The elections held midway through a president’s four-year term usually goes badly for the president’s party. Seen from this angle, President Joe Biden and the Democrats have done better than expected in Tuesday’s midterm elections. With cost-of-living issues — soaring food, energy and housing prices — on the rise and Biden’s approval rating at an all-time high, few Democrats were expecting this. reverse this historic trend. Yet, with Democrats poised to lose their narrow majority in the House of Representatives, the widely predicted Republican wave has failed to materialize.
A few Senate races are still too close to report. But the Democrats may be able to keep their slim majority in the Senate. It is now split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans. But Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the Senate, can cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie, giving the Democrats their slim majority. Democrats received a big boost by winning the Pennsylvania Senate seat previously held by Republicans. We may not know the outcome of a key Senate race, Georgia until December: State law provides for a runoff if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote.
Even if the election results are mixed, it could still change the American political landscape. Over the past two years, despite their narrow majority in Congress, Democrats have been able to pass important pieces of legislation in areas such as climate change, infrastructure investment, gun control and child poverty. children. This era of Democratic legislative victories may be coming to an end. If so, President Biden may still be able to veto Republican attempts to dismantle Democratic policy priorities. But, even with a narrow majority, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives could mean Biden administration hearings and investigations into a range of issues that would cause significant political damage to Biden and Democrats as the election approaches. next presidential election.
If the Republicans manage to gain control of both the House and the Senate, they will be able to thwart President Biden’s political agenda. A Republican-majority Senate will be able to block presidential nominations for positions requiring Senate approval. Biden will be able to issue executive orders, but they will be open to challenges in court.
Former President Donald Trump was not a candidate in these elections. But he cast a long shadow over them. As expected, he has already tried to take credit for the Republican victory. But some of the high-profile unconventional candidates he hand-picked lost, which will no doubt weaken his position as the undisputed leader of the Republican Party.
A CBS News analysis found that more than half of Republican candidates in the midterm elections (308 of 597 Republican candidates running for congressional and statewide office) are “election deniers.” In other words, they publicly deny or question the results of the 2020 presidential election. They either believe or accept the “big lie”: Trump’s absurd claim that the 2020 election – only the presidential election and not the elections for other offices held that day – was rigged.
The courts had, of course, dismissed Trump’s numerous lawsuits alleging widespread voter fraud as baseless. But thanks to the proliferation of disinformation and conspiracy theories in pro-Trump media, the stolen election narrative that animated the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol continues to energize Trump’s political base.
“The bogus claim of a stolen election,” says election rights scholar Richard L Hasen, “metastasized into a Holocaust denier movement far worse than even those of us who worried deeply about the future of the American democracy in 2020 had never imagined”.
The election results seem to bear witness to the remarkable success of this movement.
With Republicans in control of the House, the findings of the congressional committee that investigated the events of January 6 will now become moot. But the election of a large group of Holocaust deniers to Congress less than a year after the political violence in the United States Capitol is not only significant for its impact on Trump’s political fortunes. These elected officials, in fact, do not accept the legitimacy of the Biden presidency. This is a remarkable thing that happens in a constitutional democracy.
Indeed, two-thirds of American adults say their democracy is “in danger of collapsing.” A well-respected Quinnipiac University poll conducted last August found that this view is shared across the political spectrum. Almost the same proportion of Democrats, Republicans and independents expressed this view. But the apparent agreement between Democrats and Republicans only underscores the fundamental difference in how they view the danger.
For Democrats, the threat to democracy comes primarily from Republicans Make America Great Again. In the words of President Biden: “Democracy cannot survive when a party believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either it wins or it has been cheated. Trump’s perception of danger is of course very different. It is best captured in what they call “election integrity” issues – code word for election denial.
In the name of protecting the integrity of elections, the past two years have seen an extraordinary level of legislative activity around the right to vote. The story of the stolen election was hugely important to the political mobilization of the Republican Party. Republican-led states have passed laws making it harder to vote. Another set of laws transferred authority over elections from nonpartisan election administrators to partisan election commissions. Since some of them disproportionately burden racial minority groups, critics call these efforts “voter suppression.”
Journalist and editor Monika Bauerlein once said that the default mode of political reporting in the United States is sports coverage. It tells us which team wins and by how much, about the actions of the star players and about the coaches and their game strategies. This assumes that all parties know the rules and most follow them. This type of reporting, however, has a blind spot: “play-by-play coverage means we don’t see what’s happening outside of the game.” Perhaps this way of following elections cannot make connections and see the big picture as it unfolds before our very eyes – the storm clouds that have gathered around the institutions of American democracy.
The author of Professor of Political Studies at Bard College, New York