Adam Radwanski summarizes the outcomes and potential ramifications of the recent US midterm elections in terms of winners and losers, suggesting that, although the Democrats regained the House of Representatives, it was not the decisive outcome either party had hoped for.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, history, political science, current events

Key Question(s) to Explore:

  • What are the US “midterm” elections, and how might their outcome affect the presidency of Donald Trump?

New Terminology:

Indictment, subpoena, incumbent, obstructionism, aspirational, enfranchisement, anomaly, populist

Materials Needed:

Globe article, the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The results of the US midterm elections are now in, and both Republican President Trump and his opposition Democrats are claiming victories. The former because the Republicans have modestly strengthened their hold on the Senate; the latter because they gained control of the House of Representatives, which had been held by Republicans since 2011. By one measure, the Democrats have more to cheer. With a majority in Congress, they will have the power to block the Trump administration’s legislation. They also gained investigative and subpoena power, which may loom large in the several ongoing investigations into possible presidential obstruction of justice related to Russian interference in the 2016 federal election.

The results of US elections have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the world and especially for Canada, its largest trading partner. For example, it will now be up to Democrats, who have been known to resist free trade deals, to ratify the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade. Students can benefit from a short lesson on the recent US midterms and their potential ramifications for the US, Canada, and the world. Using the Internet and the attached article, students will prepare a report on the significance of the US midterms as a homework assignment.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a brief discussion about the recent US midterm elections, starting with a survey to see who followed this in the news and to what extent. These questions can help focus the discussion (answers in parentheses):

  • What are the US midterms? (Unlike the Canadian system of government, where members of parliament serve a four-year term, members of the US Congress, serve a two-year term. Canadian senators are appointed; US Senators serve a six-year term, and the president is elected every four years. This means that every two years, all 435 congressional members must be elected, along with about 1/3 of the 100 senators).
  • How can these elections affect the power wielded by the executive branch, headed by the president? (Although the president has the power to draft and present legislation, it must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before it becomes law. Thus, a Republican president, for example, may have difficulty passing legislation if Congress is controlled by Democrats.)
  • What issues facing President Trump might be affected by the outcome of the election? (Aside from difficulties with passing legislation, Mr. Trump and his campaign team are under investigation by the Justice Department for offences that could lead to impeachment and/or prosecution. To date, a number of key individuals already have been charged and convicted. The House of Representatives holds the power to convene investigative committees and to subpoena witnesses, which could include a broader investigation into charges that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, possibly in collusion with one or more of Trump’s election team.)
  • Is there a historical precedent for such an investigation? (Richard Nixon was elected in a landslide in November, 1972, six months after the Watergate story was publicized. But the election also produced a Democrat-controlled Senate and House, which struck a committee to investigate Watergate.)
  • What is different about the current balance of power from the time of Watergate? (Currently, the Republicans control the Senate, which would need to approve a vote for impeachment.)

Assign the following:

Using the article supplied, as well as websites of your choosing (provide the links to any websites you use as a source), prepare a report on the US midterm elections, in which you address the following questions and tasks:

  • Following the 2018 US midterm elections, which party controls each of the three branches of government: The Executive, House of Representatives and the Senate?
  • What examples are given related to voter suppression and voter enfranchisement? Define these terms.
  • Why did both parties claim victories in this election?
  • Explain this excerpt from the article and tell why it could be problematic for President Trump: “Worse, from his perspective, is that Democrats will use their majority – and its subpoena powers – to probe everything from the President’s finances to his relationships with foreign governments.”
  • Describe the Mueller Investigation in terms of its mandate and status to date.
  • Using his own past words to support your answer, why did Mr. Trump fire Jeff Sessions immediately after the election?
  • Finally, what is Canada’s major concern about the outcome of the US midterm election?

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their work in a subsequent class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can describe the US midterm elections and how the most recent election might affect the presidency of Donald Trump?

Confirming Activity:

  • Ask students to report on the results of the Mueller Investigation, and/or on Democrats moving to subpoena witnesses related to it.