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Why the 2022 US midterms matter

For those who remain unconvinced.

By Emily Tamkin

So, the US midterms are happening on 8 November?


And they come in the middle of a president’s term, and all House seats and many Senate seats are up for re-election?

You got it!

And the party of the president normally does poorly in the midterms?

Right. Democrats lost the House under Barack Obama in 2010 and Republicans lost the House under Donald Trump in 2018. Having the party you support out of power is, it turns out, a good motivator to go and vote. Republicans are hoping that motivation, plus the struggling economy and high fuel prices, will be enough for them to win back leadership of the House and Senate.

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The economy?

Yes. The labour market is actually in good shape, but that isn’t necessarily felt by the average American; the impact of inflation, on the other hand, is being more widely felt. And petrol prices remain high, which will hurt Democrats at the polls. We should note that Republicans have also tried to make crime rates a partisan issue; we will see how effective this actually is on the day.

[See also: Midterm predictions: Who will win the US House and Senate?]

Do Democrats have anything going for them?

Many hoped that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs Wade, stripping people across the nation of their right to an abortion, would help Democrats – because a more Democratic Congress could codify abortion rights. Meanwhile, Republicans have floated a national ban on the procedure. Also, many Republicans are openly questioning the integrity of American elections, and their critics wonder whether widespread victory for election deniers might mean an end to American democracy as we know it.

So Republicans could ban abortion and end democracy and they still might win?

That’s correct. The polls are very tight. The New Statesman’s poll tracker suggests that Republicans will win the House but Democrats will keep the Senate.

What happens in that case?

“Biden’s agenda,” such as it is, will stall, at least in so far as he needs Congress to pass legislation. The Republican Kevin McCarthy, who would be the House majority leader, has suggested, among other things, that he might be less supportive of Biden’s financial backing of Ukraine. Domestically, a Republican-controlled House will probably spend its time trying to impeach Biden, which won’t work as the Senate won’t vote to convict, but will still take up time and energy and media attention. We should also note that it’s not just House and Senate seats that are up for election.

[See also: Three things to watch out for in the US midterm elections?]

Wait – what else is?

There are state legislatures, and those are important on a wide range of issues, including protecting (or, conversely, attacking) reproductive rights. But also up for election are many governors and various secretaries of state. These are important positions for many reasons, one of which is that they oversee elections and authorise their states’ presidential votes. Several Republicans running for these positions insist that Biden did not win their states in 2020 (he did). If they’re elected, it’s not clear what will happen if a Democrat wins the presidential election in 2024.

Seems less than ideal.

I never said otherwise.

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