The election of Donald Trump as president in 2016 was one of the most shocking and singular events in American political history. So it should come as no surprise that 2017 was chock-full of blockbuster political news. And that's not going to end any time soon — expect 2018 to be the most political year yet.
As soon as Congress reconvenes in January, lawmakers immediately have to get to work writing a bill to fund the government. They'll have less than three weeks to do this, however, since the last spending bill that Congress passed provided just enough money to keep the government up and running through Jan. 19th.
In the Senate, Republicans will need to lock in a few Democratic votes in order to overcome a filibuster and pass the spending bill. Senate Democrats will almost certainly use this leverage to demand legislative concessions from the GOP. An extension of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), legislation to stabilize Obamacare's health insurance markets, and protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children are just some of the things Democrats might insist on in exchange for their votes in this situation. If the GOP and Democrats can strike an agreement, the government gets to keep its lights on and Congress gets the benefit of appearing semi-functional again. If they can't make a deal, America will see its second government shutdown in five years.
All of that drama is going to pale in comparison to the 2018 midterm elections, however. In November 2018, 34 Senate seats and the entire House of Representatives will be up for grabs. Democrats need to flip just two seats in the Senate and 24 in the House to win control of Congress. If they can pull that off, Democrats could halt Trump's entire legislative agenda and refuse to put any Trump-supported bills up for a vote.
But the stakes are even higher: According to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted in October, three out of four Democrats want Trump impeached. This means that if Congressional Democrats take control of both chambers, they'll be under enormous pressure from the voters they represent to pursue impeachment charges against the president. It's far too soon to say whether Democrats will consider impeachment proceedings at all; but the mere possibility of impeachment will loom large over every congressional race in 2018, and could easily become a central issue in the elections themselves by the time they roll around.
In addition, 2018 is when Democrats who want to challenge President Trump in 2020 (and any Republicans who may dare to primary him, for that matter) will attempt to build up their profiles. For some, it'll be the first time they introduce themselves to the American people. If history is any guide, Democrats who've got their eyes on 2020 will spend much of 2018 campaigning for House and Senate candidates, releasing books that outline their vision for America's future, and giving speeches calling out the Trump administration. As such, the second half of 2018 will largely be a preview of the 2020 election.
On the judicial front, the Supreme Court is set to rule on a number of potentially history-making cases in 2018. Crucial lawsuits that concern gerrymandering, government surveillance, voting rights, immigration policy, and the separation of powers will all be heard by the high court, as well as a high-profile case involving a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch also will serve out his first full term next year, and his decisions may give some early hints as to what kind of judge he'll be for the remainder of his lifetime appointment.
That's a lot of politics for one year, and it's only the stuff we know for certain to watch out for in 2018. There are countless unforeseeable developments — an newly vacant Supreme Court seat, a natural disaster, a diplomatic crisis — that could inject even more politics into 2018's headlines. There's no question that 2017 was a watershed year in American politics, and so far, it looks like the stakes will be even higher in Washington and across the country in 2018.