With the 2018 midterm elections over, both New York State and the U.S. as a whole saw a major upset. Despite local leaders like U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) keeping their seats, both the state Senate and U.S. House of Representatives flipped over to the Democratic Party after years of Republican majority control.
They have forgotten about ‘We the People,’ and now it’s all about themselves.”
— Rich Jiranek
Despite these changes, many local residents said they expect to see more gridlock and political divisiveness for the next two years.
“I thought that it was the point of politicians to care about the people, but it’s not,” said Miller Place resident Rich Jiranek. “They have forgotten about ‘We the People,’ and now it’s all about themselves.”
Jiranek, a Republican, said he didn’t see his party accomplish much of anything in the 18 months they controlled both the U.S. Congress and the presidency. Now he said he sees the ongoing push for recounts in the Florida governor’s and senator’s races and Georgia governor’s race as just a prelude to more political bickering.
“It’s just not right,” he said. “There’s nothing fair about it anymore.”
The sense of foreboding over potential partisanship was shared by people of all different political ideologies. Steve and Christina Dierlam, both Lindenhurst residents, sat at one of the outside tables at the Port Jeff Brewing Company on a cool fall afternoon, thankful for the day off with their young child because of paid family leave, a law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2016 and enacted at the beginning of 2018.
“Everything is just going to grind to a halt at this point,” Steve Dierlam said “I think that is what we’re dealing with. It’s pretty terrible that we’re the only two districts that went Republican when the rest of the districts in New York went Democrat.”
Christina Dierlam agreed and said that while she and her husband have voted for Democrats and agree with a lot of Democratic legislation, she believes government will come to a major impasse.
“Whoever is the speaker, the Democrats are going to shoot down any legislation the Trump administration or the Republicans try to implement, which I’m happy about, but it will just present more gridlock,” she said.
“This party wants to do that; the other party wants to do this. As bad as that sounds, that has been happening for a long time before this election.”
— Patrick Leahy
Mount Sinai resident Anna Hill said she expects to see even more conflict, especially with recent comments by the now expected majority leader in the House Nancy Pelosi (D) about re-opening the investigation into Russian involvement during the 2016 presidential election and ties to the Trump campaign. Trump has tweeted that if his campaign is investigated, he will challenge the Democrats in the House.
“I think what’s going to happen is there’s going to be more conflict, and Trump is going to be bullying people in the House of Representatives, and that’s going to make it harder to get things done,” Hill said. “I see more chaos, unfortunately.”
All those interviewed said that they disagreed with the political discord and partisan squabbling, but it was hard to say how or when it could ever stop. Stony Brook resident Patrick Leahy said that not enough attention gets paid to local laws that impact people on a day-to-day basis, and the political divisiveness has gotten to the point where people will move from their homes just to live in areas that agree with them politically.
“A person’s actions define their character, not what they say,” Leahy said. “This party wants to do that; the other party wants to do this. As bad as that sounds, that has been happening for a long time before this election.”
Though not all is doom and gloom, according to Port Jefferson Station resident Tara Braaten. This midterm election saw some high turnout all across the country. The New York Times reported that, by current estimates, 113 million people came out to vote in these midterms, encompassing 48 percent of the eligible voter population. This is up from the 2014 midterm elections, which saw only 83 million votes cast.
“I just feel that raising awareness and people being more active and proactive participating is going to have more of a difference to whatever decision being made or outcome,” she said. “We have to have constant vigilance, and it’s still up to us, despite who’s sitting in the chair.”