COMMENTARY: Midterm elections are more important than people think
Midterm elections in the United States are misunderstood and undervalued. A critical element to our democracy, midterms can prove to be the changing force in a current presidency, creating new policies and even standstills where the government can shut down as we saw in 2013. Midterms represent a symbolic step in our democracy that can serve to inspire the public to support a new candidate while ensuring incumbents do not shirk their responsibilities or their duties. Even with this information, it is curious that many young adults still choose to ignore the midterm elections in favor of waiting for the “more important” general election.
This Tuesday, Americans across the country will have the opportunity to vote in 36 gubernatorial elections, 435 House of Representative elections and 33 senatorial elections, along with many local and judicial elections. Locally elected officials command power and influence. From the work of local officials in securing drivers’ licenses, issuing parking tickets and levying taxes, their efforts affect our daily lives. The current political landscape makes these midterms the most important in recent history — needless to say, political tensions have been on the rise and the stakes of every election are in the balance.
Recent history shows how important the midterms can be. In the 2010 midterms, former President Barack Obama was dealt a significant blow in the elections when Democrats lost six Senate seats and 63 House seats, giving Republicans a majority in the House. This red wave, led by the newly formed Tea Party movement, stymied Obama and forced him to dial back more liberal policies in his bills to gain moderate Republican support. A similar phenomenon has the potential to impact President Donald J. Trump. Democrats could make gains in the House, Senate and within state and local governments. This could potentially stall the president's agenda, forcing him to modify his rhetoric and adopt a more moderate policy.
For those who support Trump, a healthy Republican turnout can bolster the president's power, allowing him to pass more bills with more support from his party while gaining the political capital to create policy distinctly aligned with Republican values. A robust Republican midterm performance would provide the president more elected officials to endorse him in 2020 and allow him some breathing room in the event some people cross the aisle. With strong Republican backing, the sitting president also could leverage his platform to demonstrate that he deserves America’s vote in 2020. For anyone who still believes that 2018 is not important compared to 2020, it is undeniable that 2018 is essential for 2020.
Let us not forget the all-too-common phrase that those who encourage voting hear on a regular basis — “My vote does not matter.” In 2014, only 1-in-5 eligible young people voted — this is part of the reason young people do not feel represented in Congress. You cannot complain if you do not vote. The makeup of Congress does not reflect the makeup of the nation in age, occupation, wealth and other factors. To execute change, underrepresented people must vote for those that they believe will adopt policies and embrace ideas that will support a positive future for the country. Why sit out of the political process when you have the most bargaining power with your vote? Imagine if the tens of thousands of young people that protested alongside David Hogg, Emma González and other survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting got out and voted — how much impact might they have on public policy for gun control and other hot topics? If they vote ... their votes will matter.
Voting is not difficult. It is an easy process, and your voice will be heard, especially when you vote in large numbers and consistently. As countries around the world flee from democracy, we need to demonstrate that voting is something that we value and cherish as citizens of a democracy.
America can become a leader in voter turnout. We need to mobilize and vote for the candidates, parties and ideas we believe in, as generations before us did. We need to set the tone now to support voting by the generations of the future. The change can happen here. Let us make 2018 the year we start a positive trend. Vote in the primary elections, and for the sake of your country and your fellow citizens, vote on Nov. 6, 2018.
Cory Bloom is a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
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