We are just a week away from what may be the most significant US mid-term election in living memory. Normally, America’s midterms attract little attention, with voter turnout significantly less than during presidential elections.
The pattern since the end of the Second World War has been that the president’s party invariably loses some seats in Congress at every midterm election and sometimes sees his opponents winning a majority.
Both the Republicans and Democrats are putting more energy into these midterm elections than any I have ever seen before. Donald Trump has tried to ramp up his support by claiming there would be violence from the left if Democrats won control of Congress. Speaking to a private meeting with leading American evangelical Christians in the White House, Trump said that the Democrats would overturn everything that his administration has done, and they would do it quickly and violently. Evangelical Christian voters have been a decisive factor in Trump’s winning the White House as they galvanised their congregations to get out and vote for Trump.
Trump’s fear is that if the Democrats take control of Congress, they will be able to investigate the scandals around his administration and, even more worryingly for Trump, they could begin the process of impeachment which could lead to his removal from the White House.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking re-election, has urged her colleagues to invoke the 25th Amendment and oust Trump from the White House. Not surprisingly, Trump has responded by targeting Warren because she is also the most likely contender for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020. She told her constituents in Massachusetts that she will “take a hard look at running for president” once the midterm elections are over. Warren has a strong reputation for being on the left of the Democratic Party.
Trump has denounced Warren as ‘Pocahontas’, who was the daughter of a Native American chieftain, and offered to donate a million dollars to a charity of Warren’s choice if a DNA test confirmed her claims that one of her ancestors was a Native American. Warren has always admitted that her great-great-great-grandmother was partially Native American.
It is not only Warren who is being disparaged by the Republicans. In California’s 50th district, the Democrat candidate, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is challenging Republican incumbent Duncan Hunter. Republican-funded adverts have focused on the fact that Campa-Najjar’s mother is a Mexican American and his dad a Palestinian. The adverts describe him as a “Palestinian, Mexican, millennial Democrat who is working to infiltrate Congress and is a security risk.” The advert goes on to accuse him of having the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a bit odd given that he is a Christian. But pandering to Islamophobia is a vote winner for the right. Even more bizarrely, the advert talks of Campa-Najjar’s grandfather, who was a member of Black September, a group that murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. But his grandfather was killed by Israeli forces 16 years before Campa-Najjar was born.
Racism is also a key part of the campaign against the Democratic candidate in New York’s 19th district. The voters in that seat are overwhelmingly white but the Democratic candidate, Antonio Delgado, is black and running against the white incumbent. Having been a hip-hop artist in the distance past, the Republicans have poured over everything Delgado has produced to denounce him. The adverts accuse him of “lacing his raps with extremist attacks on American values.” The adverts also denounce him for pointing out that many more Iraqis lost their lives during the American invasion than the number of Americans killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Although Donald Trump did not win as many votes as Hillary Clinton in 2016, he transformed America’s voting traditions by winning states that had been Democrat for over half a century. These were traditional, working-class states which had seen their manufacturing jobs wiped out and he tapped into that anger, pointing out that Democratic presidents like Obama had done nothing to rebuild the opportunity of good working-class jobs.
Typically, the state of Wisconsin had voted Democrat for 32 years until Trump won there. Now, the incumbent Democratic senator, Tammy Baldwin, is facing a strong challenge from the Republican candidate, and the governor’s election is even tighter, with Republican candidate Scott Walker seeming to be neck-and-neck with his Democrat counterpart.
But Trump’s election also changed the pattern in traditional Republican states. No Democrat has won a state-wide race in Texas for 24 years. But the Republican senator, Ted Cruz, is facing the real prospect of losing to his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, who is a charismatic young man, constantly referred to as being similar to Robert Kennedy.
As a leading Republican, Cruz was opposed to Trump becoming their party’s candidate for president, calling him “utterly amoral, a sniveling coward and a pathological liar.” But he went on to endorse him for the presidency once Trump won the Republican nomination. Trump responded with the ridiculous claim that Cruz’s father had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Ironically, Trump is now campaigning for Cruz’s re-election.
Only one president in the last 150 years has faced a serious impeachment challenge, and that of course was President Nixon when it was revealed his campaign team had illegally bugged the Democratic Party’s headquarters and would use their data to ensure Nixon’s re-election in 1972. Realising he had no chance of defeating the impeachment, Nixon resigned. More recently, Bill Clinton faced an impeachment charge over his sexual activities, but it didn’t come anywhere close to him losing office.
But there are so many Republicans who have severe doubts about Trump that if the Democrats can win both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Trump’s career will be on the line. This undoubtedly is the reason why these have become the most electrifying and poisonous midterm elections of my lifetime. Trump’s two years in office have seen devastating and damaging policies such as walking away from the Paris Climate Change Agreement and splitting from his European colleagues over the issue of Iran, even though all the evidence shows Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Trump is ramping up sanctions against Iran, causing great pain to the poorest Iranians.
Tragically, Trump has taken another devastating decision which, like his climate change policy, could threaten all life on our planet. This is his decision to pull out of the treaty Reagan negotiated with the Russians over nuclear weapons. Signed in 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty led to the end of the Cold War and guaranteed the security of Europe as almost three thousand nuclear missiles were removed and destroyed. All European leaders have roundly opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF. French President Emmanuel Macron phoned Trump on October 21 to raise the issue and underlined the importance of continuing with this treaty.
Trump has also been criticised by many of America’s nuclear experts who warn that the big winner could be Russia, as it would now be able to start the development of new ground launch nuclear missiles. So we now face another global arms race every bit as risky as during the Cold War. Russia has already pointed out that America is spending billions upgrading existing nuclear weapon systems. All this could mean that within a few years, Trump’s nuclear missiles would be returning to Europe and making us a target.
Once again, Trump’s decision has alienated leading Republicans, such as Senator Rand Paul, who told Fox News it would be a “big, big mistake to flippantly get out of this historic agreement.”
Although a recent YouGov poll showed only 42 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job, with 49 percent strongly disapproving, Trump’s populist policies have won much support from traditional working-class Democrat voters, whilst alienating many traditional Republican voters. It’s impossible to predict what is going to happen next week, but I suspect it will be the highest turnout at a midterm election in decades.
If the Democrats fail to take back control of Congress, they need to think seriously about the chances of defeating Trump in 2020, and they only need to look over the border to see what has happened in Mexico, where in July this year, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected president because he is a firm socialist who has been compared to America’s Bernie Sanders and Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn. This is the first time a socialist has been elected in the recent history of Mexico and if the Democrats want to win in 2020, they should be looking at good lefties.
First published by RT.