In this week’s headlines…
A week after election day, the 2018 midterm elections have not yet ended. Democrats successfully took back control of the House of Representatives with a 227 to 198 majority, while Republicans maintained control of the Senate. Likewise, Democrats were able to flip several gubernatorial seats, such as Wisconsin’s, and to gain seats in state legislatures in previously deeply red and borderline Republican areas, such as in North Carolina and New York, respectively. However, votes are still being counted: In Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams faces pressure to concede to Bryan Kemp, who already declared his victory, despite thousands of uncounted votes. In Arizona, Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema led against Martha McSally, taking the seat vacated by outgoing Senator Jeff Flake. In Florida, the Secretary of State ordered recounts in the races for governor and senators (The New York Times, “2018 Midterm Election Results: Live,” 11.11.2019).
Congress will welcome a record number of women in three months’ time, including the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY.16), the two first Muslim women in Congress with Ilhan Omar (D-MN.5) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI.13) and the two first Native American women in Congress with Deb Haaland (D-NM.1) and Sharice Davids (D-KS.3) (The Washington Examiner, “13 women who made history by being elected to Congress this week,” 11.7.2018).
Jeff Sessions resigned as Attorney General of the United States this past Wednesday, Nov. 7. The diction he used in his letter of resignation indicated that he did not willingly leave the position and that President Trump forced his hand in the decision. Trump replaced Sessions with long-time Trump loyalist and Chief of Staff for the Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker in a move that is causing concerns over the future of the inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 election. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, has in the past openly questioned the legitimacy of the Russia investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein led the investigation after Sessions recused himself from the role in 2017, a decision for which Trump has repeatedly denounced Sessions (The New York Times, “Jeff Sessions Is Forced Out as Attorney General as Trump Installs Loyalist,” 11.7.2018).
The Democratic Party now finds itself struggling to choose the next Speaker of the House after successfully re-establishing its majority during the midterm elections. Many newly elected candidates have hesitated commenting on—some outright denouncing—Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Democratic House minority leader for the past several sessions of Congress, as the next Speaker. If voted in, she will be the first person to regain the position of Speaker since Sam Rayburn (D-TX) did in 1955. Pelosi has made it clear that she believes she engineered many winning strategies for the Democrats in house races this past election season, and no clear alternate contender has come forward (Washington Post, “‘Know the power to win:’ Pelosi engineers a House Democratic comeback,” 11.7.2018).
In international news…
Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah has seen intensified fighting between Iranbacked Houthi rebels and the Saudi coalition, and medical staff have been forced to flee. The U.S. has renewed its call for a ceasefire as the United Nations attempts to provide aid and end the civil war that has cost over 10,000 lives and resulted in one of the worst famines of the last century. Shelling and hospital ransacks have become commonplace in Hodeidah as the Houthis seek to reinforce their control over the city, through which 80 percent of the country’s food imports and relief supplies enter. The Saudi coalition hopes that by ending the Houthi presence in Hodeidah, it will cut off the main supply source and force the latter group to enter negotiations (“The Guardian, Fighting in Yemen city of Hodeidah reaches residential streets,” 11.11.2018).
On the 100th anniversary of the World War One armistice in Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech denouncing the nationalism that triggered the Great War and that is now bubbling up in populist states. Present at the function in Paris were Trump, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. Macron beseeched these leaders to “fight for peace” and avoid the nationalism that was a “betrayal of patriotism” in stamping out “the most precious thing a nation has—its moral values.” Merkel reflected the same sentiment in her own statements at the Paris Peace Forum on Sunday afternoon in the presence of Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump, a self-proclaimed nationalist, did not attend the peace conference and left for the United States. He also cancelled a visit to a veterans’ cemetery, citing bad weather (BBC, “Armistice Day: Macron urges world leaders to reject nationalism,” 11.11.2018).
Approximately two years after the Rohingya genocide began, Myanmar officials stated on Sunday, Nov. 11, that they would be ready to receive more than 2,000 Rohingya survivors currently seeking shelter in Bangladesh out of a total of 5,000, as per an agreement between the two countries. However, there is a growing list of returnees who refuse to return to the Rakhine state from which they were forced to flee due to mass murders and pillaging by the Myanmar military, and Bengali officials will not force them to return. Additionally, the UN has stated that repatriation is not yet safe, and some 700,000 refugees are still displaced (Reuters, “Myanmar prepares for first Rohingya returnees, but U.N. warns against rushing,” 11.11.2018).
In our backyard…
New York State has returned to Democratic control as the State Senate, Assembly and governorship are now all held by Democrats. Incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo won a third term against Republican challenger Marc Molinaro, winning by nearly 1.3 million votes, and he will now have the support of Senator and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and of a new Democrat-majority State Legislature in enacting abortion rights and gun control in the state (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Andrew Cuomo won big and has a new powerful ally. What will he do now?” 11.9.2018).
With regard to national races centered around New York State, Kirsten Gillibrand won another term as the junior United States Senator from New York. Likewise, Antonio Delgado won the election to serve as the Congressional Representative for District 19—in which Vassar is located—beating incumbent Republican John Faso (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “5 takeaways: Delgado talks transparency, push for greater health care access in first term,” 11.9.2018).