Digital Round Table: Midterm Elections

Published on November 12, 2018

Welcome to SGPIA’s newest feature: The Digital Round table. Each month, the International Affairs faculty will weigh in on an issue of national or international importance. This months inaugural theme is the Midterm Elections in the United States.


Christopher London

Assistant Professor of International Affairs

1. Don’t expect or even want the House to make huge changes in the next two years. Think ahead to 2020, not because of the presidential but because of governerships. There will be 11 up for election, 6 of which are Republican, and whoever is in the governors seat will help shape the revision of house districts that will be operative from 2022 to 2032. In short, use the victory in the House as a lesson: go local.

2. The divide between urban and rural is getting deeper. The senate and the electoral college are were set up to protect the political power of sparsely populated regions. We can kvetch all we want, but it’s in the constitution so we must deal with it. If your first mental image in reaction to the word ‘rural’ is some variation of hick or farmer then you need to do some homework. Spend some time learning about rural life and rural people.

Peter Hoffman

Assistant Professor of International Affairs

The midterms took place against the backdrop of an ever-more loudly and rapidly ticking clock: climate change. We only have about 10 years to tackle the problem before it will irreversible and civilization-threatening. That’s not much time, especially considering that finding the political will is just the first step, then it will take time to develop technologies and environmental and economic practices to implement responses. There were lots of issues to be enflamed about in the midterms — immigration, tax cuts for the wealthy, conservative judges, health care, plutocracy, etc. — but the environmental issue of our time will likely dwarf them all in the coming years, and yet it was striking how little attention the issue received. Under Trump the US has abdicated leadership on most everything but it has stridently torpedoed any effort to address climate change. Will the midterms impact this? In itself, the outcome of the midterms suggests gridlock. Sad to say, but that may be progress relative to where the situation was at and it may allow other governance actors even within the US to do more, such as mayors and governors. But, moreover, the midterms showed a vehicle for the US to change and contribute to the global fight against climate change. If the Democrats (or more unlikely some third party) is to put forward a candidate that will lead the US to address climate change, they need to have a workable political strategy to win in 2020. Putting together a winning coalition in this divided political landscape is not easy. But the midterms spotlighted the actor who can tip the scales and bring sanity back to US foreign policy: suburban women in the Upper Midwest. It’s not that other actors on the left and center aren’t significant, indeed we need all hands on deck, but if we are to avert a climate cataclysm, this demographic is key.

We want to know what you think about the Midterms elections. Send us your thoughts here, and we’ll update this post with your responses.