Democracy Was the Big Winner in the Elections
November 9, 2018
By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO
Political pundits and media experts have been debating this week who won and lost in Tuesday’s elections.
Many argue that Democrats regaining control of the House of Representatives was the big win of the night, creating a balance in Congress and an even more important check on the President.
Democrats will now regain control of all House committees, including the Intelligence and Ways & Means Committees, two that could play important roles in throttling Trump’s power left virtually unchecked by the Republicans for two years.
The Intelligence Committee, controlled by Republicans, conducted investigations (if you can call them that) into the Russian election meddling issue. Devin Nunez, the now-outgoing Republican chairman of the committee, however, was more a Trump cheerleader than a check.
The ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, himself a former prosecutor, will now head the Committee with power to subpoena people and documents, and conduct its own investigation into Russian meddling.
The other important committee is the one on taxation, called the Ways & Means Committee, which writes tax laws. Under a 1924 federal law, the Committee can request any taxpayer’s return from the IRS, even without a subpoena, and the Secretary of the Treasury “shall” release them, the law states.
Since the start of the 2016 campaign, Trump refused to release his tax returns, and became the first presidential candidate in 40 years to withhold tax returns during the campaign. To date, Trump still refuses to make them available. Many think he may order Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin not to release them, setting up a potential legal battle.
Democrats have long argued that Trump’s returns can shed light on his complex business structure and could show ties to foreign banks or investors that may create conflicts of interest. Without seeing the returns, critics argue, Trump’s finances are too obscure to rule out blackmail, coercion, or even bribery.
Other political commentators argue that Republicans holding the Senate was the big story of the election. Trump’s campaigning in key states seems to have helped Republicans successfully defend all but one of their seats and also claimed three new seats to pad their majority.
Maintaining the Senate helps Trump on two fronts. First, it allows him to continue to appoint conservatives judges to federal and appellate benches, and also preserves his ability to potentially appoint another Supreme Court Justice. Judicial appointments could slant the court system in the US to the right for decades to come, an important political win for Republicans.
Even more importantly, for Trump himself, a Republican Senate can protect him from possible impeachment should the Democrats move down that path.
With Democrats in control of the House, they could potentially pass Articles of Impeachment, which only require a simple majority vote. Dems now have five votes more than a majority, giving them some wiggle room to lose a few votes and still impeach.
But that’s just the beginning.
The House can initiate impeachment proceedings against a president, vice-president, and other “civil officers”, which include cabinet secretaries and judges, by passing Articles of Impeachment, but only the Senate can convict and remove someone from office.
Only two presidents have ever been impeached by the House; Andrew Johnson in 1868, and, of course, Bill Clinton in 1998. Both, however, were eventually acquitted by the Senate.
Although the House only requires a simple majority to impeach, the Senate requires a two-thirds vote to convict. That’s a high threshold to meet. Republicans comfortably controlling the Senate is a safety backstop for Trump.
But, neither of these storylines is the most important outcome of the 2018 elections.
The real winner was democracy.
After two years of a tumultuous political landscape, voters didn’t give up hope and stay home.
Instead, over 47% of eligible voters actually voted in this election, the highest turnout in 52 years. That means over 110 million people voted in the midterm election, eclipsing the traditionally-higher turn out in presidential election years. In Minnesota and Kansas, more than 60% of their voters cast ballots.
It’s encouraging to see that our representative democratic form of government worked even when some people believe it is at its weakest moment.
Our system is resilient, bouncing back from the contortions it’s being put through by a president that has shattered all political norms.
Our system of checks and balances between branches of government also applies to voters checking our elected officials.
After two years of pure Republican control in Washington, voters clearly saw the need to balance the system and recalibrate for accountability.
That’s the way our democracy was designed in theory, and this week, it worked as designed.
At the end of the day, voters expressed their desires, not through violence or unrest, but through the peaceful exercise of democracy.
Well done America.
Now, let’s see if our elected officials follow our lead.
If not, more change will surely come in the next election.