This piece is part of an ongoing series by Boston University’s Dr. Sandro Galea on the intricacies of health care and public health.
The past midterm elections were widely seen as being among the most consequential in our nation’s history. In the lead-up to the election, voices on both sides of America’s political divide characterized the result as potentially transformative. President Trump emphasized the country’s changing demographics, stoking fears of immigrants with pronouncements like, “If you don’t want America to be overrun by masses of illegal aliens and giant caravans, you better vote Republican.” Former President Obama, for his part, said the midterms “might be the most important election of our lifetimes,” and that nothing less than “the character of this country is on the ballot.”
Last week, the country spoke, and we saw what the tide of marching, organizing, debating, phone banking, tweeting, and door-knocking has led to: Republicans expanded their Senate majority, while Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives. Time will tell if this result proves truly transformative. History, however, has shown just how significant electoral change can be, when shifts in the balance of political power overlap with a societal demand for change. Such a convergence can make seemingly intractable problems give way, even after decades of gridlock.