Americans once again went to the ballot box on November 4th for the midterm congressional elections. Even though this was considered as one of the most expensive elections in the American history with approximately 4 billion in donations, the turnout was quite low at 38%. Some quick facts about the US congressional elections: congress consists of two chambers called the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both the 435 members of the House and the one third of the Senators are elected every two years. In addition to the House and Senate elections, Americans also voted for 38 governors. While Republicans were able to maintain almost all the incumbents in office, the Democrats lost some seats to the Republicans.
Where did the votes go?
In the governorship races, Republicans had more seats to retain compared to the Democrats. Not only did they retain incumbent members, they succeeded to gain seats from the retiring Democrat governors in Arkansas, Maryland and Massachusetts. Consequently, Republicans gained three new seats while the Democrats lost three. With his re-election Republican Terry Brasnstad become the longest serving governor in US history. He has initiated his sixth term as governor of Iowa. In the House of Representatives, the Republican Party won 246 seats (a net gain of 13 seats) and the Democratic Party, 180 seats. Finally in the Senate, the Republican Party won 23 (a net gain of eight seats) and the Democratic Party won 12. The race in Louisiana is headed to a run-off) in December 2014.
The most expensive elections in American history
What marked these midterm elections the most is the donors granting greater amounts of fund, 3.67 billion dollars according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It is important to note it as one of the most expensive elections despite the decline in the number of donors. Due to the restrained campaigns and the indifference of the voters, the turnout was fairly low, which concerned Democrats of losing their seats in the Senate. Regrettably, their fear came true and they lost their majority. An arbitrary but interesting comparison to let’s say the country of Tunisia’s governmental election, in which Tunisians went to the polls to vote for their new government. The government election was a huge success in terms of enthusiasm for the ballot box since Tunisia is in a transformation phase towards democracy. More than 90% citizens voted, which is quite a surprise when compared to the 38% turnout in the American midterm elections. President Obama praised the Tunisians for this high turnout and described it as an important stepforward.
The number of young American voters declined enormously which shaped 13% of the votes. Although it rose one percent since 2010 elections, young Americans have been apathetic towards voting for more than a decade. There are however various reasons for that indifference. Ashley Spillane, president of the non-partisan group Rock the Vote, relates this issue partly on the politicians not talking to the young voters, saying: “You have young Americans disproportionately impacted by unemployment and saddled in student debt, but you didn’t hear candidates talking about that.” Single women who have sympathy for Democrats declined in some amount in these elections. Surely, this decline in turnout cannot be the only reason for the Democrats losing in the Congress.
Is the Congress acting on behalf Americans?
The Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government that represents the American people. It is also the only branch of the government that is elected directly by the citizens. When we evaluate the results of these midterm elections, we encounter a serious dissatisfaction of Americans with the President’s domestic and foreign policies. Americans want to see a President they can be proud of and give voice to their needs, yet they are not pleased with the choices he makes. There is a huge gap between the government and the people and it is getting wider everyday.
The current American political system does not give many choices to the people in terms of elections. Citizens have to vote either for the Republicans or the Democrats, there is no third option. Contrary to popular belief, the two parties, which mostly cater to elites, do not differentiate in many ways and basically work together. For example, anonymous donors give financial support to both parties during the electoral campaigns and that makes sure the government sets the economic agenda in favor of these elites. Interestingly, 95% of the wealth created since Obama came to office has gone to the elite and the wealthy. When the voters are dissatisfied with the party in power, with no third option left, they punish the governing party by electing the other in return. This cyclical and robotic behavior of voters is generally acknowledged, but there isn’t much that they can do even though most are frustrated and unsatisfied. For Americans to exercise democracy with more freedom, they should be given more options than just a two party system to represent themselves in Congress. Additionally, private donors should be disclosed and the amount they can donate should be limited in order to prevent their influence on the outcome, and the creation of inequality.
Restoring American ideals not just through votes
In order to restore the American dream, Americans should become more proactive about the issues facing them, and the people in power should be open to understanding the needs of the American people. The United States is a beautiful country with vast fertile lands and its people are cheerful and intellectual people full of love. However due to bad decisions by its leaders and erroneous policies many countries around the world have a negative view of the US. Its economy is also in trouble, in just the month of September 2014, US recorded a trade deficit of 43.03 billion dollars. Many countries do not want to make trade agreements with the US because of anti-American hype. It is the duty of Obama and the members of the Congress to work together and implement policies that are peaceful and beneficial to the American people, and rest of the world. Other countries should also help to restore and make America like it used to be. We should help revive America, make it vivacious, lively like the old times. It’s important to show America as a beautiful, affectionate and polite country. Let America come forward with its compassion, honesty, good intention, giving utmost importance to culture and science. Let America be the joy of the world like it used to be. Let everyone have the American dream they have been seeking.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arabian Gazette: