Changing the dynamic of the government takes time. It can take years of persistent protests, numerous calls to Congressman and many elections. The key to change is a consistently engaged and informed electorate. In other words, we have to vote in every election! Congressional elections on a local and federal level have huge implications on our society. We, the people, have to decide what is important to us! As our culture changes we must force the government to change with it, not the other way around. I don’t like that cyberbullying, lying and intolerance are not widely condemned among our elected officials. This has major impacts on us all. Midterms are our chance to reevaluate what we stand for and if the people currently representing us deserve that spot.
Understanding elections can be complicated. A basic understanding of how the government works will help anyone understand more about the process.
A quick refresher on the 3 branches of government:
- Executive Branch enforces the laws. This branch consists of the president (White House) and the Department of Justice (FBI answers to the DOJ)
- Legislative Branch writes the laws. This branch consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives, often called Congress.
- Judicial Branch interprets the laws and decides how they should be followed. This branch consists of the Supreme Court and other lower courts throughout the country.
These are co-equal branches, in other words, each branch has equal power. One branch cannot independently make decisions without the others weighing in, on most things. That’s why you hear about judges blocking the travel ban or oversight committees calling cabinet members (executive branch) to testify before Congress. The president can veto laws that Congress writes. Congress can stop actions taken by the executive branch. Long story short, the branches are supposed to serve as a check and balance system so power isn’t concentrated in one area. Each branch is controlled by a certain party, democrat or republican, based on who we elect.
Midterm elections select the people who will represent us in the legislative branch. The legislative branch, or Congress, is broken up into two chambers, Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate is equal representation. Each state elects 2 people for a total of 100 senators. Senators represent the state as a whole. The House is based on population so each state elects a different number of reps. The state is broken down into smaller districts. These reps represent a smaller group so the needs would be more specific. There are around 430 representatives.
The government is a bottomless pit of committees and departments. There are so many cogs and wheels that make things go round. These basics are a good foundation to know. I highly recommend the Civics 101 podcast if you are interested in learning more.