New Generation, New Congress: Seniors give their opinions on the 2022 US Midterm elections, the 118th Congress and the state of the nation

(U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock speaks during an election night party in Atlanta, Dec. 6, 2022. (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

With the conclusion of the Georgia Senate Runoff on Dec. 6, the 2022 United States Elections cycle have officially come to a close.

Determining the balance of power in the upcoming 118th United States congress, as well as government control in 39 states and territorial elections, along with numerous local elections, the midterm results will shape the trajectory of the Biden Administration’s next 2 years in office. Popular belief before election night predicted that the midterms would end in a “red wave,” characterized by a nationwide swing against Democrats and Republican gains in the federal congress and local government.

Yet despite expectations, the midterms gave only small gains to the GOP in Congress and Democrats regained strength in state and local government across the country.

The Republican Party regained control of the House of Representatives, winning a narrow majority of 222-213 seats, one of the narrowest majorities in U.S. history and leading many experts to forecast instability in the Republican Congress come January.

The Democratic Party retained control of the U.S. Senate, flipping a senate seat in Pennsylvania to finish with 51-49 seats in the upper chamber, allowing the Biden administration continued confirmation of judicial nominees and an easier path to future legislation. While loss of the House is a blow to democrats and President Joe Biden, the close margins reject historical trends where ther ruling party faces widespread blowback during their midterms, and president Joe Biden now becomes only the third president since 1938 to retain all senate seats in midterm elections.

Across the country, the red vs blue, urban vs rural divide continued to expand, with Democrats regaining control of crucial gubernatorial seats and state houses. Democratic candidates flipped control of governor mansions in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Arizona, retained control in close races in Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Michigan while Republicans flipped the offices in Nevada. Next year, Republicans will be governors in 26 states while Democrats are governors in 24. Here in Washington, Governor Jay Inslee wasn’t on the ballot, while Democrats in the state house will likely gain one state senate seat and one state house seat, to the disappointment of Republicans who hoped to make gains in a year when crime,inflation, and high gas prices drew criticism of the deeply blue state’s policies.

Federally, Democrats flipped a House seat in the Southwest area, while congressperson Kim Schrier beat back a challenger to keep her seat representing central Washington. Overall, across the country, republicans continued to dominate rural voters, and made up enough grounds in suburbs to recapture the house, but Democrats were able to turn out their base and youth voters in such a manner that republicans can’t claim complete victory in the midterms.

There are many forces at play that led to this unusual midterm election cycle, it comes at the end of a tumultuous, unpredictable year for the country. The threat of a recession that never quite materialized, the overturning of Roe v Wade which energized both pro-life and pro-choice voters, and with election integrity and democracies future still front of mind for many voters, 2022 was a year when neither party felt confident of their support among citizens, and many Americans remained uncertain about the country’s future and what they believe.

One thing is certain, however, voter turnout among young Americans, those aged 18-35, was the highest it has been in 30 years. Politics, it seems, are increasingly becoming polarized, and unavoidable in everyday life, with Americans forced to choose sides among an almost nonexistent middle ground. As such, understanding what motivated young Americans is crucial to anyone interested in predicting the future of politics and government, and wielding that power to aid their own beliefs and goals in the future.

The Lion sent out numerous requests for interviews, and was able to interview three Bellarmine students for their opinions on the midterms, youth political engagement, andAmericas future. The transcript is as follows:

What were your expectations for the midterm elections? Did your predictions come true?
Chloe:I didn’t really have a prediction, I assumed we wouldn’t have anything dramatic happening, like a red wave. I more commonly lean towards thinking Democrats have the advantage in messaging and reputation, so maybe I needed more caution, but I didn’t think we would have a dramatic shift.
Jordan:I didn’t expect a red wave, I thought the house would be close, and I didn’t expect the Democrats to pick up a senate seat. So overall, I wasn’t that surprised.
Thoren:I did not make any predictions for these elections, I wasn’t following polling and voter opinions, so I did not know what to expect. I chose not to get to invested, just because I know I would only be frustrated with whatever the results were.

Did you personally vote?
Chloe: No I did not, but I watched my friends and family vote. I wasn’t eligible.
Thoren:No, I wasn’t registered to vote, but I was eligible.
Jordan:Yes, I voted on Election Day, I turned my ballot into the drop box by the University Place Library.

Did your family members and friends vote?
Jordan: My family voted, I don’t know if I can say for my friends. I think it was pretty mixed. I don’t think a lot of my friends were registered, because of a lack of knowledge.
Chloe:Yes, I was in the room as they filled out their ballots.
Thoren: I think my family members did, I was the only one not registered to, I don’t think most of my friends were able to vote.

