Here Are 5 Vitally Important Issues That Are on the Line in the November Midterms
It remains to be seen whether or not Democrats will be able to recapture the U.S. House of Representatives and/or the U.S. Senate in the November midterms, but if they do, it will a political game-changer. Donald Trump, whatever happens in November, will still be president until January 2021—or perhaps even January 2025 if, God forbid, he wins a second term. But with Democrats dominant in either or both houses of Congress, they would be able to limit or curtail some of the abuses of the Trump administration.
Some prominent right-wingers are predicting that Democrats will perform well in November. Bill Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard and one of the president’s vocal critics on the right, has asserted that “the chances of Democrats winning both houses are pretty good now.” And even if Democrats only pick up one of the two, it “changes the dynamics for the next two years,” Kristol noted.
Of course, Kristol has very different reasons for opposing Trump than liberals and progressives. Kristol views Trump as someone who is damaging the Republican brand and the conservative movement, and he would no doubt be delighted if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio were president instead—whereas liberals and progressives are concerned about issues like reproductive freedom, universal health care, the national minimum wage and climate change. And they will have a lot on their minds as November approaches.
Here are five vitally important things that are on the line in the November midterms.
1. Health Care Reform
The outcome in November could very well determine whether or not the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, survives in 2019. If Republicans maintain the House and pick up some seats in the Senate, they would likely vote to overturn the ACA. But if Democrats recapture either the House or the Senate, the ACA is safe for now—assuming the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t declare that the ACA is unconstitutional and rule that insurance companies should be able to conduct business however they see fit (which could happen if Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed—and he probably will be). A Democratic majority in either or both houses of Congress would be more likely to introduce bills promoting universal healthcare (such as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill of 2017), although they would be merely symbolic because Trump would be able to veto them just as President Barack Obama vetoed GOP-sponsored bills to overturn the ACA.
2. The U.S. Supreme Court
Even if Democrats recapture the Senate in November, the U.S. Supreme Court will have a right-wing majority for many years to come. But it’s a question of how right-wing. Trump obviously isn’t going to nominate a hardcore liberal to the Supreme Court no matter how well Democrats perform in the midterms; however, a Democratic majority in the Senate would be less likely to sign off on the type of far-right, Antonin Scalia-ish justices Trump has been nominating (although some Democrats did nominate to confirm Trump’s first High Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch). And the compromise in a Trump Supreme Court nominee/Democratic Senate scenario in 2019 or 2020 might be a more libertarian-ish right-winger like Justice Anthony Kennedy or a centrist along the lines of Sandra Day O’Connor. It’s important to remember that Senate Democrats voted to confirm Kennedy in 1987 as a compromise after refusing to vote for Robert Bork, the wingnut that President Ronald Reagan originally had in mind after Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (appointed by President Richard Nixon in 1972) announced his retirement.
3. Abortion Rights
If Kavanaugh is confirmed in the Senate, the harsh truth is that we can probably kiss Roe v. Wade goodbye. Kavanaugh, like Gorsuch, is very Scalia-ish in his “strict constructionist” judicial philosophy. And while Kennedy has had a libertarian streak when it comes to abortion, same-sex marriage and gay rights, there is nothing libertarian about Kavanaugh, his likely replacement. If Kavanaugh joined Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts in ruling, 5-4, that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, that wouldn’t automatically be the end of legal abortion throughout the U.S. But abortion rights, post-Roe, could be decided on a state-by-state basis.
Even if Democrats enjoyed the type of congressional landslide victory in November that they had in the 2006 midterms, Roe v. Wade’s days—assuming Kavanaugh is confirmed—are likely numbered. But in a post-Roe v. Wade scenario, a Democratic majority in Congress could at least mitigate some of the damage and prevent new Republican anti-abortion bills from passing. Bottom line: the end of Roe v. Wade with a Democrat-controlled Congress would be bad, but the end of Roe v. Wade with a Republican-controlled Congress would be even worse.
The GOP’s war on reproductive freedom goes beyond its opposition to abortion: a “strict constructionist” majority on the U.S. Supreme Court could attack access to contraception as well. In 1965, the Warren Court’s ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a Connecticut law that prohibited the sale of contraception to married couples—and that right-to-privacy decision expanded access to birth control nationwide in much the same way that Roe v. Wade expanded access to abortion nationwide in 1973. Overturning Griswold v. Connecticut wouldn’t automatically mean a nationwide ban on contraception, but it would allow individual states to pass such bands. And while a Democratic majority in the House and/or Senate might not be able to prevent that nightmare from becoming a reality, it could lessen the damage by making sure that no new anti-contraception bills find their way to President Trump’s desk to sign.
5. Voting Rights
With U.S. demographics changing, the Republican Party is terrified at the possibility of more and more non-white voters—especially non-white female voters—making their presence felt at the polls. As a result, Republicans in Congress have been resorting to sleazy voter suppression tactics in order to make it more difficult for people of color to vote. Republicans would still be able to introduce voter suppression bills if Democrats regained the House and/or the Senate in November, but they wouldn’t get as far with a Democratic majority.