The US mid-term election results are out! The Democrats have taken back the House; however, the Republicans have maintained hold of the Senate. The Congress is now a reflection of the country itself: divided and vengeful.
The Democrats expected to win back the House. And, as the Washington Post reported- they have been preparing months in advance of the election to bombard the administration with ‘hearings, subpoenas, and investigations’ after their takeover of the House. Although a move to impeach Trump might be far-off, the House Democrats are expected to do all that they can to bring the Trump presidency to its knees. However, this plan could easily backfire, and hand Trump the perfect ammunition to win the 2020 presidential election.
It is imperative that the narrative of the 2016 election is not forgotten. Trump voters saw him as an outsider who was taking on the corrupt political establishment. He was the ‘blue-collar billionaire’ who would end the reign of the establishment elites, both Democrat and Republican. Trump was the symbol of disdain for the political system. He was going to ‘drain the swamp’. However, of course, he rather deepened the so-called ‘swamp’ by hiring the likes of Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn, and other Wall Street executives against whom he railed in his election campaign. He also introduced a tax cut which benefits the rich more than the rural Americans who voted for him. However, one would be very wrong if they think that this will persuade voters away from Trump. The election of 2016 was driven by grievances and sentiment, and the politics of today remains the same.
In this new era of the politics of resentment, what counts is not what Trump stands for; it is what he stands against. He is seen as the juggernaut standing up against the Democratic Party machine. One must not forget how the Democratic Party, once the party of the working class, abandoned its base and became the party of the ‘creative class’- the party of the Wall Street and Silicon Valley wonks. It was under Bill Clinton that Americans saw a considerable cut in social security; and he even initiated a deal with the then Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, to privatise social security, which of course fell through- thanks to the convenient timing of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. It is this Democratic Party, ‘the establishment’, that the American people voted against.
So, if the House Democrats go offensive and barrage the administration with investigations and subpoenas, it will again gift Trump, the demagogue, an opportunity to arrogate the narrative of Trump vs. the establishment- the establishment vs. the American people. It will not only further solidify his popularity amongst his voters, but also mobilise and energise them.
It is also important to understand that, according to the experts, the US economy is doing very well- unemployment rate has gone down by 3.9% and GDP has increased by 4.2% in the 2nd quarter of 2018. Thus, in some quarters, the question may be raised that since the economy is doing so well, what motivated the people to vote for Trump’s party in the mid-terms? Although Trump attracts and caters to white-supremacists, racists and misogynists- it would still be wrong to use the excuse of today’s stable US economy to tar all Trump supporters as such. The economy is doing well, but it is also true that average wage has not increased and remains in the same stagnant position as it has been since the 1980s. Many Americans still have to work multiple jobs to put food on the table. Thus, Trump’s core base, white working class men and women, who feel left behind, have gained very little from this stable thriving economy. So, despite all the talk in the contradictory, it still remains true- “it’s the economy, stupid!”
If the Democratic Party is to win the 2020 election, it must not establish itself as a reactionary force against Trump, but return to its basics. The Democrats must appeal to the ordinary working people of America; the same people, who were drawn to Bernie Sanders’s promises to get big money out of politics, increase the minimum wage, reverse the widening income inequality and wealth disparity, introduce single-payer health care system, and strengthen the country’s social security. It is only then that the Democratic Party will have a chance in the 2020 election. However, if their sole political agenda continues to be merely anti-Trump, then when 2020 comes-their political vanquishment is inevitable.
It remains to be seen as to whether it is Donald Trump’s or Langston Hughes’s America which will emerge in the next decade.