How do you feel following the outcome of the elections? Are you Hopeful? Scared? Disappointed?
Chloe:A little disappointed, since the margins were so close. Especially in Georgia, the vote was close, and now we have a divided congress.  Obviously midterms usually result in a divided gov, but I’m glad the senate didn’t flip. I guess I needed to be more concerned about the midterms than I was.
Jordan:I feel hopeful, I think they show a lot of people understand the importance of voting going forward. I voted Democrat, so I was happy to see dems do well in blue states and battleground states. I’m also glad many election deniers lost.
Thoren:Indifferent, because I didn’t pay attention, I just turned 18 as the midterms were coming up.

Did you research the candidates you voted for? Is comparing candidates’ platforms important to you?
Chloe:If I could vote, I would research who I can vote for, I think we need to know the people we vote for.
Jordan:Yes I did research the candidates. I looked at their websites and the policies they want to advocate for, particularly with the Secretary of States race I did a lot of research on the candidates before casting my vote.
Thoren:I didn’t vote, so I can’t really answer the question. When I do vote in the future, I willcare about the ideas and policies of my preferred candidates. I don’t really feel aligned with Republicans or Democrats, so if I was to compare candidates, I think I would find problems with all the options.

Were there any issues in particular that motivated you to vote?
Chloe:I think it might be obvious, but reproductive rights were a big concern of mine. Economic equality would motivate me, because I think there is a lot of action we need to take that is common sense, and would make the country a better place to live. Climate change obviously,
the distinction between federal and states rights.
Jordan:Voting for candidates that would make life more affordable, so lowering taxes on middle and lower class and raising them on the rich. Candidates that would protect democratic norms and values.
Thoren: If I had voted, women’s healthcare, gun control, and the state of the economy would have motivated me to vote. I don’t align neatly with the left or the right on those issues as a whole, so I think I may have split my ticket a lot.

Do you think our country is headed in the right direction?
Chloe:I think we need to wait until 2024 to answer that question, I think we need to see whether Biden is doing a good job at his old age. The fact that Trump is running in 2024, because there is definitely a possibility that he could win, and there were people that turned against the Democratic Party in the midterms.
Jordan:Parts of our country where the majority of candidates want to uphold democratic values, and where politicians want to make participating in democracy easier are. In areas were candidates are spewing hate, making voting less accessible, and trying to undermine democratic norms are not heading in right direction.
Thoren: Probably not, we are in a recession right now, prices are high and gas is super-expensive. I feel like we are spending a lot of money in a lot of areas, and debt is getting higher every year. The political parties are growing farther apart, I don’t think the leaders we have voted for in the past couple of elections have been very effective at representing and leading the country. I can’t say I am happy with Joe Biden and the democrats leadership, but I don’t think they had a high bar to match from Republicans either.

Do you feel that the U.S. political system is working as it needs to? Do you think the government is capable of solving our present problems?
Chloe:I don’t think the government is doing the best job they can. They need bipartisanship, which is hard to achieve because of the people in power. The fact that so many officials make outlandish statements is concerning. There are moments when congress passes bipartisan, meaningful legislation! Like with the respect for marriage act was bipartisan and passed, we have potential to be better than we currently are.
Jordan:To some degree, voters can still elect candidates of their choice and we have budgets and new laws getting passed. But I think it gives to much power to a few individuals, and I think politicians have too much power to censor peoples voices and discourage people from voting, and writing the rules to favor their re-election. Yes, I think the government is capable of solving our present problems. I don’t think they will though, going back to how the system doesn’t work as it was intended too, the gov doesn’t encourage cooperation among lawmakers and incentivize problem solving as it should.
Thoren:No, I think a lot of the time there is legislation that could solve the problem, but the other party blocks it, we don’t work together so the big issues are never really addressed. We constantly get caught up in partisan politics, and when bipartisan solutions and ideas are proposed, both sides promote their own ideas that appeal only to their base, so good ideas that most people would appreciate are never explored.

Do you think politicians and voters on both sides of the aisle have the best interests of the country in mind? Do you trust nominees from both parties in government?

Jordan:No to both, I don’t think every politician has the best interests of the country in mind, many have the needs of internet groups and big donors in mind. I think many voters also don’t vote with their best interests in mind.
Thoren: I would say both parties are motivated and want to serve the country and do what’s best for the country in the eyes of their own party. Doesn’t mean I think they actually have good ideas, and it doesn’t mean they should be elected.
Chloe:Some politicians have the good of the country in mind, others do not. I am really concerned when elected officials talk about our elections as if they aren’t official and they can simply ignore the results, in my opinion those people are not looking out for our democracy. I believe most people would agree with me on that point.

