The conclusion of national convention season marks the beginning of the general election. There are now 99 days until Election Day. With so much focus on Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, people may forget that many other important offices will be decided. Just at the federal level, 34 Senate seats hang in the balance, as do all 435 members of the House of Representatives.
Conservatives, including those disenchanted with the Republican Party's presidential nominee, need to recognize the importance of down-ballot races. The Senate's Tea Party class of 2010, which includes Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, faces re-election for the first time. The GOP Senate majority is slim, and 24 of the 34 seats facing votes are held by Republicans.
Republicans should heed the words of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who said in his controversial convention speech: "Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution."
Whether Clinton or Trump wins the White House, it is essential that those who value freedom and adherance to the Constitution hold the Senate. What's at stake? The Supreme Court, for starters. If Clinton wins, a Republican Senate may be the difference between a decidedly liberal court and the left-leaning one we have now.
Assuming Republicans maintain their House majority, the Senate will also be a crucial factor in the next president's agenda. Remember: Congress writes legislation, the president can only sign or veto it.
Clinton has already said she wants to pass comprehensive immigration reform in her administration's first 100 days. A GOP Congress could stop Clinton-backed amnesty in its tracks, or ensure reforms include strong border protections and an end to sanctuary cities.
A GOP Congress could also run interference on any Clinton executive actions. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, outlined a laundry list of executive actions he thinks Clinton might take on climate change, like a mandate to cut oil use by a third in the transportation sector. Congress could try to limit those actions through the power of the purse by refusing to appropriate funds for them. Alternatively, they could put Clinton in an awkward position with more palatable legislation, forcing her either to approve it or veto it.
If Trump is elected, a Republican Congress could still have a hand in making his reforms more conservative. According to several analyses, Trump's tax plan would increase the national debt by about $10 trillion over a decade. Since Congress writes tax legislation, GOP control can help bring that plan toward fiscal responsibility while finally achieving their long-awaited tax reform.
Trump has promised not to touch entitlement reform. A GOP Congress can ensure that legislation that attacks the "waste, fraud and abuse" Trump sees in the system also includes sustainable entitlement reforms.
It's safe to assume that the House will remain in GOP hands. But if Republicans stay home and Democrats do take control, conservatives will again be powerless as a liberal Congress and a liberal president pass any number of liberal laws on immigration, gun control, abortion, environmental regulation and more.
Then imagine how far those laws could infringe on American liberties if the most liberal Supreme Court in a generation, with a new justice approved by a Democratic Senate, rubber stamps them. If conservatives stay home and don't fight for Congress, that nightmare will become a reality.