A nation weakened by crises and economic anxieties voted on Tuesday in an election more likely to cement its divisions than promote unity.
Elections are often cleansing moments that set the country on a new path driven by people freely choosing their leaders, and those leaders accepting the results.
But the final hours of this midterm campaign revealed a polarized voter climate, the specter of political violence and the possibility of contested races, all of which have raised the stakes for the first national vote since former President Donald Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election. and two rough years have been announced.
Republicans are expected to win the House of Representatives on Tuesday, a victory that would give them the power to scuttle President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda and tighten the investigative grip on his White House. The Senate, meanwhile, is on a knife’s edge with a handful of races in states like Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania to decide who wins the majority.
In particular, the midterm campaign raised the cost-of-living crisis, with polls showing the economy is the most important issue for voters, who are still waiting for a return to normality after Biden’s once-in-a-century pandemic. He promised in 2020.
News of job losses before the polls opened, including in the tech industry, raised concerns about a slowdown that could destroy one of the economy’s bright spots: historically low unemployment. Americans are already struggling with higher food and gas prices and now face Federal Reserve interest rate hikes that could not only add to credit card debt, but also make buying a home and renting more expensive, which could send the economy into recession.
The economic situation threatens to deliver a classic midterm rebuke to a first-term president, and in some ways it would be a sign that democracy is working. For generations, elections have been a safety valve for citizens to express their disagreement with the direction of the country.
If they lose on Tuesday, Democrats will have to accept the result, regroup and try again in two years to convince the nation that their policies will lead them out of the crisis. And Republicans, if they hold majorities in Congress, will be able to argue that voters have given Biden a mandate to fix the things that have failed him. But after repeated elections in which disgruntled voters have punished the party with the most power, it could find its way to the polls in two years.
While this continuum is the essence of democracy, it has also highlighted the depth of the nation’s self-conceit towards these mid-terms in a political age where both sides believe that the other’s victory is equivalent to the loss of their country.
In recent days, it has been impossible to ignore the reality of a weakened presidency, the viciousness of political debate, and the threat to free and fair elections by the many Republican candidates running on Trump’s 2020 election platform of lies.
Tuesday looks to be a tough day for Biden. The president did not spend the last hours of the campaign fighting to overcome weak Democrats in a critical situation. Instead, he was in the liberal bastion of Maryland, a safe haven where his low approval rating likely won’t hurt Democrats running for office. While he stomped on Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman over the weekend, the venue for his latest event collected his drained political juices as he heads into the 2024 election campaign.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Biden told reporters. “I think we’re going to win the Senate and I think the House is tougher,” he said, admitting that life would be “harder” for him if the GOP takes control of Congress.
On the eve of the election, which is not in the polls, Trump made it about himself, although he said that he did not want to shade the Republican candidates. At a rally in Ohio for GOP Senate candidate JD Vance, Trump unleashed a self-indulgent, dystopian speech laced with demagoguery, America in terminal decline, and outright falsehoods about the 2020 election. And if he is accused in various criminal investigations about his behavior, he laid the foundations to claim that he is a victim of state-style totalitarian persecution.
Trump also vowed to make a “very big announcement” on Nov. 15 at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, apparently the worst-kept secret in politics, that he will seek another term in the White House. The fact that a twice impeached president has a strong chance of winning after legitimizing violence as political expression underscores the turmoil of our times.
Trump’s baseless claims about a stolen election and the number of election deniers flying the Republican flag have only validated Biden’s midterm campaign warnings that democracy is on the ballot, even as most voters appear concerned about the high cost. to feed their families rather than the somewhat esoteric debates about the state of the founding values of the nation.
The shadow of violence that has hung over American politics since Trump instigated the Capitol uprising deepened as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recalled the moment of trauma when she was told by police that her husband Paul had been attacked with a hammer. In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he also blasted some Republicans for joking about it.
“In our democracy, there is a party that is questioning the results of the elections, that feeds that flame and mocks the violence that takes place. This has to stop,” Pelosi said.
Trump only added to that political outrage when he referred to Pelosi as an “animal” at her rally in Ohio.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is the likely next speaker if Republicans win the five seats they need for the House majority, blamed heated political rhetoric on Democrats as he laid out an aggressive agenda aimed at border security and relentless investigations. CNN He did not rule out impeaching Biden, which radical members of his conference are already calling for.
“We will never use impeachment for political purposes,” McCarthy told CNN’s Melanie Zanona. “That doesn’t mean if something is met it wouldn’t be used elsewhere.”
And Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who says he’s in line to chair the permanent subcommittee on investigations if he wins re-election and Republicans take the Senate, said he would use the power he’s been given, likely in a very narrow way. decided election to further increase the partisan heat in Washington.
“I would be like a mosquito in a nudist colony. It would be a purpose-rich environment,” Johnson said.
There is something magical about democratic elections, when differences are revealed in debates and fierce campaigns. But mostly, until now, there was hope that both sides would comply with the people’s verdict.
That can no longer be taken for granted and is believed to be hanging on the vote on Tuesday.