SALT LAKE CITY — The 2018 midterm elections will be affected by a number of issues, including the Russia investigation, a possible government shutdown, a Supreme Court nominee and more.
Here are five issues that will affect the 2018 midterm elections.
1. President Trump
First and foremost, the 2018 midterm elections will be about President Donald Trump. Midterm elections are considered presidential referendums no matter who is in office.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, more than half of those preparing to go to the polls indicated that their vote will be a reflection of how they feel about the president.
Did the president collude with Russia in the 2016 election? Do the president’s personal morals reflect those of the country as a whole? Does it even matter?
The 2018 midterm elections will prove one way or another what voters on both sides of the aisle most care about.
Immigration is quickly climbing the chart in terms of issues important to voters. Not only is there a sharp partisan divide on the ethics of immigration enforcement such as separating children from their families, but the president has threatened a government shutdown leading up to the election if Congress does not provide funding for a border wall.
Republicans loathe the idea of a government shutdown just before financially-affected voters go to the polls, but the president seems intent on forcing the issue regardless of the electoral consequences.
“I’ve heard a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, don’t do it before the election, we’ll upset the apple cart,” the president recently told radio host Rush Limbaugh.
“I’m not doing it for politics,” he added. “I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Is it immoral to separate children from their immigrant parents or is it what needs to be done to stop illegal immigration? Is a border wall necessary to curb crime, prevent terror attacks, and stop immigration or is it an expensive and ineffective message of exclusion?
Whether examined from a moral or financial standpoint, immigration stands to be a critical issue in the upcoming elections.
3. Health care
One of the first major accomplishments of President Barack Obama was to shepherd the Affordable Care Act legislation that provided increased access to health care, and one of the first major accomplishments of President Trump was to revoke as much of the legislation as possible. Both major parties are poised to rehash the debates through the midterm elections.
Republicans oppose the legislation and consider increased access to health care an overreach of government. Accordingly, payments to insurance providers are held back and the integral “individual mandate” has been removed from the legislation. These changes largely neuter the legislation. If Republicans hold onto Congressional majorities, it may be possible to eliminate the health care bill in its entirety.
Democrats are incensed at what they view as a betrayal of the American people by the government. They may not have secured a single Republican vote when passing the health care legislation in history, but view their victory as a great accomplishment. If they can regain a majority in Congress, it may be possible to restore critical elements of the legislation.
Both Republicans and Democrats have a great deal at stake in the midterm elections.
4. Supreme Court
Another partisan issue that will certainly affect the midterm elections is the makeup of the United States Supreme Court. President Trump has already succeeded in appointing one conservative justice to the court during his term. A second appointment in the wake of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement would be a clear coup for Republicans and a disaster for Democrats.
The Supreme Court is technically an apolitical body, but partisanship has been a part of the nomination process for a long time. During the Obama administration, Republicans were against the idea of a liberal appointment to the court, so they blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland. Democrats later facilitated the appointment when President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, but a second appointment is likely to engender a far greater fight.
Both sides see the issue as one that will affect abortion rights, campaign financing and many other important issues. The midterm elections will determine those who vote on the next Supreme Court Justice.
Russia will play a role in the midterm elections in two significant ways. First, the Trump administration and the president himself are embroiled in a controversy over whether there was purposeful collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. The administration first denied any alleged contact, then explained discovered contact, and now is putting forth an argument it is not illegal even if collusion is confirmed.
While special counsel Robert Mueller has yet to release a report, the issue sparks passion in both Republicans and Democrats.
Second, regardless of whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the Soviet country is actively trying to influence the midterm elections.
“Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to malign influence operations to this day,” said FBI Director Chris Wray on Aug. 2. He described the effort to affect the elections as a “24-7, 365-days-a-year” effort.
Just as the measurable effect of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential elections remains ambiguous, so too is the difficulty to predict exactly how the elections will be different because of Russian involvement. One thing remains certain: Russia will be a noticeable presence in the midterm elections in more than one way.
* This article was originally posted at KSL.com on August 15, 2018.