US Elections: Republicans blame ‘Trumpty Dumpty’ for the failed red wave
While counting is still on, the predicted ‘red wave’ failed to materialise and former President Donald Trump appears to be the biggest loser
Although the counting is still on and several results awaited, the much-anticipated U.S. midterm elections seem to have proved the pundits wrong. The giant ‘Red Wave’ for the Republican Party predicted by the press, pollsters and political pundits never materialised. The GOP leaders must have been wondering what went wrong.
Every opinion poll before the elections indicated that people were concerned about the economy, inflation and rising energy costs; that they were dissatisfied over rising crime, homelessness and shoddy border security. In an exit poll, 73% of voters were quoted as saying that they were angry about how things were going in the country. President Biden's approval ratings also plummeted, hovering around 40 percent.
There were thus good reasons for angry, frustrated and vengeful voters to send out a clear message of disapproval to the ruling establishment. But the signals have been milder and mixed at best with several Democrats getting re-elected. It is therefore time to assess what drove an average American to vote the way they did in this election.
Republican party strategy has been to focus on rising crime and growing economic misery and show that there has been a steep decline in the Americans’ purchasing power as the cost of living has been increasing by around 8 per cent a year. The breakdown of law and order is not confined to only big cities, but can be seen across the nation. Democrats countered these charges by stating that Donald Trump's MAGA Republicans were the real threat to democracy and that it was time to show them the door. The Supreme court ruling reversing Roe vs. Wade, the law that had legalised abortion nationwide, helped Democrats galvanise women across the spectrum to assert their reproductive rights. While the pundits had ruled out Abortion rights as a major poll issue, they were apparently wrong.
Despite his loss in the 2020 presidential election and facing an inquiry into his role in the January 6 riots in Washington DC in 2020, Donald Trump was the Republican star in the election season. He had handpicked many of the Republican candidates and the results were expected to give him a boost for his re-election bid for 2024. Hailed as a de facto leader of the party, his sway over Republican voters on the ground was undeniable. In New Hampshire, Trump loyalist and a far-right candidate who as an ‘election denier’ in 2020 had promoted conspiracy theories, won his race. Trump took credit on social media, suggesting the results demonstrated the power of his endorsement for the victors.
Although the Republican establishment poured millions of dollars into those primary races to fend off these ultra-MAGA candidates, the efforts were largely unsuccessful. The Senate minority leader Mitch McConnel had previously voiced concerns about ‘Candidate quality’ in Republican's pursuit to gain control of the Senate, a reference to MAGA nominees who successfully purged moderate candidates who could have made for a different outcome.
Today, America is a deeply divided country ideologically, and about five to seven per cent of the ‘independent’ voters seem to swing the election one way or the other.
The New York Times reported that Democrats had spent nearly 19 million dollars across eight states in primaries amplifying far-right Republican candidates who questioned or denied the validity of the 2020 Presidential election. The six races in which Democrats spent the money now look nearly unwinnable for Republicans as those flawed candidates are expected to turn off the voters.
Another master strategy of the Democrats was to focus on the abortion issue. What happened in Michigan was a good example of a phenomenon that has reverberated across the country since the Supreme Court decided to overturn the half-a-century-old abortion rights. Although the Supreme Court has, in effect, left that decision for the people to decide at the State level, abortion advocates succeeded in arousing the people’s passion, turning out enough Democrats to blunt the widely expected Republican Wave. Abortion came in a close second to inflation as voters’ most important issue, according to NBC News exit polls, with 76% of Democrats listing abortion as their top concern.
It is a rare sight in America to witness a rally or demonstration against higher prices or rising crimes; however, demonstrations demanding abortion rights even in the third trimester, has become a regular feature in public squares.
Adding a constitutional amendment to the right to abortion in Michigan and a few other states helped Democrat incumbents who were vilified for their mishandling of the Covid epidemic and employing authoritarian measures only a few months ago. Jim Messina, a former Obama official, stated in an interview that he would like to see an abortion amendment on every state ballot in the upcoming Presidential election, and this is going to be a defining issue for the voters.
Although the midterms delivered a muddled message, one of the apparent outcomes is the diminishing fortune of the 45th President, Donald Trump. New York Post, a conservative newspaper, caricatured Trump on the front page as 'Trumpty Dumpty' and blamed him for the losses. Republican Lt. Governor of Georgia Geoff Duncan expressed the sentiment of many in the Republican Party when he said, "this is truly a pivotal point in the history of the Republican party. Donald Trump is no doubt in the rearview mirror.”
At the time of writing, control of the Congress still hangs in balance as votes continue to be counted. Multiple elections are too close to call. American voters have stopped short of giving either party a decisive mandate, indicating how divided this country is even about the vanishing middle class or the uncertain economy in the future.
(The writer is former Chief Technology Officer at the United Nations and Vice-chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA)