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By John Ubaldi
Columnist, In Homeland Security
The 2018 midterm elections have galvanized the United States electorate. Some observers believe the voting will be a referendum on President Trump. Others view it as a choice between two extremes: a progressive ideology versus free-market capitalism.
Democrats Looking to Take Over in Congress
Ever since Trump’s stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton, Democrats have become increasingly energized as they seek to gain control of at least the House of Representatives and start rolling back the Trump agenda.
The Democrats want to wield the gavel of power again on Capitol Hill. That would give them the authority to conduct investigations of the president and his administration. And it’s a well-known fact that the party of the sitting president usually loses seats in Congress as a result of midterm balloting.
Since the 2016 presidential election, some Democrats and other Trump opponents have spoken of unknown “outside forces,” possibly Russian hackers, having played a pivotal role in Trump’s victory.
Even before the 2016 presidential election, federal investigations led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller have probed possible Russian collusion with Trump’s campaign and Kremlin interference in the U.S. electoral process. But two years later, there is no known evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, even after several Trump associates and Russian operatives were indicted for various crimes.
However, it’s likely that some House Democrats are preparing to hold the Trump administration accountable for that and many other issues.
Republican and Democratic Parties Miles Apart in Policies
The 2018 midterm elections will illustrate the continuing stark contrast between the two major parties’ policies on everything from taxation, health care and global warming to the planned border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s clear that the two parties are diametrically opposed on almost every issue.
Much has been written about the internal dysfunction within the Republican Party. But these issues are mainly procedural differences on implementing lower taxes, shrinking the government, controlling spending and increasing military expenditures.
However, the Democratic Party is in a far different position. Since the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who challenged Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, the Democrats have allowed some members of the party’s progressive wing to push the party further to the left.
Ever since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” the progressive wing has pushed for a “Medicare for All” health care system. “Medicare for all” was one of the core policy proposals of Sanders’ presidential campaign, and remains so today. But it is bitterly opposed by Republicans.
Numerous experts, including the Mercatus Center and the liberal-leaning Urban Institute, have calculated that a “Medicare for All” plan would cost more than $32 trillion if fully implemented. Both think tanks estimate that “Medicare for All” would raise taxes by around $15 trillion. Nevertheless, polls show that health care remains a top issue with voters.
CBO Says Spending for Social Security and Medicare Will Rise
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported in April that increases in entitlement spending – mainly because of an aging population and rising health care costs per beneficiary – are projected to increase Social Security and Medicare spending, among other programs.
If the past is any indication, these spending initiatives could be non-starters once voters eventually see the price tag. Sanders’ home state of Vermont came close to adopting a single-payer health care system. But once the cost was firmly established, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-VT) scrapped the plan because of its projected increase in the state’s payroll tax of 11.5 percent and a projected 9 percent rise in individual income tax rates.
Another program championed by Democratic candidates running in November is an expansion of Social Security benefits. The Tax Policy Center reports that an expansion would increase the cost of benefits by about $188 billion over the next 10 years.
2018 Elections Pave Way for 2020 Presidential Election
The outcome of the 2018 midterm elections will set the stage for the 2020 presidential election. Will those who advocate a progressive approach make substantial gains or will those favoring free-market capitalism keep their majority on Capitol Hill?
There are millions of American voters who are neither progressives nor conservatives. It is these independent voters who will ultimately decide the outcome of the mid-term elections on Nov. 6. However, if turnout is record-breaking on either side of the political ideology spectrum, then all bets are off.