Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Editorial | Voters repudiate Trump’s world view

Published:Thursday | November 8, 2018 | 12:18 AM

In places where America was lionised as democracy's acme, it is hard to explain how Donald Trump became its president and that his repudiation wasn't complete in Tuesday's midterm election. As it stands, Mr Trump's approval rating remains upwards of 40 per cent and the Senate is still in the hands of a Republican Party, over which he maintains a corrosive stranglehold.

For that, we can blame, in part, the peculiarities of a constitution that, unlike the case of the House of Representative, assigns the same number of Senate seats (two) to all states, no matter their size or population, and under which the presidency isn't determined by popular vote. And more important, you can blame large swathes of the electorate, whose visceral takes on matters of race, ethnicity, gender and a raft of cultural issues which were revealed, and exploited, by Mr Trump.

Yet, faith in the United States need not be totally lost. Tuesday's election may not have produced the 'blue wave', or at least not of the magnitude that had been predicted and many people had hoped for. Nonetheless, it was sufficient of a swell to suggest that the American ideal, and its presumed role for global good, is redeemable. The Democrats, the blue party, regained the House, having, thus far, won 222 of its 435 seats, against the 194 they held during the outgoing Congress.

Put another way, the Democrats already have a majority of four, having so far pick up a net 28 seats. In the process, they flipped 32 seats previously held by Republicans. With 20 seats to be declared, they could well increase their majority.

This achievement ought not to be taken lightly. In the first place, gaining the 23 additional seats needed for a majority in the House required victory in many conservative districts carried by Mr Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Indeed, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report noted in a pre-election article that, given the bias in the electoral map, even if the Democrats had victories in all the seats in places, both Hillary Clinton and Mr Trump in 2016 by less than three percentage points, "they could still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats". In the event, they overcame those limitations, including winning the popular vote by more than seven percentage points.

Despite the absence of the tsunami on Tuesday, the outcome was, in a way, a vindication of the American electorate, broadly writ. An estimated 114 million people cast ballots in the House elections, an increase of 31 million, or 37.3 per cent, on the 2014 midterms. The voter turnout of over 47 per cent was the highest in nearly half a century and nearing the level of presidential elections.

Voters, obviously, were more energised than in recent decades, which showed in the greater participation of young people, minorities and women, who, especially in the heavily populated urban states and regions, broke mostly for Democrats. The result is a Democratic party and a House of Representative that is more diverse and looking like the emerging United States of America.

 

DIVERSE WINNERS

 

Indeed, at least 96 women will be in the House, representing 22 per cent of its membership. Eighty-four, or 87.5 per cent of the women, will be Democrats. In addition the Democrats will have in their ranks the first Native American member of the House, its first Somali American member, who is also a woman, as well as its youngest female member ever. This diversity is also evident at the state and country levels where Democrats gave gained electoral office.

The fact that Democrats will control the House will represent an important check on Trump's power and, perhaps, his authoritarian instincts. He'll have to seek bipartisan compromise to accomplish big legislative undertakings. But the larger outcome of Tuesday's vote was the repudiation by large swathes of America of Mr Trump's nativist, xenophobic, ethnocentric and isolationist world view, which, of itself, is exculpatory.