What can the midterms tell us about the health of American democracy?
Today, the US sees the most important set of elections since Trump’s election two years ago.
With every seat in the House and a third of the Senate up for grabs, the result will have a huge impact on the president’s ability to implement his agenda.
Some features of the US political system are very similar to the UK, most obviously the first past the post system. The influence of big money also plays a big role, though in quite different ways and on a totally different scale.
Whilst US politics remains deeply divided, there are several stories coming out of the elections that show hopeful signs for American democracy, as citizens come up with new ways to intervene in their flawed political system.
So, while poll watchers are waiting for the results, we’ve made a list of the most interesting stories that have come out of the campaigns.
In the UK we have postal voting, but many parts of America have an extended period of early voting. And record numbers are turning out as both Trump and his opponents stress the historic importance of today’s vote.
Campaign groups have played an active role in US elections for a long time. While it’s normal for environmental campaigns or the NRA to be working flat out for their preferred candidate, this campaign has seen new efforts to engage ordinary citizens more actively in the election. See Crush the Midterms as an example.
Who funds candidates campaigns has increased in prominence, so much that hundreds have hundreds have pledged not to accept donations from Political Action Committees, a type of organisation invented to get around limits any one person can donate. One campaign group called End Citizens United is even campaigning to unseat members of congress they believe have been prioritising the interests of donors over constituents. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat underdog trying to break onto the Senate in deep-red Texas, is experimenting with an online army of fundraisers.
Finally, here’s a piece from Vice on the voices of disenfranchised voters.
Whatever the results tomorrow morning, and however flawed the US system is, Americans are engaging in their democracy in numbers not seen for some time.