The Election Is Finally Over, So Let's Talk About the Next One: What's at Stake in 2018

Congress at the US Capitol
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

A Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol on Jan. 12, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Just like those people who can't wait until the Halloween sugar hangover has subsided before they bust out the Christmas decorations, in the wake of Tuesday's historic election of the nation's first reality show president, some eyes are already turning to the 2018 midterm elections. The good news is that regardless of whether you were #WithHer or down to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, you have a chance to either correct some things or double-down in just two short years on Nov. 6, 2018.

While voters will have to wait until 2020 for a chance to weigh in on whether real estate mogul and newbie politician Donald Trump deserves a second term, a number of House and Senate seats are up in the next election cycle, and they could have an impact on how things get done in Washington. "The number of races in 2018 is going to be substantial, and those elections tend to get less attention than the presidential one," said Carolyn DeWitt, president of Rock the Vote. "But they are really important, especially for young people who are multi-issue focused on things like LGBTQ rights, voting rights, criminal justice reform, equal pay and minimum wage. A lot of those things are decided on a local and state level."

Another reason she said 2018 is so important: Trump is headed into office with majorities in both houses of Congress, not to mention at least one opportunity to tip the Supreme Court toward a conservative majority). When one party has that kind of finger-on-the-scale concentration of power, there is sometimes a noticeable voter reaction in the following electoral cycle if citizens think things have swung too far the other way.

Americans will have plenty of choices to make in two years, as all 435 voting seats in the House of Representatives -- where members serve two-year terms and the number of representatives is based on a state's population -- and 33 out of the 100 Senate seats (two for each state) will be up for grabs. In addition, there will be 36 governorships in the mix. This marks only the second time since 1929 that Republicans will have control of the White House, both houses of Congress and, tying a 94-year-old record, 34 governorships; 14 of those governor's mansions will be up for grabs in 2018 due to term limits.

On the day Trump is inaugurated, the Senate will have a 51-47 Republican majority while the House balance will be 238 to 191 in favor of the GOP. The bad news for Democrats, according to the Washington Post, is that they'll have much less to work with in 2018 if they hope to chip away at Trump's royal flush, as Democrats have 23-25 seats to defend in the Senate to just eight for Republicans. And, thanks to redistricting in 2010 by Republican-dominated state legislatures, it will be much harder for Dems to chip away at the GOP's House majority in Washington and in state houses.


"The way young people are feeling now is that Tuesday was a jarring day for them because they overwhelmingly voted for the Democratic candidate and progressive candidates up and down the ticket," said DeWitt of the estimated 24 million voters 18-29 who participated in Tuesday election, 62 percent of whom voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, with 21 percent going for Trump. "The big piece for us is education because a lot of them were new voters and voting is habit-forming, so the ones who showed up need to know their vote matters."

Some food for thought: While just over 55 percent of Americans turned out for Tuesday's election, midterms tend to draw a much smaller crowd, with a near-record-low turnout in 2014, when only 36 percent of eligible voters bothered to show up at the polls. "It's not just that election in two years, but every election between now and then that has even lower voter turnout -- special elections, local elections or even if they want to start organizing now and run for office themselves," DeWitt said of young voters' engagement. "You need to be engaged and not just have this be an activity you show up for every four years, but make it something that's part of your identity."