Upcoming midterms: Conventional wisdom vs. unconventional times

What do upcoming elections mean for golf advocacy?


Filed to: Advocacy

As we approach the upcoming congressional midterm elections in November, it’s clear that a lot is unclear when determining which party will wind up controlling Congress. It’s considered conventional wisdom that the party that controls the White House loses congressional seats in nonpresidential elections. And President Joe Biden’s low polling numbers certainly do not help the Democrats’ cause.

But — to state the obvious — these are unconventional times.

Will this impact congressional races and if so, how? This is a question with huge implications for golf advocacy. Whoever controls Congress has the chance to write laws impacting water, pesticide use and labor needs at golf facilities nationwide. That party will also control the purse strings that determine how these laws are implemented.

First, the facts. The Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. As of this writing, the House of Representatives is split between 220 Democrats and 210 Republicans, with five vacancies. Democrats gained control of the White House and Congress in 2020; however, the “midterm curse” suggests that will not last. Since World War II, the party in control of the White House has lost seats in the House of Representatives in all but two midterms: 1998 and 2002.

This year, all 435 House seats are up for reelection. The Senate does not swing between parties as much. Only one-third of the Senate is up for reelection each election year, and many of those seats wind up not being in play.

Additionally, President Biden’s public approval ratings have been consistently low. This is also considered to be a drag on Democrats at the ballot box.

Finally, the economy. We’re living in a time of high gas, food and housing costs. If you believe the conventional wisdom, Democrats could be facing a tidal wave.

Could things change? For things to change for the better — or worse — for Democrats would take a game-changing event.

Here are some potential wildcards:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic far from over, COVID-19 remains a threat to public health and the economy. If there is a fall surge of infections, what would the impact be on the country? 
  2. The economy. Despite record-low unemployment, our country has endured two quarters of negative economic growth — the definition of a recession. And inflation remains an issue for everyone. Will there be any relief in the fall?
  3. Overseas. The war in Ukraine is a humanitarian and economic crisis. An ending would be welcome and a sign that conditions are improving. 
  4. Voter intensity. Midterm elections normally receive lower voter turnout than general elections, when the presidency is on the ballot. However, voters in Kansas surprised observers when abortion was on the ballot. Turnout was over 900,000 voters, more than double the 457,598 who voted in the 2018 Kansas midterm election. Could this be signs that Democrats are highly motivated? For Republicans, could their turnout be impacted if former President Donald Trump declares his 2024 candidacy before the midterms?

The window for change is narrow. In-person voting begins as soon as late September in some states.

With Democrats holding such a narrow margin of control in both houses, Republicans are favored to win the House and probably the Senate, too. But nothing is certain until the final ballot is counted.

What we do know is golf needs to continue our advocacy efforts. Whether you are voting in a primary or general election, be sure to post your picture on social media along with the hashtag #golfvotes.

And let golf’s voice be heard.

Bob Helland is GCSAA’s director of congressional and federal affairs. GCSAA’s government affairs team can be reached at 800-472-7878, ext. 3619.