US elections: when in doubt, do nothing

America’s Democrats sighed with relief after Tuesday’s mid-term elections, even though they look likely to narrowly lose control of the House of Representatives, and perhaps even the Senate.

Because notwithstanding high levels of voter dissatisfaction, the widely-anticipated Republican wave petered out.

We should be impressed with the ability of diverse voters and voting regimes over a sprawling continent to deliver such finely nuanced results (including decisive victories for Trump Republican rivals such as Brian Kemp in Georgia and Ron DeSantis in Florida).

And, at base, conservative results.  Despite the unpopularity of Biden’s governance, there seems almost as much unease over a return to Trump.

Perhaps even more emphatically than at the last election, and for the second time (some would say the third), the narrow centre jibbed at Trump.

How might Republicans respond to being graded ‘could try harder’?  Or to put it another way, how does the party evolve beyond Stage I Trumpism?

The Democratic party’s incumbent ideology seems much more predictable. They are stuck in the vice of promising more power and money to their coalition, while denying that they are responsible for the consequential slow growth of the cake and fast growth of the national debt. 

If they actually got the power to attack American use of carbon-based fuels, this might become terminal.  Congressional gridlock may be a short-term friend to them.

Although Republicans might win by saying: me too but a little slower, where would that leave them?  They are even less likely to win on the back of a different populist fantasy. 

So eventually a new coalition might form around gloomy acceptance of higher taxes, lower – and differently directed – spending, and unpopular but growth-enhancing deregulation.  As Trump’s first term in office suggested, this need not be incompatible with many elements of populism.

And where does this difficult business of changing a country’s direction leave Donald J. Trump?

While he has demonstrated extraordinary political entrepreneurialism in his time, can he re-invent himself yet again on a different platform?  

Even more pertinent, would the narrow centre trust a new Trump, given the self-centeredness of the old one?

The US system has such extraordinary institutional checks and balances that even at this stage, historians should have little difficulty in concluding that the Trump term did more for liberal values than a Clinton one (not least by confronting the growing illiberalism of the Democrats).

Notwithstanding such guidance rails, these mid-term elections suggest it would take some remarkable changes for Trump to once again be given the benefit of the doubt.  

Which in turn would indicate that the Republican party faces a potentially long – and almost certainly painful – process of incorporating the positive elements of Trumpism, under non-Trumpist leadership.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.