too much at stake for the Democrats in the 115th United States Senate. Assuming Clinton wins the presidential election, she will face fierce opposition from a Republican Senate on issues such as defending and expanding the Affordable Care Act, as well as comprehensive immigration reform. Not only would a Democrat-controlled Senate facilitate policymaking, but it would also significantly help Clinton inch closer to the 60 out of 100 Senate votes needed to approve her Supreme Court Justice appointment (or maybe the next three). It is imperative that Democrats continue to increase efforts to bolster Senatorial campaigns, especially in tossup states like New Hampshire. A Clinton presidency means nothing for the advancement of Democrat values without Democrat prominence in Congress.

Adam Gold

Adam studies International Relations and Chinese Language & Culture at UBC. His writing and research focus on warfare & conflict management, geopolitics, and Turkish politics.

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