The predicted disaster for the Democratic Party and democracy in the US has failed to materialize. Donald Trump apparently has far less influence than had been feared around the world. That’s a good sign, says Ines Pohl.
https://www.dw.com/-A voter celebrates after casting a ballot at a polling station in Atlanta, GeorgiaImage: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Normally, the midterm elections in the United States hardly matter to the international community.
Normally, the debates among candidates for senator and governor posts revolve around domestic and regional problems that don’t impact global politics.
But “normally” does not exist anymore in this country, which has been in an existential crisis since Donald Trump’s presidency. It long appeared that after the midterm elections, the country would have taken a step closer to the abyss.
How strong is Trump’s influence?
That is why the eyes of the world were on the United States this November 8. The fearful question hanging over the polls was whether Donald Trump and like-minded candidates would succeed in further undermining democratic systems; whether election deniers, racists and right-wing extremists would end up in positions to decide if legitimate election results are recognized — or not — in the upcoming presidential vote in 2024
In the end, it was a question of whether Donald Trump would succeed outside the White House in continuing his corrosive policies, which reached their peak on January 6, 2021, when his supporters stormed the US Capitol in Washington.
Governing party historically strong
He did not succeed. Voters did not give the candidates he endorsed political responsibility on a grand scale — quite the opposite. No governing party has performed as well in midterm elections as President Joe Biden’s Democrats.
Initial polls show that economic concerns are, of course, the main topic on people’s minds in the United States. Prices in the US housing market are also rising exponentially, inflation is high and people are concerned about the future.
But these polls also show that many Americans are very concerned about the state of democracy in their country — and they have understood that not voting plays into the hands of fanatics. Voter turnout was correspondingly high.
First-time voters want action on climate change
It is striking that a particularly large number of first-time voters came out to vote — voters for whom the fight against the climate catastrophe is especially important here in the US. It is a topic nearly all Republicans ridicule in this vast country.
In the end, climate concerns — as well as the debate over abortion rights — have stopped the feared victory march of Trump-Republicans.
All of this strengthens President Biden, even though governing will certainly not become easier if the Democrats, in all likelihood, lose their majority in the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well.
Will Republicans break from Trump?
The burning question is what the midterm election results mean for the Republican Party. Will it manage to make a clean break from Trump now that there is proof his extreme positions — at least nationwide — are not capable of winning a majority?
Will Donald Trump announce his presidential candidacy in the coming week?
Will men like Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who pulled off a decisive election victory by staying away from Trump, muster the courage to run against him?
All eyes are now shifting to the next election. There is no doubt that President Biden is gearing up for 2024. He is clearly making the Democrats’ relative success his own and said he and his wife, Jill, will decide early next year whether he will run for reelection.
There are many questions to be answered in the days and weeks ahead. But for the moment, there is an opportunity to take a deep breath. American democracy, which had nearly been declared dead, is alive. And that is really good news.
Ines Pohl Bureau head of DW’s Washington Studio