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So, the midterms are finally over. For months, those of us who like to watch American politics were expecting an epic to the death struggle that would vindicate the winner and devastate the loser.
But, as the Fates would have it, that is not what happened. At the time this article was written, the Democrats held 225 seats in the House of Representatives compared to the Republicans 197 seats (with thirteen seats still to be decided). And in the Senate, the Republicans held 51 seats to the Democrats 44 (with two seats being held by other parties and with four still undecided).
What we got was less an Alien versus Predator fight to the death and something more akin to two schoolboys getting into a schoolyard brawl with each claiming victory because they’d managed to bloody the other’s nose.
For months we’d been told that the Democrats would end up dominating both the House of Representatives and the Senate as the American people voiced their disapproval of the Trump Presidency. But that didn’t happen either. The Republicans may have lost their majority in the House of Representatives (and, indeed, many moderate Republicans did not do so well), they managed to gain a definitive majority in the Senate.
As Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary put it: “anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight’s not going to get it.”
Several factors played a role in determining the outcome of the election.
The first thing to note is that the results of the election were not a signal of approval for far-left Democratic policies. It was moderate Democrats who won seats, not radically progressive ones. This would suggest that as many Americans reject radical identity politics as those who feel dissatisfied with the Trump Presidency. And it would suggest that the Democrat’s best strategy for winning the next Presidential election is to put forward a moderate candidate with a moderate platform.
The second thing to note is that the Republican’s triumph in the Senate had as much do with demographics as it did with politics. The electoral map made Democratic Senate seats more vulnerable than Republican ones. That said, however, it also turns out that the Democrats failed to take advantage of an advantageous news cycle. Had they nominated more moderate candidates rather than radically progressive ones they would have found themselves a lot more successful.
The third thing to note is that voter motivation played an enormous role in determining the outcome of the election. One of the reasons the Republicans lost the House of Representatives was because the Democrats were more motivated to vote than they were.
Actually, this was recognised early on. Bill Stepien, the political director for the White House, urged President Trump to motivate his base by making the election a referendum on his own performance. Clearly, Stepien recognised that President Trump has a special talent for rallying his supporters. And, as the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro noted, every district Trump visited ended up voting Republican.
The fourth things to note is that the Democrats managed to do better in the suburbs than the Republicans did. The Democrats managed to win suburbs all the way from the eastern seaboard to Nevada and even managed to expand into Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Richmond. As Liesl Hickey, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014, said “Republicans have lost the suburbs. I don’t know if they’ve lost them forever, but we’ve definitely lost them for now.”
That the outcome of the midterms will have political implications should be obvious to everyone. On the negative side, a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will make it difficult for the Republicans to enact their legislative agenda over the next two years. It puts Trump’s immigration and economic policies in danger. It puts his administration’s goal to build a border wall, deregulate business, and cut taxes in jeopardy.
But, on the more positive side, however, the outcome of the midterms may inspire more transparency from the Executive as President Trump negotiates trade deals with Japan and the European Union. And as much a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives puts the Republican agenda in jeopardy, a Republican-controlled Senate creates a roadblock for the progressive agenda indicative in the Democrat’s more radical policies.
And there are the long-term implication, as well. The Republican’s control of the Senate will make it difficult for the Democrat’s to gain control over it in 2020. However, it also revealed the necessity for the Republican Party to expand its conservative base, especially in lieu of the 2020 Presidential election. In the 2000, 2004, and 2016 Presidential elections, a switch of only 150,000 votes would have nullified all of them.
The midterm election resulted in a victory for neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It did not deliver the much-prophesied blue wave for the Democrats and it didn’t allow the Republicans to retain control of Congress. What the midterms produced was a balanced, moderate Congress. The manner in which people choose to interpret the results of this election will depend largely upon their political orientation. Both Democrats and Republicans have the choice to see the results as either a triumph or a defeat. And exactly how they react will determine how well their party does at the next Presidential election.
Who knows what will happen at the next Presidential election. Two years can be a lifetime in politics.
This is our weekly theological article.
For most of my life I have had a great affinity for cemeteries and graveyards. A gentle stroll through the neat and peaceful rows of graves, pausing occasionally to read the inscription on the headstone of someone who lived and died long before I was born has been the source of great pleasure for me.
I believe cemeteries and graveyards are important for two reasons. First, they are incredibly artistic. One cannot help but notice the well-manicured lawns and beautiful gardens, the magnificent sculpting’s of the headstones, and the often-poetic rhetoric of the epitaphs. Second, I believe that cemeteries and graveyards provide people with a physical connection with their cultural heritage and allows them to tap into their ancestral past. As Doctor Celestina Sagazio, a historian working for Melbourne’s Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, observed, cemeteries and graveyards provide a clue into the daily lives of people throughout history.
Modern culture has little time for the contemplation of death. That would go against ‘positive thinking’ and the perpetual lie of ‘eternal youth.’ This, however, stands in stark contrast with the convictions of most of our forebears. From antiquity through to the early twentieth century, the consideration of death was considered a good motivator for leading a virtuous and meaningful life. Recent studies affirm this belief, finding that the contemplation of one’s own mortality acts as a motivator for assessing one’s values and goals and can greatly improve physical health.
The phrase, ‘Memento Mori’, is said to have originated with the Ancient Romans. Tradition in Ancient Rome dictated that a servant or slave should stand behind a triumphant General during his victory parade. This servant or slave would whisper in the General’s ear: “Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento Mori!” (“Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”).
Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the concept of ‘Memento Mori’ took on new motifs. The engraving, ‘The Triumph of Death’ (1539) by Georg Pencz (1500 – 1550) depicted a scythe-wielding skeleton commanding an oxen-driven chariot. Similarly, the dance of death – involving skeletal figures – lead everyone from the Pope to the humble ploughman in a final dance of death. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many New England graves were adorned with epitaphs like ‘Memento Mori’ and ‘Hora Fugit’ (‘the hour flees’) and were emblazoned with images of skulls, bones, winged death’s heads, hourglasses, and other symbols of death and the passage of time.
The Roman stoic philosopher, Seneca (4BC – AD65) advised: “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day… The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” The careful contemplation of mortality and the deliberate awareness of death has a profoundly positive effect on the health and vitality of the soul.