By Kevin Lair and Aydan Sultanova
Senior Elm Writer and Guest Columnist
Did you notice how Republicans painted the town red? We sure did. Through the 2014 Midterm Elections, Republicans made impressive gains across the nation with important ramifications for 2016. Republicans have netted at least eight US Senate seats to take the majority. In addition, they have increased their majorities in the US House of Representatives and governorships.
Republicans made impressive governorship wins in predominately-blue states like Massachusetts, Illinois, and of course, the resounding win by Larry Hogan, Jr. over Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. Republican Asa Hutchinson won the governorship in Arkansas while Republican governors Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Scott were re-elected in the important blue or swing-states of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida, respectively. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett was defeated by Democrat Tom Wolf.
Republicans took the Senate with pick-ups in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Notably, Republican Joni Ernst became the first female Senator elected in Iowa, the first woman elected to a statewide level office in Iowa, and the first female combat veteran elected to Congress. Republican Shelley Moore Capito became the first female Senator from West Virginia. Moreover, Republican Tim Scott, elected to the Senate from South Carolina, became the first African-American elected in a former Confederate state since 1881.
Congressional Republicans now hold the largest Republican House majority since 1928. Mia Love became the first Republican African-American woman to be elected to the House as well as the first Haitian-American elected to Congress. After these elections, more than 100 women will serve in the House and Senate combined.
Republicans also swept several state-level legislative races, leaving Democrats in control of the smallest number of state legislatures since the Civil War.
One can argue that this is just another election where one party is replaced with another, only to be replaced again in a few years; but the vast, nationwide gains by Republicans here seem to discount this notion. Likewise, a “Republican-favored” map is not a justified response either, as the GOP picked up seats in heavily-Democratic states like Maryland and Massachusetts and at all levels of government.
Election results and exit polls show that this Republican wave was clearly a referendum against President Barack Obama, his policies, and Democratic candidates who support them. Obama declared just weeks before the election that even though he was not on the ballot, “make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.” It remains to be seen whether this election was also a referendum on Democrats as a whole, including Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who campaigned for many Democrats who lost on Tuesday.
So what does this all mean? It means that for the last two years of his presidency, Obama will have to work with a Republican-controlled Congress. It means that Republicans are now the governing body in America, and their policy success or failure will spell victory or defeat in 2016. It means that the so-called anti-women, anti-minority, old Republican Party had experienced female, minority, and young candidates across the nation win, proving each of these stereotypes wrong.
We implore the Republican-controlled Congress to work with President Obama and fellow Democrats to pass responsible legislation, act in the best interest of voters, and get back to effective, bipartisan governing rather than continued Congressional gridlock. If so, we can expect further Republican gains in 2016, perhaps even winning the White House.