Philip Klinkner

Why the 2018 midterms are just as important as 2016, an essay published by James S. Sherman Professor of Government Philip Klinkner in the Washington Post’s Made by History section, explains how “midterm elections are often as transformational and consequential as presidential elections.” Klinkner observed that because “midterm elections are seen as limited corrections to the course set by important presidential elections … voter turnout in midterm elections is one-quarter to one-third lower than in presidential elections.”

Throughout his essay, Klinkner pointed to midterms that have been at least as important as the majority of our presidential elections, if not more important, resulting in “seminal legislation that reshaped America, and in other cases, they signaled transformations of our political parties, our governing institutions and American politics in ways that would drive political debate for decades. Indeed, what happens this year may be just as important as President Trump’s stunning rise in 2016 and whatever happens in 2020.”

He highlighted other midterm elections that had “critical, if narrower, impact on public policy;” those that had “less impact on policy but marked a transformation of American politics or the American party system;” and another set of midterm elections that “shifted the power balance within the majority party.” These elections show that while midterm elections are often left out of the history books, they routinely have been key moments in American politics and deserve to be treated as such.”

Kinkner asked, “Will 2018 be another historic midterm election? Obviously, it depends on the outcome, and even then it may be years or even decades before we will know for sure. On the other hand, this election already appears to be significant in at least one respect. This year has seen a record number of women nominated to run for Congress and, consequently, a record number of women will likely serve in the next Congress.”

Made by History: According to its website, "In order to make history, we first have to understand how history has made us." Made by History’s goal is to offer the history behind "today’s breakneck news."


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