Divided house: Editorial on the US midterm elections
If the United States of America was deeply divided before the country’s mid-term elections, those fissures have now widened into gorges that could lock the nation into vicious political knife fights for at least the next two years. Pollsters had predicted a ‘red wave’ — a surge in wins for the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and in state governorships. That wave turned out to be a mere trickle. As the US woke up on Wednesday, the Republicans appeared poised to reclaim the House, but with a narrower majority than had been predicted. The Senate, meanwhile, could very well remain under Democratic control — and there is a possibility that the party of President Joe Biden might even increase its number in that chamber. In effect, this leaves the US Congress in a gridlock where it will be difficult for Mr Biden’s administration to pass major legislations or seek significant funding for its priority projects unless the Republicans are on board. There will be no codification of abortion rights, nor major gun control measures. But Tuesday’s elections could set the stage for significant political theatre in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election.
There is a real possibility that Republicans, once in control of the House, will push for an impeachment of Mr Biden, in a tit-for-tat move for the two impeachments that the former president, Donald Trump, had faced when he was in power. The pressure on them to do so will only grow if Mr Trump announces his candidacy for the presidency in 2024 — as is widely expected. It is clear that Mr Trump continues to maintain a hold over the party rank and file. Many Republicans who won on Tuesday have refused to accept that Mr Trump lost the 2020 election, undermining the very electoral process that has now brought them into office. At the same time, many candidates backed by Mr Trump have lost, raising questions about their broader electability. The biggest winner of the night was the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who won his own re-election and ensured that the Republican Party swept House seats in Florida. Mr DeSantis is seen as a potential challenger to Mr Trump for the 2024 party nomination. Tensions between the men, and between Republicans and Democrats, will only rise in the next few months. American democracy has faced down many challenges, but its toughest test might lie ahead.