I was wrong - and I can’t remember being happier about it. The ‘red wave’ we all anticipated didn’t come to fruition, which will help Biden a lot as we build up to the 2024 Presidential Election. The Senate landed at 51-49 in the Democrats’ favour with one seat to be called, and the House fell to the Republicans at 222-213. In both cases, we are set for a razor-thin divide in the 2023-24 congressional session.
Neither party will be too satisfied with this outcome yet the Democrats will see much more cause for celebration than the Republicans. Even though the Republicans, with the house, has the power to block Biden’s agenda, there are some things that will break through the cracks given the nature of this majority. For example, some Republicans want to impeach President Biden yet that would be very hard to do with this size of a majority. Similarly, some of Biden’s proposals that are less controversial may still pass, for example, support for Ukraine in their war against Russia. The election has also proved much less reputationally damaging for the Democrats than was expected. Biden’s approval rating remains low (~42%) yet his party was still able to maintain some control in an election designed to act as a check on the President’s performance. Albeit largely down to the Republicans putting forward weak candidates, Biden will see the silver lining as he looks ahead to 2024: when faced with a question of Biden-endorsed or Trump-endorsed, the people picked the former.
All of this goes to explain why the Republicans, currently driven by Trump and hard-right policies, are concerned. Their biggest problem as of now lies within who to put forward to challenge Biden (or a different Democratic candidate) in the 2024 Presidential Election. Since leaving office, Trump has seemed like the obvious answer - he has remained an active figure in conservative politics and his endorsements in the 2022 midterms won most of their Republican primaries. But, the resounding losses for some Trump-backed politicians this year have questioned his control over the party. Meanwhile, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis won his election by 19 points in Florida which went to the Democrats as recently as 2012. It’s led many Republicans to question who the right nominee is, and Trump’s announcement of candidacy certainly wasn’t met with the same influx of endorsements it was in 2020. Neither of these Floridians appear to me as great choices, but there’s two ways you can look at who should be the nominee. On one hand, Trump is an all-but-convicted criminal (he currently has four active, distinct cases against him) so surely is unfit to be President. On the other hand, does this make him an easier opponent for a Democratic candidate? Trump’s announcement marks the start of a 2-year process to pick the next US President, and the most pressing questions now are will Ron DeSantis challenge Trump, and can he really beat him?
Even more imminently, the US House is getting a leadership makeover, first and foremost, with a new Speaker. The Speaker of the House (almost certainly from the majority party) is second in the Presidential Line of Succession and a significant figure in US politics. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, is set to become Speaker of the House after four years as the Minority Leader. On the other side of the aisle, a huge rejig of leadership is occurring with Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn (the current three leaders of the Democratic Party in the House) stepping down. Expected to be replaced by the much younger Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar, the Democrats are showing off their diversity to the American people. Jeffries is set to become the first African-American party leader in the House, another diversity milestone the Democrats will add to their list. Many, including myself, now ask if this is Biden’s cue to not run for reelection in 2024 - his potential replacements is a huge debate for another time.
Overall, both parties have things to celebrate, and things to worry about, after the midterms. But that doesn’t mean we can write off these elections as a ‘draw’, both parties might be about to witness a seismic shift in their direction for the coming years.