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The world’s eyes are on the US mid-term polls

A Trump victory would send a signal that nothing succeeds like extremism. Mr Trump’s approval rating is a dismal 42%

editorials Updated: Nov 05, 2018 19:29 IST
Hindustan Times
mid-term polls,US Congress
US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally. Trump is campaigning in support of Republican candidates in the mid-term polls on November 6(AFP)

On Tuesday, United States voters will cast ballots for the entire lower house of the US Congress, a third of its Senate seats and a scattering of state legislatures and governors. Normally a US mid-term is of academic interest to the rest of the world. These elections, however, are the target of immense global scrutiny. Among Americans, this election is being touted as among the most important political events in their recent history. They are seen as a referendum on the future course and character of their country – and, in a nutshell, a vote on the future of US President Donald Trump.

On average, a US president experiences just over a seven percentage swing against his party during a mid-term. These mid-terms will test this statistic. For one thing, the US economy is experiencing an unprecedented upswing. But the real variable is Mr Trump himself. No recent US president has ever been so deliberately divisive and controversial, or so unconcerned about wrecking the norms of his establishment. He has also made it clear voters should act as if his name tops the ballot. If his Republican Party is able to maintain majorities in both houses of Congress, it will be treated as a vindication of both his policies and his personality. The polarisation of the US will continue unabated and Mr Trump will launch even more wrecking balls against the post-war international order.

At present, the polls indicate the Democrats will only be able to reclaim the lower house. This will be sufficient for the opposition to launch a score of investigations against the Trump administration and potentially hamstring the government until the next presidential election cycle begins. If the Democrats seize both houses, impeachment becomes a genuine possibility. The Democrats’ own results will resolve an internal ideological debate of whether, in the age of Trump, the party should abandon the centre and move left.

A Trump victory would send a signal that nothing succeeds like extremism. Mr Trump’s approval rating is a dismal 42%. If he can hold on to the lower house, it would mean he has been able to mobilise his narrower ideological base better than his critics have moved theirs. The US president’s initial victory empowered ideological extremism across much of the Western world. A further electoral feather in his cap would only embolden politicians of his ilk to do the same.

First Published: Nov 05, 2018 19:26 IST