All politics is local, so they say. That phrase, often used by former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, typically refers to the importance of building local consensus to win a primary election, thereby making a run for office possible. However, to us voters, it means that our “national” votes are locally determined. In this representative form of government, we literally choose “neighbors” to fly first class to the Capitol and vote on big issues. While you can’t vote for national gun rights issues directly, you can vote for the Senator or Congress-person that will do so for you.
Pay no attention to the breathless newscasters talking about this or that national poll. We don’t have any national elections coming up November 6th. In fact, there are no national elections ever. While we all cast votes for “national” offices like President every four years, our system calls for states to select the President, not the sum total of individual votes across the country. So, you’re voting to influence how your state votes for national offices like President. It’s a nifty little detail in the constitutional republic design that protects minority representation, but I digress. 2018 is all about local offices, even though they will represent us at the national level.
The bottom line of the 2018 election is that we are picking a new batch of Senators and Congress-people. Every two years, one-third of Senators (33 this time around) are up for re-election, and all 435 members of the House of Representatives have to reapply for their jobs. That’s by design. The current Senate makeup if you look at party affiliation is 51 on the Republican side and 49 on the Democrat side, counting two independents who generally vote democratic. In the House, there are 235 Republicans, 193 Democrats, and seven vacancies, although that number changes frequently due to retirements, deaths, and scandals, as politicians are wont to do.