US likely heads to divided government – DW – 11/11/2022

Republicans didn’t get the “red wave” they hoped for, but they don’t need to. The party is on track to pick up the handful of seats needed to take control of the next House of Representatives in the United States. Congress.

The balance of power in the Senate rests on three states – Arizona and Nevada, as well as Georgia – which will be decided in a runoff in December. Democrats need to win at least two to maintain their current 50-50 vote — two independent senators join the Democrats. At this point, only the constitutional role of Vice President Kamala Harris keeps them in control of the upper house of Congress.

Democrats are doing better than expected

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General elections are the work of local authorities. Counties are primarily responsible for administering them, and states regulate and certify them. That means thousands of elections are held on Election Day, across multiple time zones, for dozens of local, state and federal offices, referendums and ballot initiatives.

Rules and procedures vary, as do budgets, training and staffing of election commissions.

Joshua Sellers, an associate professor at Arizona State University, told DW: “They are very under-resourced.” “We think of elections as discrete moments. But they take months, if not years, to plan in advance.”

But a disorganized, decentralized and redundant count could be a bulwark against the fraud that former President Donald Trump and his election-denying allies have tried to push without evidence since Trump himself lost and refused to concede in 2020.

Most of the extremist candidates lost to their opponents on Tuesday. Others have won at the state level, including across the country, leaving them in a position that could affect future elections and cast doubt on legitimate results.

“My hope is that whatever bad things they do will be opposed by all the good, honest, public servants who work in these positions and in these offices,” said Sellers, who studies election integrity in the United States. at the American Academy in Berlin, he said.

Kari Lake stands in front of the microphone
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, an ally of former President Donald Trump, has questioned the integrity of the vote.Photo: Brian Snyder/REUTERS

Divided Government: Check or Blockade?

The midterm shift, which won’t take effect until the new year, could be small but crucial. If the Senate remains in Democratic hands, they could control committees and the legislative agenda, including changing President Joe Biden’s executive branch and judicial appointments. But they fall short of the two-thirds majority required to pass most types of Senate bills.

But this chamber will see real change and risk stalling Biden’s legislative wish list and policy priorities. Republicans there could block Democratic initiatives and stall them in the Senate, or Biden could veto them.

Sellers said, referring to transnational issues like climate change: “When a country is as divided as we are, I think it’s fair to worry about our ability as a global unit to deal with some of these problems” and pandemics like COVID-19.

House Republicans could also deny funding to Biden, tying his administration to hearings and investigations. They have the power of impeachment, a political, not legal, procedure that can end a president’s remaining time in office regardless of the outcome.

Global implications

Foreign policy analysts say concerns about U.S. democracy and the country’s ability to govern itself have global implications and show a close connection between popular discontent at home and political goals abroad.

“We have to treat the American public and our representatives as if they have a legitimate role in foreign policy and think that you have to enter this expert priesthood to have a legitimate opinion,” Stephen Wertheim, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment, told DW.

The remarkable results of the mid-term elections allayed some democratic doubts, but not all of them. However, there is a ambivalence on a number of key geopolitical issues. Both sides agreed to support Ukraine, counter China and develop domestic production of high-tech products such as microchips.

The differences may not be in what is done in these areas, but in how.

“I don’t see Ukraine as a very polarized or political issue on the American political scene,” Michael Kimmage, a history professor at Catholic University in Washington, told DW. “For example, if the Republicans pass the House of Representatives, the concern is that they will not stop supporting Ukraine, but they will start adding other things to the bills for funds and aid to Ukraine.”

Ukraine and its leadership have experience as prey for US partisanship. Trump’s first impeachment is related to pressure on a former US president to help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discredit Joe Biden and his son Hunter for US support.

Kimmage, who worked on the Russia/Ukraine desk at the Obama-era State Department, added that “even a small change in the nature of US support for Ukraine could have major repercussions for the Ukrainian military.”

Similar shifts could occur in other areas of foreign policy that could force Biden to make tough choices. Critics of the administration look at its National Security Strategy“The U.S. pretends it can have it all,” Kimmage said in an October release.

HIMARS rocket launcher
The U.S. is providing Ukraine with High Mobility Artillery Missile Systems (HIMARS), as depicted in a previous U.S. exercise. Photo: James Lefty Larimer/abaca/photo alliance

During voting Public support for Ukraine against Russia, as well as Taiwan against China, remains high around the world, falling more into the Democratic camp. Trump-style Republicans express isolationist sentiment, and the party has campaigned to fight record inflation and boost a troubled economy.

“There is a popular sentiment in the United States that we should build a nation at home,” said Wertheim, a Carnegie fellow. “That’s what Obama said over and over again. It’s what Donald Trump ran on.”

Republicans with more legislative power “can give more voice to these kinds of questions,” he added.

We look to Asia, we rely on Europe

Still, China’s fear of holding both sides of the aisle is unlikely to lead to a sharp retreat from the world stage or record military spending cuts.

“I’m afraid the point of the Republican Congress is one thing, it’s a kind of war between the two parties to harass each other against China,” he said. “U.S. domestic politics is a factor fueling strategic competition with China. It doesn’t necessarily make for the right strategy.”

A US Navy sailor looks through binoculars
The U.S. Navy frequently conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in the Taiwan Strait, such as in 2020, as a show of force against China.Photo: abaca/photo alliance

The US has been trying to “pivot” to Asia since Barack Obama was in power, and China is the first priority in the National Security Strategy. He suggests that the US could refocus its considerable resources if its European allies took more responsibility for their own security. Otherwise, the US risks abandoning the Atlantic in favor of the Indo-Pacific, or overstretching its capabilities to fully engage in both.

This makes US national security priorities more dependent on NATO’s, and more broadly, the European Union’s, burden-sharing commitments. The buzzword, which is shorthand for European countries to build up their military, has been a problem for years. Both Democrats and Republicans have reasons to push their allies to do so.

Add Trump to the mix — whose worldview has receded in the midterms but remains a powerful and unpredictable force as a figure — and Europeans in particular have reason to watch US politics closely ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

“It’s a good time to think about how self-sufficient Europe wants to be when it comes to defense,” Wertheim said. “I don’t know how many more warning signs we need from the United States to get that message across.”

Edited by Nicole Goebel

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