What Did the Midterm Elections Really Mean?

By | December 18th, 2014 | News & Views, Throwback

A look at elections at the local, state and national levels

Elections are baffling, especially to those who are voting for the first time. Perhaps as a response to this confusion, people between the ages of 18 and 29 were only 13 percent of voters in the recent midterm election, according to a Pew Research report. Many college students don’t even know what the midterm elections are, never mind how the results can affect their lives.
So, what was decided the first Tuesday of Nov. 2014? And how will it affect you?

Local

Representative Tom Reed (Republican, incumbent) won the election with 56 percent of the votes.
Martha Robertson (Democrat) lost with 37 percent of the votes.

The race between incumbent Tom Reed and newcomer Martha Robertson was highly contested in the 23rd district, an area that includes parts of 11 counties. Tompkins County sits in the eastern part of the district, which extends to the Pennsylvania border in the south and Lake Erie in the West.

Although there was a tremendous amount of pro-Robertson campaigning in the greater Ithaca area, there was less in other parts of the district. (Reed’s campaign ads criticized Robertson’s “extreme Ithaca agenda,” implying that only Ithacans could identify with her policies.)

Many Ithaca College students were involved by interning with both Reed and Robertson’s campaigns. Marissa Framarini, a senior journalism and politics double major, said she felt strong connection to Robertson’s campaign as she began interning.

However, she explained that one of the hardest things to deal with on the campaign was the “apathy” she encountered.
“The apathy I felt, not only on campus but in the community, in terms of voters getting out to the polls is probably the thing that upset me the most about the results,” she said. “We made, and I made, so many phone calls. I knocked on so many doors. But a lot of it people just kind of turned away… I think it’s just kind of upsetting that [it’s just] spending a minute to talk about or get informed about the politics in your area and very few want to do it.”

Framarini noted Reed winning the 23rd district reflects the national trend of Congress “going red,” which means attaining a Republican majority.

State

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Democrat, incumbent) won with 54 percent of the vote.
Rob Astorino (Republican) lost with 40.6 percent of the vote.

One place that did not go red, however, was the state of New York. Freshman Kyle Stewart, who interned with the New York State Assembly, said this might not be an accurate reflection of the desires of most regions of the state.

“In this past election, especially the election for governor, Andrew Cuomo, he’s pretty unpopular upstate,” he said. “When people think of New York, they definitely think of New York City, but there’s so much more, up here.” New York City is far more densely populated than the rest of New York, which accounts for its level of swing in state elections.

Stewart explained, “Across the board statewide it was mostly Cuomo, his Democrats, his colleagues, they all got reelected. Whereas for more local positions, it went mostly Republican. So I found that interesting, the difference there.”

Stewart was able to pinpoint various reasons why Astorino might have failed despite his broad support from the upstate region. A major reason could have been Astorino’s campaign not having enough national backing.

He also said Governor Chris Christie’s involvement with the Republican Governors Association next door in New Jersey and never coming over to campaign could have contributed to Astorino’s lack of success.

Another reason was Cuomo is, in terms of being a partisan Democrat, actually quite moderate.

“The bigger problem [for Astorino] was that Cuomo is able to play to both sides,” Stewart said. “He has the Democrats and the liberals but at the same times he’s able to get Republicans as well because he’s kind of like a moderate. Actually, he kind of lost his liberal support in the last few years.”

Stewart also had observations about why the voting rate for young people in New York might be so low: Because of how early registration is, especially for absentee voters.

“It can be difficult to register in New York state because you have to register a month before the election, so people aren’t even thinking about the election … I wonder if maybe New York state could push that back, make it closer to the election, or maybe start earlier in the fall.”

National

According to The Washington Post, “This will be the most dominant Republican Congress since 1929, with an almost-certain 8 percent majority in the Senate and an 11.7 to 17.7 percent majority in the House.”

Many Democrats were outraged by the new Republican majority, but Mia O’Brien, a senior journalism major, explained she didn’t think it would change much of how the government operates. O’Brien said she considers herself a conservative, but is a registered Independent.

“They’re not going to bring much change at all, aside from making Washington all the more deadlocked,” she said in an email. “Now, with a Republican Congress and Democratic President, even less will be accomplished than when the GOP only had the House — purely because politicians love to just disagree with the opposing party.”

She also echoed Stewart’s earlier point: “Moreover, the GOP itself is not united: there’s a big difference between being a ‘Republican’ in New Jersey and a ‘Republican’ in Georgia — and being a ‘Tea Party Republican.’”

Taylor Graham, meanwhile, is a junior emerging media major who is “disheartened by the change” in majority and finds it to be significant. He agreed with O’Brien that it will just lead to more of a gridlock: “According to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Republican voters want their congressional members to stand up to Obama even if it means getting less done in Washington. This gives me little hope that we’ll see more bipartisan [cooperation] and real idea generation from Republican congressional members, and leads me to believe that the stagnation that’s come to be the norm in Washington will only continue if not solidify.”

Graham is concerned the Republican politicians could affect many issues that affect millennials as well.

“The thing that concerns me about the recent midterm elections is that many Republican candidates elected to office actively oppose key issues like access to abortion, action on climate change, marriage equality and increased minimum wage, which college-age students support overwhelmingly,” he said. “I would hope that a Republican-dominated Senate will not impede the enormous progress we, as nation, have made in these issues which affect millennials on a daily basis and which we are very passionate about.”

On the contrary, O’Brien said that she didn’t specifically expect any changes that would affect our college-aged constituency, especially considering our own underrepresentation in the voting results.

“Certainly, the great debate over contraceptives is … something on all Americans’, young and old’s, minds,” she said. I highly doubt they will be able to pass anything so monumental as to take away accessibility to such products — we can’t forget that we still have a Democratic president and these politicians still answer to Democrat constituents, too!” she said.

She said, even though few political changes will be made, Republicans can still capitalize on increased prominence by redefining their Republican label.

“What they can do, looking at this glass half-full,” O’Brien said, “is use these next two years to try and prove to the American public that the GOP is ‘legit,’ willing to work with the American people, and has several viable candidates for 2016.”

Conclusion

Midterm elections are important. As Graham and O’Brien both noted, the results of this one may solidify a political gridlock and prevent action. That lack of action can be very important and tangible in itself: Citizens of every affiliation wish for change, and the American government will not be reflecting that.

Framarini summed it up best when asked about her reactions on the result of the changing hands of the House and Senate. “It’s hard for me to even fathom or begin to fathom the direction of the house when so little of the community or nation really put their vote out there,” she said. “So I can’t even get to that question or the answer to that question when I’m still trying to see, you know, is that really the direction we would be going if everybody used their right to vote? I’m not sure.”


Alexa Salvato is a sophomore journalism major who won’t be putting her money on any decisions in congress. You can email her at asalvat1@ithaca.edu.
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