Trump Turns the Midterms into a Referendum

You would have to go back a long way to remember the last time the White House took such an active role in midterm elections. Donald Trump and his egotism have reached the point at which he has tried to turn Tuesday’s election into a sort of referendum on his character. The Democrats have been playing into this game, conscious that social polarization caused by Trump’s domestic and foreign movements could potentially translate into a victory that will at least camouflage the lack of a strong leader to run for president in 2020. Although the elevated nature of a referendum in these midterms is excessive, its relevance in judging the agenda of Congress, and above all, of the president himself, is unquestionable.

In these midterms, 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 out of 100 seats in the Senate are up for re-election. However, this situation exists only on paper, because in reality, only 48 House of Representative seats are at stake, and in the Senate there are 26 Democratic seats and nine Republican seats in play. If this is added to the fact that this midterm election has historically served to shine a light on the administration, the most probable result after the elections will be that the Democrats recover the House of Representatives while the Republicans maintain their hold on the Senate.

Politically speaking, in the long run, Trump’s defeat might not mean anything. The best recent example occurred when Barack Obama suffered losses in the 2010 midterm elections, losing both houses, but nevertheless won re-election two years later. Obama’s popularity then was about the same as the current president’s. However, even if this hypothesis is confirmed, the short-term effects could undermine Trump’s image.

For example, the House of Representatives could approve impeachment proceedings, for which only a simple majority vote is needed. Although the move would die in the Senate where the Republican block would nullify any practical consequence of the process, it could serve to damage the image of the president.

However, without a doubt, the most worrisome aspect for Trump if the Democrats regain the majority in the House would be that they would assume the chairmanships of the lower House committees. Until now, the Republicans in power have torpedoed all plans in Congress to investigate Russian collusion in the 2016 elections. A change of color from red to blue would not only unlock a certain congressional response to the 2016 campaign interference scandal but also allow the Democrats to initiate a series of potential and unpredictable investigations, from cases involving Trump and his relationships with prostitutes to money laundering. The price in terms of Trump’s image could cost the unity of his own party.

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