The American mid-term election results are in and, surprisingly, the US appears to have rejected its out-and-out slide into authoritarian dystopia. Or at least, the handbrake appears to has been left on this time around, even just slightly.
Commentators and politicians from both parties alike were fully expecting the Republicans to sweep both the House of Representatives and the Senate from the Democrats on a mighty ‘red wave.’
So far, that wave appears little more than a tremor as control of both legislative bodies at the heart of US Democracy still remains in question. It seems likely, at this stage, that Republicans will gain a narrow majority in the House while the Senate could remain as divided as before with a slim Democratic lean.
Donald Trump has however been declared the unofficial biggest loser of the night, as many of his personal picks failed to perform while others who stood against his policies and philosophy did well, in swing states at least.
The US Mid-Terms are the halfway point between Presidential elections that usually see a swing against the current leader. Two years into their term, voters select Senate and House members to represent them, often at odds with the President. This however has simply not happened, at least not on the scale normally seen in Mid-Terms.
So, what does all this mean and how does it lay the foundations for the upcoming 2024 election? Will Donald Trump return and how will Biden seek to govern over the next two years? We spoke with Associate Professor William Clapton, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at UNSW to find out.
Talk Us Through the Results – What Was the Expected Outcome?
“Largely a Republican whitewash – They would come in, sweep the House and the Senate and really put the Biden administration on the back foot.
“What we’ve seen instead is a bit of a red splash, rather than a red wave. It’s been a much more divided result.
Is This Normal for the Mid-Terms?
“It’s not entirely unprecedented for the party of the incumbent President to do better than expected in a midterm election but generally the trend is whoever is the incumbent party is going to get hammered and going to get hurt in the midterm elections.
“We saw that with Obama, in 2010, and we saw it with Trump in 2018 when he lost control of the House.”
How Will This Affect Biden’s Presidency?
“They’ll most likely lose the House [which] will have a fairly significant impact on his ability to pass legislation through Congress.
“It will stymie his legislative agenda and will effectively make him what they call a lame-duck President that has a hostile Congress and is unable to progress their legislative agenda.
“But, the fact that the Republicans didn’t win by huge margins, and will probably only have a slim majority in the House, makes it vulnerable to swings in the favor of Democrats.
“Party discipline in the United States isn’t quite as rigid and strict as it is in Australia. It’s not uncommon for individual members of a party to either not vote or to vote against the party’s position.
“If they’ve only got a small majority, that means there’s not that many that have to be flipped for them to potentially lose a vote.
“It could have a significant impact on Biden, but it might not be as terrible an impact and as terrible as a result as he would have feared a few days ago”.
What Are the Major Issues that Decided these Elections?
“Well, the Republicans obviously focused on the economy and rapid inflation.
“COVID is still an issue, of course. That hasn’t gone away, not just in terms of the ongoing pandemic itself, but in the continuing polarisation and opposition to some of the public health measures that were put in place in the United States.
“Abortion, of course, is another issue that has loomed large in voters minds in the United States.
“Then there are what people would call the ‘culture war’ issues, the kind of ‘anti-woke’ agenda of the Republican Party.
“In terms of the issues that loomed large for [voters], it’s a little trickier to say because a lot of the time these races are affected by local politics and local contexts and that will differ from one district in one state to the next.
“But certainly the economy and inflation have been big issues for a lot of people. Cost of living pressures and increasing fuel prices are particularly hard for everyday people in the United States.
So, What Does This All Say About America?
“Probably just that America remains as intensely divided and polarised as ever.
“These results speak to the difficulty of both parties to really gain firm traction and build momentum to deliver comfortable victories in elections, be it for Congress, or the Presidency.
“It shows just how divided the country is that you’re getting really slim majorities for the House and likely the Senate, which is exactly where we were two years ago.
Do We Know Who is Going to Run for President in 2024?
“Well, the biggest story now is that Trump has been weakened by this because of the mixed results for the candidates he backs and his inability to deliver a red wave.
“[Trump devotee] Ron DeSantis has been empowered because he’s now got a head of steam after winning Florida by nearly 20 points. He’s easily been re-elected Governor and is someone who a lot of people have identified as the next in line after Trump.
“So, the fact that DeSantis has all this momentum and is riding high after his victory, and Trump is now sort of sitting here wondering where it all went wrong and how he didn’t win as heavily as he thought he might, kind of sets up a potentially more interesting contest for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.
“But, having said that, I would still wager that DeSantis has to pull off the world’s greatest magic trick to get the nomination ahead of Trump.
“I think Trump still has an incredible amount of power and capital, if you will, in the Republican Party.
“It seems like Biden has changed his mind on running again so right now it’s looking like he might actually have another crack at it.
“That should make it reasonably easy for the Democrats in terms of the nomination process.”