With the new year, commentators from all over the country are offering their predictions for American politics in 2018. From the border wall to healthcare, the world is wondering what 2018 has in store for Washington and the United States.
Mary Bennett, director of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service and Southern Utah University’s expert on current political trends, offers her predictions on what to expect for this year.
“Nationally, I predict we will see a tectonic shift in the composition of Congress as a result of the midterm elections. Currently, 37 US House Republicans have announced resignation, retirement, or are running for another office in 2018 -- and it’s only January.”
By comparison, 16 US House Democrats fill these categories.
“Some pundits predict a ‘blue wave’ election where Democrats will win control of the House of Representatives, as traditionally the ruling party loses congressional seats in midterm elections.”
Regardless of the balance of power, Bennett emphasizes that this high number of departures of experienced legislators constitutes a tremendous loss of institutional knowledge and history.
“The group of departing Republican members includes eight House committee chairs. Committees are where all the work gets done in Congress, and the loss of Republican leadership in nearly every major policy area will be difficult to replicate with newly elected members. So, while the outcome of the election is not yet known, we do know that there will be a significant loss of experienced legislators and subject matter experts on conservative policies in the House of Representatives.”
Locally, Bennett predicts that Utah will see an exciting election year.
“Each of the current US House members will have at least one serious challenger, and incumbents will be asked to articulate their support or opposition to Trump administration policies. With the resignation of Sen. Orrin Hatch, there will be an open race for US Senate, a phenomenon that does not occur often in Utah.”
According to Bennett, the Utah Senate race will receive national media attention for a number of reasons.
“One reason will be the potential candidacy of Mitt Romney, the former Republican nominee for president in 2012. Romney publicly denounced Donald Trump as an unfit candidate for president in a Salt Lake City speech in early 2016.”
“Another reason for national interest will be the uniqueness of Utah’s vote in the 2016 presidential election. Utah had the strongest turnout in the nation (21%) for a third party presidential candidate. There will be a strong temptation for the national media to use the Utah Senate race as a bellwether for gauging the popular success of the president’s policies.”
Bennett’s professional experience spans over 25 years in a range of Washington, DC institutions including the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, The Washington Campus and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board under the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service provides an important service on SUU’s campus. As an interdisciplinary hub for leadership opportunities, experiential learning, civic education, humanitarian service, and public policy research, this non-partisan center works to disseminate political information and spark debate about the ever-changing world of politics. To learn more about the Michael O. Leavitt Center visit www.suu.edu/leavittcenter.