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November 9, 2018

Trump’s partial defeat


November 9, 2018

The American electorate delivered a partial defeat to Trump’s Republican Party in the most expensive midterm elections in the country’s history. And yet, Trump has been trying to create the impression that the polls were a “tremendous success” for the Republicans as they retained their majority in the Senate, with 51 seats in a house of 100 senators.

The Republican Party lost its majority in the lower House of Representatives after eight years. The Democrats have now resumed control of the house, winning 223 out of 435 seats. By putting the Democrats in the majority in Congress, voters have given them an opportunity to use its investigative powers to put new checks on Trump and his agenda.

It will now become far more difficult for Trump to push through its right-wing agenda in Congress. The victory of the Democrats is likely to bring the question of Trump’s impeachment back on the agenda and have serious political consequences for the US president. The election results reflect the mood that exists in society. The real battles are taking place on the streets and in workplaces, not in the Senate or Congress. Trump is also worried by the mass movements and protests that are taking place on the streets.

The unprecedented number of women elected to the lower House of Representatives is not the result a sudden change. It is the outcome of the mass protests by women against Trump’s reactionary right-wing policies. More than 110 women candidates have been elected to Congress for the very first time in America’s electoral history, which marks a major breakthrough in the country’s male-dominated politics. Before the midterm elections, only 19 percent of the House and around 20 percent of the Senate comprised women. Furthermore, 22 states had never elected a female governor and only four out 50 governors are women.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old democratic socialist, is now the youngest woman to be elected to Congress. In a first, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two Muslim women from Minnesota and Michigan, respectively, have also been elected to the lower House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Sharice Davids of Kansas and Debra Haaland of New Mexico are the first Native American women to be elected to the house. Further mass mobilisation on the streets is likely to encourage more women, workers and young people to join social and political movements and politics.

The victory of some democratic socialists and progressives linked to the Democratic Socialists of America is also an encouraging sign for those within and outside the Democratic Party. Although these elements are relatively small in numbers in both Congress and the Senate, they can play a decisive role in linking parliamentary discourse with the struggles on the streets and representing the working classes and the youth.

The election results are a clear indication of the fact that the Democratic Party failed to fully capitilise on the growing opposition against Trump, even though he is one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. There are different factors that have helped Trump survive over the last two years. The massive support he enjoys within the Republican Party and its support base is the most important reason. Although his overall approval ratings have plummeted, right-wing elements continue to support him.

Another important factor that has helped Trump consolidate his position is the support he has received from important sections of the ruling class. The rightwing, neocons, reactionaries, far-right and nationalists sections of the ruling class have thrown their weight behind Trump. While the foreign policy and intelligence elite and a large number of academics are hostile towards Trump, the CEOs of major corporations remain broadly supportive.

Trump’s popularity can be attributed to the persistent use of right-wing populism and the fact that he is seen to be delivering on his deeply reactionary agenda. This includes taking a stand against the unfair trade policies of other countries; adopting a tough stance on border policies; filling judicial posts with reactionaries, including two US Supreme Court justices; undoing environmental and other regulations; and attacking human rights.

The midterm election results are yet another reminder that American society has become deeply polarised in recent years. It is wrong to assume that there has been an overall shift toward the Right since Trump’s election. Yes, his election victory was a triumph for the Right and the reactionary forces. But it also mobilised large sections of America’s population to resist Trump’s rise. There has been a form of mobilisation at both ends of the spectrum that is driven by a profound social crisis and the loss of legitimacy of capitalist institutions, including corporate political parties.

In recent years, millions of people, especially the youth, have been galvanised through the Occupy Wall Street movement, Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders’ campaign and Trump’s election to search for a way to combat racism, neoliberalism, inequality, sexism, and the entire agenda of the Right.

The change in the mood among young people, women and elements within the working and middle classes has made democratic socialism popular.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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