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an often perilous deadline for the president in place

The midterm elections are approaching in the United States: Americans are called to the polls on Tuesday, November 8. This “midterms” election, so called because it takes place in the middle of the presidential term, serves to renew all of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, the equivalent of the National Assembly, and a third of the 100 seats in the Senate. Many states, counties and cities also hold elections on this occasion.

The main issue is however the renewal of part of the Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. Indeed, the president can lose his majority there, which prevents him, during the rest of his mandate, from passing laws. This situation, which has only occurred five times since 1954, has become increasingly common over the past twenty years.

► 1954, McCarthyism and major defeat of the Republicans

The 1954 midterm elections took place during the first term of Dwight D. Eisenhower, planner of the Normandy landings. The Republicans lose their majority: the Democrats rob them of 18 seats in the House of Representatives and 2 seats in the Senate.

This reversal is partly due to the ongoing repression during McCarthyism, a moment in American history named after Senator Joseph McCarthy. Millions of American communist militants or sympathizers are then targeted by investigations in a context of “red fear”. The Republicans will not regain control of the Senate until 1980, and they will have to wait until 1994 to regain a majority in the House.

► 1994, the “republican revolution”

Forty years after their stinging defeat in 1954, the Republicans regained control of Congress in its entirety for the first time since 1952. They won eight seats in the Senate and 54 in the House of Representatives. An election called “republican revolution”.

This success is due in particular to the “contract with America” ​​proposed by the Republicans, who promise to pass a certain number of laws if they obtain a majority in Congress. Their victory will lead, among other things, to the Defense of Marriage Act, which authorizes the federated states to refuse to recognize gay marriage.

This electoral rout in the middle of Bill Clinton’s first term prevents the Democratic president from implementing his health insurance reform. It forced him to reposition himself in the center, which helped ensure his re-election in 1996. This was the last time that a party lost its majority in both chambers of Congress during mid-term elections.

► 2006, the comeback of the Democrats

For the first time since 1994, the Americans are giving both houses of Congress to the Democrats. This election, described as “democrat wave”, sees Republicans lose 6 seats in the Senate and 31 in the House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female Speaker of the House, a position she still holds today.

The defeat of the Republicans was attributed to the rejection of the war in Iraq, to ​​the poor management by the executive of the consequences of Hurricane Katrina and more generally to the deterioration of the image of President George W. Bush.

► 2010, strong republican push

The 2010 midterm elections were one of the most severe democratic defeats since the post-war period. They are marked by the arrival in Congress of several members of the new Tea Party, holding an aggressive fiscal conservatism and right-wing populism.

This victory marks the return to grace of the Republicans who, weakened, had not managed to prevent Barack Obama from passing his health insurance reform. It also gives the lie to commentators, who had estimated after the 2008 presidential election that the United States was entering a long democratic era.

► 2018, the defeat of Donald Trump

During the 2018 midterm elections, Donald Trump lost control of the House of Representatives but managed to stay in the Senate. These elections see the first two Muslim women to arrive in Congress, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, as well as the first native, Sharice Davids.

They also mark the beginning of the political career of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 becomes the youngest elected in the history of Congress. The Democrats owe their victory to the indignation provoked by the excesses of Donald Trump and to their promise to protect American health care coverage.

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