On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Republicans stunned the world by sweeping the ballot and claiming majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as the Presidency. With Antonin Scalia’s seat still vacant due to 7 months of Congress refusing to do their Constitutional duty, the Republicans will hold all three branches of federal power for the first time since 1928. This surprising sweep allows Republicans to potentially enact a reactionary agenda without compromise with Democrats, except in the case of filibusters. What’s
Right up until election night, polls showed the odds of winning the Senate was roughly 50/50. While the Democrats did gain two seats, Republicans maintained their majority with 51 seats and Dems holding 48 seats (and a runoff election in Louisiana between Democrat Foster Campbell and Republican John Kennedy). This narrow majority leaves the Democrats the option to filibuster Republican legislation, which may cause another four years of a stalemated Congress. While much progress in regards to healthcare, housing, education, taxes, and criminal justice reform is expected to be rolled back if the Republicans can push through their agenda without filibuster, the Senate has diversified demographically with a historic high of four women of color being elected (D-IL, D-CA, D-NV, D-HI), the first Indian-American Senator (Senator Harris, D-CA), and the first Thai-American Senator (Senator Duckworth, D-IL).
The leadership dynamics of the Senate have also changed, even though Republicans continue to hold onto their majority. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has assumed the Senate Democratic Leadership, previously held by Harry Reid, while Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remains the leader of the Republican majority. This change in leadership may contribute to less partisanship within the Senate because Schumer and McConnell are rumored to have a more amicable relationship compared to Reid and McConnell’s notoriously contentious relationship. Senator Schumer has expressed a willingness to work with the Trump administration particularly on issues of improving American infrastructure.
While Trump’s antiestablishment message of “Drain the Swamp” seemed to resonate with voters, Republican incumbents in key states still had strong showing at the polls. Rob Portman (R-OH), John McCain (R-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R -FL), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) all won reelection. The decision by some Senators to disavow Trump during his multifarious scandals worked well for some, namely Senator McCain (R-AZ) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), but Trump’s strong voter turnout seemed to tip the election for some key senators, according to analysts.
The question on everyone’s mind is: “what’s next?” Will Congress end up taking away 20 million people’s healthcare, promising to replace the law with “something terrific”? Will Trump make good on his campaign promises to deport 11 million people who entered the country without documentation? Will women lose access to contraceptives and the right to control their reproductive choices? Will Mike Pence continue advocating for funding conversion therapy to “cure” queer people? These questions ring with the utmost urgency for millions of people, especially those from already marginalized communities. Conversely, these communities search for answers to an equally pressing question: “How do we fight back?”