Op-Ed: Do Not Focus on the Wrong Election


Less than a week away -- that is how close we are to electing a new President of the United States. However, the race between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, while the most conversed, will not be the most important. This election cycle, there are a total of 469 Congressional seats in contention (34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats). Congress belongs to the Republicans these days, with an 8% majority in the Senate and a 6% majority in the House of Representatives. Congress' importance lies in that a majority in Congress for either party means it will have tremendous sway in the Supreme Court as well.

If the majorities in Congress stand as is, with Republicans maintaining control in the House and the Senate, and Donald Trump is elected, then his appointments for Supreme Court justices will, presumably, be passed through and sworn in. The same goes if a Democratic majority is voted into Congress and Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election.

In the final presidential debate the issue of the Supreme Court was put to the candidates. More specifically, about the candidates' respective positions on the long standing court decision in Roe V. Wade in which abortion was made legal in the United States. Donald Trump claimed that the pro-life justices he would appoint would automatically overturn Roe, a claim that CNN reported "is belied by history." However, the question of appointing Justices is about much more than abortion; it is about the influence and power that our next President will have.

It is undoubted that the President and Senate that we elect will appoint and approve at least one Supreme Court Justice. Yet there is a possibility for more appointments, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer are all over 78 years old and could retire at any moment. This opens up the possibility that the next President will have up to four appointments. However, none of this can happen without a Senate in their favor.

This is why the Congressional races are more important than ever before. This election season has been rife with new, and rather terrifying, political rhetoric. Mr. Trump's denigration of women to his fraudulent university to his inability to believe in the American voting system is contrasted with Secretary Clinton's email FBI investigation.  2016 often feels more like a reality show than a presidential election.

For many of us, especially those of us taking part in our first major election cycle, the possibilities are frightening. What is the state of American politics, that Presidential candidates openly hurl insults at one another on a debate stage? What kind of election is it when both of the candidates have been investigated by government policing agencies? While harrowing and terrifying for many, there still is hope.

Our founders created a system that was built to last and built to keep the follies of man in check. The system of checks and balances between the major branches of government was not created by accident and it is what we can -- nay, what we must count on in an age of post-truth politics.

Thus, get out and vote for who you think will be the best Commander in Chief. But do not neglect the other, equally as important branches of government. Vote in Congressional elections for those you believe will uphold the Constitution, through passing bills into law and appointing Supreme Court justices.

OpinionNick BeckmanComment