Back in DC: on the U.S. midterm polls

The Democratic Party made a comeback in Tuesday’s midterm elections after spending two years in the political darkness, when it seized control of the House of Representatives. Yet, predictions of a “blue wave”, as a backlash to the racially charged, polarising campaign led by President Donald Trump, failed to materialise. The Democrats secured control of the 435-member lower chamber of Congress, flipping at least 26 seats from their Republican incumbents. This outcome, which will likely give the Trump administration pause for thought on the policy agenda for the remainder of its tenure, ends one-party rule in Washington. Yet, Mr. Trump hailed the results as a “tremendous success”, alluding to the fact that Republicans gained at least two seats in the Senate, giving them a clear majority in the 100-seat upper chamber. Results among the 36 gubernatorial races favoured Democrats: although Mr. Trump’s support paid off in some swing States crucial to his 2020 re-election campaign, including Florida, Iowa and Ohio, his party failed to hold on to power in Wisconsin and Michigan. Democrats flipped seven States out of Republican control. While the 2018 midterm election results tracked the typical historical pattern of the party controlling the White House facing setbacks on Capitol Hill, the voter split appeared to reflect the legacy of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Republicans polled well in small towns and rural areas, while Democrats fared well in urban and suburban districts across the country. The Grand Old Party scored well in Senate races in Texas, Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri.

Does this mean that the bitter polarisation, racial hatred and culture wars that buoyed Mr. Trump’s prospects in 2016 have become entrenched in American society? Perhaps, but what the Democratic sweep of the House implies is that the constitutionally mandated system of checks and balances will be actively in force from January 2019. This could come in the form of House subpoenas to the White House, impediments to the progress of the additional tax cut proposals of the White House, or even putting the brakes on hardline stances impacting trade policies. Democrats under the likely leadership of Representative Nancy Pelosi may be tempted to lead the charge on inquiries into some of the Trump Organization’s murkier business dealings, or the Robert Mueller-led investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But for now the Democrats are unlikely to go as far as attempting to impeach Mr. Trump. And rightly so, for a sober assessment of the midterm election mandate would focus on jobs, healthcare, and immigration, issues that matter most to the common American. If bipartisanship, and not belligerence, emerges between the two sides, that might then afford some space to discuss concerns about the functioning of the U.S. democratic machine, including campaign finance laws, redistricting and voter suppression.


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Printable version | May 5, 2021 7:30:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/back-in-dc/article25439354.ece

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