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Why the 2014 Midterm Elections Matter

 

While presidential elections have pundits testing the public’s interest in politics years in advance—relentlessly covering primaries, controversial sound-bites, and analyses on debates—the midterms don’t seem to gain much intrigue. But they should, as control of the Senate and House is at stake, affecting the trajectory of what remains of Obama’s term.

BloombergPolitics lists five reasons the election on November 4, 2014 should be of interest:

  1. It’s a matter of national security. Whether or not Obama will use force in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State still needs to be addressed, and, more than a year after Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the issue of surveillance reform still remains politically divisive.

  2. Domestic policies are up for revision. Lawmakers from both parties could potentially modify the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law, and key members of both parties have signaled they’re ready to deal with touchy issues, such as poverty and immigration. The debt ceiling will also come into play in the coming months.

  3. Obama’s place in history is not yet decided. With Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and the stimulus package having shaped much of Obama’s legacy, his final two years will be largely defined by his continued use (or not) of executive actions. His veto-powers and his 300 judicial nominees could also leave a mark on his lame-duck years.

  4. The direction of the Republican Party could be established (somewhat). Should Republicans take control of the Senate, the leaders’ agenda could guide the remainder of Obama’s term, as well as the response of 2016 presidential candidates. Fellow Republicans have largely blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his role in Congress’ gridlock, though he rarely loses control of his caucus. Meanwhile Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—the conservative ideologue—is fighting to keep his seat in Kentucky, possibly affecting the party’s future ambitions.

  5. November matters for 2016. Losing isn’t an option for many presidential hopefuls, and the policies they choose to pursue in either the House or Senate will influence the political discourse of the next presidential election. Candidates to keep an eye on: Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rob Portman, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rep. Peter King, and Sen. Joe Manchin.

This year, however, is expected to be rather predictable. Vox Editor-in-Chief and MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein explains the scenarios, donkey-kong style:

Image by Jeffrey Zeldman, licensed under Creative Commons