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Javier Gil Guerrero
researcher from Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra
That's the question many Democrats must be asking themselves right now. After four turbulent years of Trump that concluded with a mob storming the Capitol, the Republican Party should be dead and buried. The question heading into Tuesday's midterm elections, however, is whether the Republicans will achieve a modest or sweeping victory.
Before answering the question, it is worth recalling the importance of the mid-term elections, or midterms, as they are known in the United States. These elections elect the 435 members of the House of Representatives, one third of the senators, 36 governors and hundreds of congressmen in the different states of the union. More than a few people pay attention to U.S. elections only when they are presidential. They forget the importance of both the Federal congress , as well as the governments of the 50 states of the Union. The obsession of the founding fathers was to find a mechanism that would prevent the concentration of power in the government. The solution was to go beyond a division of powers and create a complex system of checks and balances that would guarantee the multiplication and distribution of power. Thus, each branch of government has power and influence over the other branches. And none has the capacity to act independently of the others. The devilish organization chart of corrective mechanisms created by the founding fathers means that either they all get together at agreement and act in harmony or institutional paralysis reigns. This is the major American institutional peculiarity: while Europe has striven for centuries to serve the Leviathan and complete the process of centralization and accumulation of state power, the United States was an experiment in trying to do precisely the opposite.
Therefore, despite lacking the media attention of the elections to the White House, both the elections to the two Houses of the congress (House of Representatives and Senate) and to the state governments matter. Traditionally, the electorate punishes the party in power in these elections, and the Democrats have for the past two years accumulated all legislative and executive power in the federal government. A few months ago, the Democrats privately admitted that the House of Representatives could be lost, but they were confident of retaining control of the Senate. Now they fear a catastrophe in the House and a clear defeat in the Senate. Elections in the various states are not looking any better for the left. In a clear sign of desperation, the Democrats are playing defense, concentrating their efforts in states that are supposed to be safe for the left such as New York, Oregon or California. Meanwhile, President Biden's leave popularity has brought Bill Clinton or Barack Obama out of retirement to take center stage in the last days of the campaign.
There is probably not much they can do. The citizenry feels that the Democratic Party is insensitive to their real concerns, like rising crime or inflation, while wasting energy on issues like promoting the term Latinx or trans rights. Tearing down statues of Columbus doesn't fill your gas tank and making new queer realities visible doesn't financial aid you to meet the rising costs of weekly grocery shopping. On the other hand, the paralysis of Democratic politicians in the face of such simple questions as "what is a woman?" makes them the laughing stock of the country. Nor financial aid the party's surprising commitment to candidates with clear signs of cognitive impairment (from Chairman Biden himself to Pennsylvania's candidate , John Fetterman).
The United States has been immersed in a cultural war since the 1970s. It is a bloodless, underground civil war that has been intensifying in recent years. We are talking here about abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, gender self-determination or sex change operations on minors. Ironically, the defeat of the American left may be a direct consequence of its success. There are many Americans who think that once the rights for which the left has fought for so many years have been achieved, the left, far from being satisfied with its triumph, has doubled its bet and has overreached itself. Thus, it has gone from Stonewall to trying to put a baker in jail for refusing to work at a gay wedding, from not hiding homosexuality from minors to offering them irreversible sex change therapies without parental consent, from accepting homosexual couples to harassing anyone who does not celebrate Pride?
It may be striking that the champion of traditional values is a womanizer harassed by all subject of scandals like Trump. Also that the figurehead in the defense of abortion and trans laws is a former altar boy who always carries the rosary in his pocket and Sunday Mass like Biden. As one American Catholic media outlet said in this regard, "the ways of the Lord are inscrutable... and so are those of the devil". Conservatives forgive Trump's impiety because it is limited to his private life: as president he has given them everything they have always wanted and more. In this regard not a few American evangelicals compare Trump to Cyrus the Great. Meanwhile, Biden may be an exemplary Christian in his private life, but there is no trace of it in his politics. The Democrats were precisely hoping to flag the culture war to limit their losses in the midterm elections. The Supreme Court decision on abortion was going to be the lifeline they were looking for, and it seemed to be for a few months.
Why hasn't this been the case? The proliferation of homeless in big cities, rising crime, runaway inflation, supply chain crisis, incipient economic recession? Biden's promise of a return to normalcy after the tumultuous Trump years looks like a macabre joke. The problem for Democrats is that many voters do not think these problems are supervening, but a direct consequence of the political hegemony of the left over the past two years. A very simple cause and effect process: from the movement to defund the police to a crime wave not seen in years, from launching the largest budget expense program in history to the highest inflation in nearly half a century; from standing up to Putin to the war in Ukraine; from ending Trump's wall to the largest surge of illegal immigrants in history.... The Trump years were a political soap opera that culminated in the shameful riot on Capitol Hill, but they were also years of peace, economic growth, leave inflation and fees of employment at historic records. Under Trump, abnormality and turbulence were confined to domestic policy, while in the Biden years they have extended to Economics and foreign policy. Thus, as much as it may shock many analysts, for more than a few Americans the Trump years were golden years compared to the current status and, according to a Gallup survey , only 17% are satisfied with the current direction of the country.
Democrats have tried to turn the polls around by abandoning the topic of abortion for that of democracy in peril. At stake this Tuesday is not just the congress, but the republic. A Republican victory at the polls would mean the triumphant return of the mob that stormed the Capitol two years ago, only this time in a jacket and tie, with a red carpet and a grand entrance. This message has its drawbacks. For starters, there are Democratic Party candidates, like rising star Stacey Abrams, who still refuse to acknowledge their defeat in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. Many Democrats talk about voter "suppression" or outright rigged election system. Nor should we forget that when Trump won in 2016, not a few spoke of illegitimate elections due to Russian interference. Unfortunately, depending on result, the questioning of elections is not the exclusive patrimony of Trump and the Republicans.
There is also another reality that delegitimizes Democrats' anguish over the health of democracy. In this year's primaries, Democrats have endorsed Trumpist candidates to sideline moderate Republicans and guarantee themselves a Democratic victory. This is nothing new; in 2016 they already encouraged Trump's degree program in the Republican primaries thinking it would pave Hillary Clinton's path to the White House. One cannot look for a scenario in which the citizenry has to choose a Democratic candidate and a Trumpist one and then cry foul about the end of democracy. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that it is as dangerous to question the election results as it is to claim that the victory of your opponent means the coming of the apocalypse and the end of the world as we know it. If this were to continue, it would be strange if the assault on the Capitol did not become a recurring episode.