Do you feel represented by the current two party system?
Chloe:I don’t think anyone feels represented in a two party system. I think my beliefs don’t align with either side. I lean more towards supporting democrats because of social issues and some economic issues, but I don’t love democrats, I support them because I feel like I have to. We constantly have gridlock and can’t agree on anything. Any time there are simply two factions, there will be war and a grab for power.
Jordan:Yes, in the sense I feel that there are politicians that represent my views, and solutions that solve the problems I care about are advocated in the other Washington. However. I think there is a lot of work that could be done to make people’s beliefs and needs better represented. I would definitely like to see more parties on both the left and the right, political debates these days are about which side you are on, not on actual policy and results.
Thoren:No, I don’t identify with either party, I have views that overlap both parties. It’s one reason I don’t keep track of politics super closely, I don’t really see anyone in government I can identify with on the issues, and there is no bipartisanship anymore. Lawmakers work together to keep the government running, but they don’t solve any of our crises unless they can get exactly what they want.

Do you have any predictions for the 2024 elections?
Chloe:I think Biden could barely win, hopefully people aren’t as misinformed as they were in 2020.
Jordan:I think it will be another stressful election season, with lots of spending records broken. I think Democrats will win the presidential election. I don’t think it will be a massive blowout, but I don’t see Republicans winning a majority of voters no matter who they run. whether he will run again, or if I want him to.Thoren:Brent Peterson will win…I’m joking, I’m not keeping track of presidential politics right now, I don’t know who will be running on either side in 2024. I don’t want President Biden to run again, he’s too old and I don’t agree with his policy actions that much. I think we should have some younger leadership in the White House and Congress, the same people have been leading politics for the last twenty years.

Do you think our voting system was secure? Do you think there were issues with fraud that could have changed the outcome of races?
Chloe:I think that is a misconception, there is evidence there wasn’t widespread fraud.
Jordan:No, I don’t think there was fraud that changed race outcomes, at all. I think many states have voting laws that prevent a lot of people voting, that would change the political makeup of those states.
Thoren: Yes, I do think the elections in Washington and the country were secure. I think there were most likely one or two cases of fraud, but not enough to seriously change the outcome of any race, and not enough to declare our voting systems completely corrupt.

Do you know who your local congressman/woman is?
Chloe:I can’t name her on the spot, its Marylin Strickland (after checking her phone).
Thoren:No, unfortunately I don’t know who my representative is, I know Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are Washington’s senators though. Obviously since Murray is running for reelection this year she is fresh in my mind. I don’t think she’s corrupt and completely destroying the state, but I also think she has chosen to be partisan along with the majority of politicians, so she is contributing to the problem we see in D.C. I think she was trying to hurt my dad’s job a while back, so I wouldn’t miss her in the senate.

If you could personally influence lawmakers’ actions in the next Congress, what priorities would you give them?
Chloe:Make reforms to education so that higher education is more affordable. Climate change, reproductive rights.
Jordan:Making healthcare more affordable and accessible. Taking meaningful steps to curb carbon emissions and effects of climate change. Take meaningful steps to protect democratic values, institutions and practices.
Thoren:I would want them to legislate for fewer gun free zones, codify reproductive rights nationwide, and to address inflation and prevent or minimize a future recession.

Do you think politicians pay enough attention to young voters? Do you think youth issues and concerns are addressed in Congress?
Thoren:No, because I think most teenagers are in favor of, and concerned with, gun control, and that isn’t really an issue that the government has made major changes to in the last couple of years.
Voting data suggests that 30% of eligible voters between the ages 18-29 voted in the midterms, the second highest turnout among this age group in 30 years. Do you think people our age are engaged in politics? Why do you think more youth voted in this election than past midterms?
Thoren:Social media, politicians, intersst and advocacy groups are always online spreading their viewpoints and messaging, I think young people receive a lot of messaging telling us to vote, especially in the last couple of years.

Since interviewing these students, Congress has reconvened and the Republicans in the house, returning with a new majority, are making history with a prolonged fight to choose the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. While Representative Kevin McCarthy(R-CA) led the GOP in the minority since 2018, and has the backing of a majority of the Republican conference, a group of about 20 republicans have refused to name him speaker. As of 2:17 p.m, on January 4,  6 ballots to elect the next Speaker have failed. Democrats have been unified in their votes for Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), who has won more votes than McCarthy on every ballot. McCarthy and republican leadership have refused to back down and nominate another candidate, and the defecting republicans are adamant that they will never supply the votes needed for McCarthy to take the top job.

With the nation still deeply divided over partisan lines, and a divided congress struggling to get off the ground in D.C., there is a feeling that these next two years will be a fraught time for the 118th Congress.

(House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks during an Election Night party at The Westin in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. (Photo by Greg Nash/