With the 2018 midterm elections just around the corner, political pundits like to make educated guesses as to how the American electorate will respond. Because it is not a presidential election year, history shows that voter turnout likely will be lower than it was in 2016. Yet, enough noise is being made about the importance of the midterms – and what color the wave will be – that it’s important to take it very seriously. Through their participation, American voters honor the concept of popular sovereignty as part of the Social Contract, originated by John Locke, the philosopher of the American Revolution, which is based on the notion that government derives its power from the consent of the governed. In order to satisfy the meaning of popular sovereignty, all elections matter. But here’s where things get tricky.
The Social Contract supports representative democracy in which politicians are subject to recall by voters, and voters exercise power at the ballot box to decide who should represent their interests in government. That was the Founding Fathers’ view of popular sovereignty in theory. In practice, participation was the exclusive domain of upper class, rich, property owner, white and male.
Since its formation, the United States has come a long way to ensure the rights of all adult citizens to vote, because so many segments of the population had been disenfranchised for so long. While signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison people because they are different from other people.”
Yet, voter turnout in national elections has declined since 1960. The U.S. may be the oldest continuous democracy, but experience does not equal enthusiasm. Decline in voter turnout can be attributed to general apathy, the influence of money in politics, the Electoral College and gerrymandered congressional districts. Regardless of an individual’s reason not to vote, however, failure to participate represents a breach of the very Social Contract on which this country is based.
So, the midterm elections matter.
Voters will choose all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U. S. Senate. In the current Congress, there are 236 Republicans, 193 Democrats and six vacancies. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to take control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans in the 116th Congress. Texas has 36 representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives: 11 Democrats and 25 Republicans.
The U.S. Senate consists of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats. To gain control of the Senate, Democrats need to pick up two seats. Unlike the House of Representatives, whose entire membership is up for re-election every two years, the Senate is a continuing body and every two years, only one-third of the Senate is up for re-election, according to Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. But in this midterm election, 35 seats are up for election, including special elections in Minnesota and Mississippi, due to vacancies. One of those 35 senators is Texas Senator Ted Cruz. He is completing his first term in the U.S. Senate.
Besides electing one senator and 36 U.S. House members, Texas voters also will elect candidates to the three elected branches of state government.
Governor, five executive offices, railroad commissioner and 15 members of the State Board of Education. Since 1995, all 29 statewide elected offices are occupied by Republicans and most members of Board of Education also are Republicans.
The Texas Legislature has 150 House members and 31 Senate members. In the current legislature, there are 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats in the House and 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats in the Senate.
Three members of the Texas Supreme Court, three members of the Criminal Courts of Appeals, most members of Courts of Appeals and all state district court judges. All the current members of Texas highest courts are Republicans, nine Republicans in each state highest court.
Why the 2018 Midterms Matter
Midterm elections always are considered to be a referendum on the sitting president. President Donald Trump has reason to take notice, because the election outcome will play a key role in shaping the last half of his term – not to mention, the shaping of America’s political landscape for many years to come. According to the Pew Research Center, a larger percentage of respondents say the President will be a factor in their votes in the midterm elections more than in the past midterm elections. Pew also reports that liberal Democrats are far more enthusiastic about casting their votes than in previous midterms. Therefore, voter turnout most likely will be higher among Democratic voters in this midterms.
Voting is a privilege, a right and a moral duty for every American citizen. By choosing to sit on the sidelines, non-voting citizens substitute oligarchy--a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich –for democracy. They will have no one else to blame for the outcomes they dislike, and that may affect them quite personally.
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