Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

American Democracy Rights itself and Regains its Balance

American Democracy Rights itself and Regains its Balance

Monday, 21 November, 2022 - 11:30

President Joe Biden performed better than expected in the Midterms, which pollsters had predicted Democrats would lose.

Despite the failures of his first two years in office, with the country in an economic downturn, inflation rising to 8 percent, and fuel prices increasing. And the economy weighs heavily on the minds of the American electorate.

We can add dangerous foreign policy missteps, like the disappointing withdrawal from Afghanistan, the timing of which was not justified. Biden also failed to revive the nuclear agreement with Iran, which he had promised to do on the campaign trail, and has been lax with it.

He has also been aloof regarding the events in Iraq and, earlier in his term, Taiwan as well. Moreover, relations with Middle East allies have grown cold, if not tense, especially with the Gulf states, but even Israel, because of the negotiations in Vienna.

However, Biden’s firmness in dealing with Moscow in its war against Ukraine, the way in which he created a spirit of solidarity within NATO and empowered the alliance, and the firm actions he has taken against China, especially regarding Taiwan later in his term, all tilted the scales in his favor despite his failed policies and misguided decisions.

Biden achieved electoral success by ignoring the advice of economists, who told him not to help aggrieved families. He also took steps to modernize America’s infrastructure rather than just talk about it. He worked to cap the price of insulin for the elderly and pursued big pharmaceutical companies that had been evading taxes despite making billions in profits, and he canceled the student debt of 40 million Americans.

Despite global inflation, the US administration’s policies helped contain the rise in prices, and it created jobs with decent pay, with the unemployment rate at 3.7 percent and the economy growing. These policies allowed him to prevent the Republican “red wave” that had been expected.

In this context, we have to mention that one thing that marked these elections was that voters often chose the candidate rather than the party. This led to many of former President Donald Trump’s candidates losing after he failed to put the interests of the party ahead of his own in choosing whom to support in the primaries.

Abortion was also crucial to the Democrats’ success in this election, as it is one of the major faultlines of the divide in American society. Alongside other contentious social issues, it reinforced the fears of broad segments of American society - independents, Republicans, and of course, Democrats - regarding the future of democracy and the rights considered sacred in the US.

Indeed, Trump often raised skepticism regarding government institutions during his term, especially security agencies and the integrity of the elections, and he resorted to armed violence, as seen in the attack on the Capitol.

Americans know that living standards are strongly tied to democracy, individual rights, and trust in institutions. Trumpist candidates insisting that the 2020 elections were rigged was perhaps among the reasons for the results. They reiterated these claims when the Midterm results were released. When it became apparent that Katie Hobbs would beat Republican candidate Kari Lake, the latter refused to acknowledge the result and admit defeat.

All of this made American voters apprehensive about the prospect of candidates pushing Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud being elected to office, especially since dozens of them refused to pledge to respect the results, preemptively shedding doubt on the integrity of the US electoral system.

The American people have shown that they can defeat extremism, be it from the Democratic left or the Republican right.

We also have to add that Trump unintentionally contributed to the disappointing and worrying results for Republicans. This could push many of them to replace him as head of the party, as they have to see him as an impediment to the revival of the party after he lost the White House, the two chambers of Congress, and now the Senate, since the 2016 presidential race.

In fact, many within the party are keen on removing him despite the threats this poses, as Trump will likely refuse to go down without putting up a costly fight. He has confirmed that he will run for president in 2024, disregarding the Republicans, who warned against his negative impact on the party and blamed him for Biden’s success in the Midterms.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ 20-point victory in Florida and the substantial number of seats won by moderate Republican Governors opposed to Trump demonstrated that conservative values and a humane approach to education, immigration and social issues are not mutually exclusive. This kind of conservatism appeals to broad segments of independents. It would win over many of the moderates, especially independent and suburban voters, whom the Republicans lost by large margins in 2022, by exploiting the weaknesses of the hard left without scaring off those in the middle.

The first lesson to derive from these results is that America fixes itself, and so the apprehensions of those who enjoy self-flagellation were assuaged, and those cheering for the downfall of the US went quiet.

Every time the United States undergoes turbulent times - from the racial unrest and assassinations of the 1960s, to the anti-Vietnam War protest movement of the 1970s, the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the economic recession and real estate collapse of 2008, and the domestic turmoil seen during Trump’s term - it comes out the other side. This is especially true for the attack on the Capitol that followed Trump and his supporters’ refusal to accept the presidential election results. That day, Mike Pence and other Republicans contained these dangerous threats.

The second lesson is that domestic issues will always matter more to American voters than foreign policy, regardless of how prominent it becomes. In this context, the Democrats’ fears for democracy were crucial to their victory over Trump.

This does not mean that US society is not divided, but it is a positive sign in terms of reducing this polarization. It could perhaps allow the Republican Party to get its traditionalist spirit back and enhance DeSantis’ chances of becoming the preferred candidate among Republican voters and leaders who have grown weary of Trump’s populism and control.

The third lesson is that betting on America’s contradictions opening the door to furthering foreign actors’ interests is misguided. It also shows that leaders should not see disputes with US presidents or officials at a particular juncture or regarding particular topics to amount to a dispute with the US, its role, and its values. Indeed, following this course could have irreversible repercussions.

Individuals leave, and administrations change. However, the US remains, to this day, the largest, strongest and most prominent force in the world despite all of its mistakes and flaws.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks