The Underdiscussed Election

We need to talk about this election season.

I don’t mean the presidential election — it’s incredibly important, but it’s also getting an appropriate amount of coverage (even if the coverage itself isn’t always appropriate). I mean congressional elections, which are every bit as important as the one claiming all the headlines.

This year, 469 congressional seats are up for grabs, including 34 in the Senate and every single seat in the House. Out of these, 47 races are incumbent-free for varying reasons. That leaves 422 current members up for re-election which, according to my admittedly sketchy math, is over ¾ of Congress as a whole.

How important are the elections this year? One only has to look at the third, and often overlooked, branch of government to see. Federal judges are nominated by the President and confirmed (or recently, ignored) by the Senate. There are currently 99 federal judicial vacancies, including a Supreme Court seat. Nominees have been presented and promptly ignored for 59 of those vacancies, including 18 who have been waiting for confirmation for over a year. Texas alone has 11 open seats. When one branch breaks down, or refuses to perform its duties, it affects the others. Current federal judges are overworked and cases are backed up nationwide.

This year’s elections also provide a chance to send a message to an obstructionist congress, one which constantly voted along party lines and generally refused to work with one another or with the president. Despite how many of us may feel, obstructionism isn’t new — it’s one of the oldest Congressional traditions — but it shouldn’t be condoned. Nobody expects those with conflicting viewpoints to go along with whatever the other wants, but that’s why successful congresses have been willing to compromise.

November is an enormous opportunity to bring sweeping change to Washington, even if it doesn’t feel possible. In fact, it’s happened before. Unfortunately, it probably doesn’t seem possible to many, and that could keep many voters from trying.

Congressional approval ratings are currently at 20% according to the latest Gallup polls (September), the highest in four years, but were as low as 13% as recently as July — four points off the lowest in history. However, voter cynicism is incredibly high. The Washington Post ran an article in July detailing another Gallup poll that showed only 14% of Americans feel that a politician’s constituents have a lot of power. Think about that for a moment: voters feel as if they have little-to-no influence over the politicians whose very jobs they hold in their hands.

This year we can, and need to, prove we have power over these politicians., that we are their employers, their managers and HR departments. We can complain on social media and around the dinner table all we want and accomplish nothing, or we can take action and let our frustrations be heard. Our votes are our voices, and it’s time to scream.