The congressional election in 2018 will be a referendum at national level for or against the incumbent Republican administration of President Donald Trump. At the same time, the election is particularly important for Trump’s further chances of gaining support for his policies in Congress over the next two years.
- How does the American political system work?
- What is the difference between the two major parties?
- Who is likely to win?
- What could be the consequences for Trump?
In the autumn of 2018, the USA is the world’s third most populous country, and has the world’s largest economy as well as the world’s strongest military power. In short, the United States, despite a somewhat weakened position from 1945 to 2018, is still the world’s number one superpower.
Nevertheless, the United States has a much shorter history as an independent state than, for example, old European powers such as England and France. The United States declared itself a separate state with the Declaration of Independence from 1776, which is celebrated annually on the national day on 4 July. But it was not until 1789 that envoys from the first 13 states finally came together to elect the liberation hero and General George Washington as the first president of the United States, a country located in North America according to pharmacylib.
2: Distribution of power
Today’s United States has a territory that is more than five times as large as the first United States from 1789, and the number of states has increased from 13 to 50. Nevertheless, Americans have largely stuck to the political system from 1789, which at that time was particularly radical and democratic .
The head of state is currently a president who has been elected for a four-year term, and who, compared to, for example, the prime ministers of Norway, has a stronger position with further powers. The United States’ political system nevertheless has a balance of power inspired by the threefold division of the French philosopher and political thinker Montesquieu, who earlier in the 18th century distinguished between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature. The president’s executive power in the United States is balanced partly by the courts, mostly governed by a small group of life-elected Supreme Court justices, and partly by the many elected representatives in the National Assembly.
The National Assembly of the United States is called the Congress and is divided into two chambers:
- Senate (100 members)
- House of Representatives (435 delegates)
The balance of power between large and small states has been secured by each state, regardless of population, being allowed to elect two seats in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, on the other hand, the number for each state varies according to the population: California has by far the most populous state 53 seats, while seven of the smallest states only get one seat left. When new delegates are to be elected to the House of Representatives, the states are divided into constituencies, so that California, for example, is divided into 53 districts. A quarter of the parties nominate one candidate in a quarter of constituencies, and the candidate who receives the most votes is elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives.
It is common for many more parties to stand for election to Congress, but with few and special exceptions, the struggle is to get the most votes between the two largest parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The electoral system in the USA thus does not make it easy for new parties to challenge the two established major parties. TV commercials and other political advertisements play a much bigger role in the United States than, for example, here in Norway, so it becomes much more important to bring in monetary gifts to the candidates. Since the 1850s, the presidential election has been a duel between the Democratic and Republican parties. Both parties have in many areas changed positions during this long period of time:
- In the latter part of the 19th century, the Republicans were the radical party, among other things, on the issue of slavery and the rights of African Americans, but have in the last hundred years increasingly taken the position as the most conservative party.
- The Democrats were the most conservative party in the latter part of the 19th century and had the strongest position among the former slave states in the south, but during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first presidency in the 1930s, the Liberal and Radical Party focused on the northern states.
Compared to Norway, the center of American politics is further to the right, so that the vast majority of politicians and voters in the party to the left of the Norwegian Conservative Party will be closer to the Democrats than the Republicans in the United States. In the Norwegian Conservatives, there are different views on which party one sympathizes with in the US, but in the presidential election in 2016, most politicians in the Conservatives seemed to be closer to the Democrats ‘candidate, Hillary Clinton, than the Republicans’ candidate, Donald Trump. In the Norwegian Progress Party, most people are closest to the Republicans, even though President Trump is controversial.
4: The Battle for Congress
Democrats and Republicans are not only fighting for the president, but have since the 1850s also fought to have a majority in Congress. The situation where one party has the president and the other party a majority in one or both congress chambers has been quite common in recent decades. It most recently arose under Barack Obama, as the Republicans in the fall of 2014 election won a majority in the Senate and strengthened the majority House of Representatives. The Republicans also saved the majority at the congressional election in the autumn of 2016. The room for maneuver of the newly elected President Trump was nevertheless reduced by the fact that the majority was smaller, at the same time as many of the Republican delegates were critical of Trump and wanted another Republican presidential candidate. Trump has therefore not supported all of his policies in Congress,
Elections to Congress take place every fall in the United States. In the Senate, the election period is six years, so that only a third of the senators are up for election each time. In the House of Representatives, the election period is two years, so that all the delegates there are up for election each time.