Home/ Opinion / Views/  Why so much rides for so many on the US midterms

A month from now, on November 8, Americans will hold their mid-term elections, in which they will vote all 435 members to the House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress, and 35 members of the 50 member Senate. The voting exercise will also elect a number of state governors, secretaries of state and other officials as also reject or approve assorted legislative proposals. These elections are being watched around the world for a number of reasons.

One, they will determine how hamstrung President Biden would be for the remainder of his term;

Two, flowing from the aforesaid, the election outcome will decide if the US Federal Reserve will have some assistance in reining in inflation or will have to do the job solely on the strength of higher interest rate;

Three, how effective the Biden administration’s climate action would be determined by his legislative capability;

Four, the election outcome would indicate how much purchase the destructive, anti-democratic strain of populist politics represented by former and would-be president, Donald Trump, has in American politics; and,

Five, the election results would decide if American women will be stripped of their right to decide whether to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term.

Current forecasts indicate that President Biden’s party, the Democrats, would lose control of the House of Representatives but cling on to a slender working majority in the Senate. If this proves wrong, and the Republicans capture both the House and the Senate, Washington would be headed for gridlock, government shutdowns and regular crises, given the hyper partisan nature of American politics of late.

If the Republicans gain control of both chambers of Congress, Biden’s climate agenda would take a toll; more hydrocarbon licences would be issued; Trump would most likely run for President in 2024; the Fed would have a solitary fight on its hand to tame inflation; and American women will face stringent restrictions on abortion rights in Republican states.

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans are so fed up with inflation that they will use this opportunity to punish President Biden by walloping his party in the midterms. However, there is a flip side to it. While inflation hurts most people, there are good reasons to not make these elections a referendum on Biden’s capacity to contain inflation.

Chief among them is the Supreme Court ruling overturning the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling that asserted that American women had a constitutional right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. This ruling by the current US Supreme Court’s conservative majority has left abortion rights to the individual states to decide. Republican-run states are itching to remove or greatly restrict abortion rights. Women have every incentive to turn out in these midterms to defend their body from unwarranted encroachment by the state.

There are some indications that this sentiment will play a role in the midterms. A referendum in staunchly Republican Kansas conclusively rejected a move to restrict abortion rights. Trump nominee for a House seat in a special election, Sarah Palin, got defeated. Women have reportedly registered to vote in large numbers.

If women vote against Republicans primarily to protect their rights, there would be collateral benefits: it would halt Trump’s planned comeback, protect Biden’s legislative viability and supplement the US Fed’s policy rate measures to contain inflation, hypothetically, with a more expansive policy on immigration to bring some flex into America’s tight labour market. A setback for Trump would also be a setback for a political tendency in the US that has the Republican Party in its thrall, which suborns the integrity of America’s democratic institutions.

As the world’s dominant political and economic power, America has the ability to set an example, positive or negative, for other countries, in terms of political practice. An election that brings to office a set of state-level officials who are determined to manipulate subsequent election results to suit their political choices, as Trump followers have revealed themselves to be, would undermine democracy in the US, certainly, but also in other parts of the world.

A gridlocked US Congress would give additional prestige to authoritarian China. Climate-denying Republicans in control of the US Congress would set the global climate agenda back. Neither of these developments would suit India.

Yes, there are good reasons to watch out for the results of the coming US midterms.

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Updated: 08 Oct 2022, 12:25 PM IST
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