Power Trip

The Midterm Stakes: A Brief Primer

Abortion, guns, healthcare, impeachment — what to know now

Jeff Wise
Published in
6 min readOct 26, 2018
Credit: Bill Oxford/iStock/Getty Images Plus

RRemember Sliding Doors, the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow movie in which the heroine’s fate heads in different directions depending on whether she does or doesn’t make it onto a subway train? The United States is looking at a similarly split fate. If Republicans hold the House of Representatives, they will claim a mandate for the party to expand Trump’s refashioning of American politics along nationalist, authoritarian lines. If Democrats pry the chamber from their hands, it would signal a rebuke to the excesses of the Trump era and provide them the tools to slow the unraveling of democratic norms.

But what exactly are we signing up for in either case? The parties have been specific enough in stating their intentions that we can lay out a broad road map for where the country will head.


If Democrats take the House, they’ll win the ability to control committees and launch investigations.

If Democrats take the House, they’ll win the ability to control committees and launch investigations. Expect to see a lot, not just into the marquee Russian collusion and obstruction of justice allegations but also into a range of other topics including campaign finance violations, tax evasion, violations of the emoluments clause — and who knows what else, once rocks start getting turned over. “What are YOU hiding, @realDonaldTrump?” Elizabeth Warren tweeted. “Release your tax returns — or the Democratic-led House will do it for you soon enough.”

Trump has colored outside the lines in so many ways that it’s not hard to imagine one investigation or another won’t turn up some kind of crime or misdemeanor. But to actually remove Trump from office requires not just a majority in the House but also a two-thirds vote in the Senate — an improbability in the current political climate. Of course, those chances would improve if House investigations (or a report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller) reveals vivid evidence of Trump crimes; Nixon, too, retained the support of his Republican legislators until the evidence of his malfeasance became too…



Jeff Wise
Writer for

Jeff is science journalist who lives north of New York City. He is the author of “The Taking of MH370” and "Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger."