The much anticipated US midterm polls threw up mixed results as Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives but Republicans extended their majority in the Senate. With the Democratic blue wave running into a Republican red wall, both sides can claim victory. With control of the House, Democrats finally are in a position to challenge President Donald Trump and his political agenda. But the blue gains in the House were less than hoped for in midterm polls. And Democrats’ loss of ground in the Senate – again unusual for the opposition party in midterms – means the Trump camp can claim it has come out on top.
The results are unlikely to shift Trump’s foreign policy. However, Democrats can now put serious roadblocks to Trump’s domestic agenda. Plus, House Democrats can expand congressional scrutiny over Trump. In fact, the president’s firing of attorney general Jeff Sessions – who had recused himself from overseeing the probe into Trump presidential campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia – could be the prelude to a congressional showdown. That the US economy has been looking strong will give Trump some cover on the domestic front. Actually the economy may well be the reason why Republicans were able to withstand the blue wave.
But by the 2020 presidential race the US economy could have peaked, while being saddled with heavy debts. The US budget deficit is now around 4% of GDP, which means it is hard for government to keep stimulating the economy. It will become harder under a Democrats-controlled House. That said, the midterm polls have shown that Trump’s economic rhetoric remains popular. And this poses a political conundrum for Democrats.
A significant part of the blue wave in this election was driven by left of centre, socialist passions. But for the Democratic Party to put up a 2020 presidential candidate who strongly identifies with these values is unlikely to be a winning strategy. Someone who is a polar opposite of Trump won’t be able to dislodge Trump. Democrats need a candidate who will win over Trump supporters. And traditionally successful Democratic presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have veered to the political centre. In any case, the mixed midterm mandate shows that the US electorate has voted for more checks and balances in government. That’s good for America.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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