Mid-term elections...as I continually try to grapple with the American political system and how it works, just when I think I have it somewhat figured out they throw in mid-term elections. I read an article in the Times on Monday, by a Brit journalist who had lived in the US for more years than I've been alive and his whole conclusion was that mid-term elections came down to football and cowboy boots. Huh? Yeah, my thoughts exactly. But as always when no-one here was able to succinctly excplain the purpose of mid-term elections I turned to the Times who provided me with the answer.
So, here, according to the Times Online Newsdesk it what it's all about:
Elections take place for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This takes place every two years.
Congressmen and women, serving in the House, are elected for two-year terms and so at mid-terms all 435 of them are up for re-election.
Senators serve six-year terms and are admitted every two years, so a third of them (33 out of 100) are up for re-election.
A total of 458 seats were up for election yesterday. And here's the important bit - since 1994 the Republican Party had controlled both Houses of Congress and since the last elections in 2004, have enjoyed a majority of 5 in the Senate and 12 in the House.
Notice I say had because as of this morning the Democratic Party has taken control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994. Democratic success in Indiana, Kentucky, Arizona, Ohio and Florida ensured the party a victory. It's interesting that in such red states, (Indiana, Kentucky, Arizona), Democrats defeated Republicans, although not necessarily with the kind of margin that was earlier predicted. The Senate is still up for grabs as we wait for the final results from VA, Missouri and Montana. The Democrats need to win all three states to ensure a win in the Senate as well.
Regardless of the outcome I think it does say something for the democratic process. Keith and I were talking at breakfast this morning and Keith commented on the fact that it was a shame that the US didn't have a presidential vote of no confidence like so many other countries have for their democratically voted (and sometimes not so democratically voted) leaders. A four year term might not seem that long but apparently it's more than enough time to really screw up.