US: On-the-Edge Election

Election Day on Nov 8 could hinder Biden’s presidency and plunge the country into a dangerous institutional deadlock.

On Nov. 8, the U.S faces a midterm election in which, in the words of President Joe Biden, democracy itself is at stake. The Democratic majority in Congress is very slim barely 10 seats out of 435 in the House of Representatives. The parties are tied in the Senate, something that Vice President Kamala Harris can break with her deciding vote. One-third of the Senate and the entirety of Congress are up for election. For Democrats, the loss of either narrow majority would mean the de facto loss of Biden’s presidency, at least in his ability to carry out the progressive agenda that he brought to office. The Republican Party’ doesn’t have a platform apart from obstructing and challenging the White House, if not democracy itself, in the case of some disturbing candidates.

Midterm elections are the first chance for voters to speak out about the president they elected two years ago. Generally, sitting presidents do not do very well. Furthermore, in this case, rampant inflation and mistakes such as the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan will predictably hurt Biden. His low approval rating (between 30% and 40% in key states) suggests people are not motivated to give his party the majority. However, radical Republican discourse and the presence of a figure like Donald Trump might serve to stimulate the Democratic vote once more as it has done twice before.

Added to this is the incursion of the Supreme Court into the political scene. This year’s elimination of abortion protections, as well as other rulings regarding the fight for the environment or gun control, have placed the importance of balancing the court’s power at the center of the political debate. As of this week, more than 9 million Americans have already voted, both in person and by mail, signaling that the final turnout will be high.

What is at stake goes beyond Washington. That the president’s party will be punished in the midterms is to be expected. The system indulges and favors coexistence. However, the extreme polarization of American politics since Trump’s emergence has transformed the natural distribution of power into a constant clash of institutions, jeopardizing how reliable the U.S. will be in matters of global importance — such as the climate emergency or its position on the war in Ukraine — if what prevails is the most extreme version of current Republicanism.

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