The Mid-term elections in the United States are usually conducted two years into the tenure of a president. They are often viewed as a referendum on the performance of a sitting president. Historically, most presidents come out of them bruised.
The Tuesday, November 8 Mid-term elections were inevitably defined by four major issues, namely: inflation, abortion, crime and climate change. Not since the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter held sway as President, has America witnessed inflation crossing the 7 per cent threshold. Though inflation was engendered chiefly by the Russia-Ukraine war and other complications arising from supply chain that came hot on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, it impacted negatively on the cost of living. The upturning of the Roe Vs Wade legislation, by a conservative dominated Supreme Court , has miffed not a few Americans and abortion rights activists. Additionally, the buffeting of America by a series of hurricanes and tornadoes, leaving in their trails death and destruction, has put climate change in the front burner.
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The Mid-term elections were heralded with the hype and hoopla that characterised presidential elections. President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump campaigned for candidates across the Democratic and Republican aisle. The campaign was exciting, with Biden and Trump on the hustings, prompting experts to suggest that it was a preview for the 2024 presidential election.
Former President Trump deployed his huge war chest to support candidates of his ilk who denied the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. He and his cohorts proceeded to tout a massive red wave or a Republican tsunami at the end of the elections.
The rhetoric leading up to the Mid-term elections was so violent that Katy Kay, the BBC Correspondent and a veteran of several American elections, described it as “unnerving”. As a matter of fact, prior to the elections, the spouse of House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was assaulted.
Four hundred and thirty five seats of the House of Representatives were up for grabs. So were 35 out of the 100 for the Senate and 36 governorships.
At the time of writing this piece, the elections were notably peaceful, assuaging the anxiety of those who feared for the worst. And rather than result in a tsunami of Republican wins, the Republicans took the House with a slim margin. Even though results of one or two senate seats such as Georgia’s are being awaited, the outcome for the Senate remained stalemated and a dead heat.
Overall, the outcome of the Mid-term elections threw up a number of firsts. They were also interesting and revealing. For the first time, a blackman, Wes Moore, emerged as Governor of Maryland. For the first time a woman, Sarah Sanders Huckabee, former spokesperson for Donald Trump, became governor of Arkansas. And for the first time a lesbian gay, Maura Healey, became governor. Eight Nigerian-Americans won seats.
Perhaps the fellow who got the most bruised in these elections is Donald Trump. He did not only insert himself as a juggernaut and presumptive presidential candidate for the Republican Party, he promoted the myth of an impending red wave. At the end of the day, the myth was exploded. His array of celebrity and prominent candidates for the two houses were trounced. Consider the abridged catalogue: For the Senate alone, the sleek television medical doctor, Mehmet Oz, was defeated by John Fetterman in Pennsylvania; Don Bolduc was defeated by Senator Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire; Leora Levy was defeated by Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut; and Gerald Malloy was defeated by Peter Welch in Vermont.
As if that were not bad enough for Trump, the margin of win for the Republicans in the House is far from the “wave” he predicted. Worse, Ron de Santis, the Florida Governor, being considered as his replacement by more sedate members of the Republican Party, won re-election by a landslide. It is a measure of the likely shift towards de Santis that the NEW YORK POST, one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, proclaimed him as “the future”. Apart from the re-election elevating de Santis’ profile, his powerful, Kennedy-like acceptance speech was a clear play for the presidency. In fact experts are predicting that his formidable win will generate a “huge internal civil war” in the Republican Party against Trump.
If Donald Trump was subdued by the Mid-term elections, which he had hoped to latch onto to announce his presidential bid, President Biden was buoyed by their outcome. The tsunami the Democrats feared didn’t happen. Even Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and a notable Trump ally, acknowledged:“definitely not a Republican wave, that’s for darn sure”. President Biden, who had argued before the elections that “democracy itself was on the table”, proclaimed the outcome as “a good day for democracy”. He said that the voters had spoken clearly about their concerns and that he was ready to work with Republicans. For good measure, Biden, who was previously coy about running in 2024, said confidently that he would.
The Mid-term elections, their peaceful conduct and their emphasis on issues, confirm America as a bastion of liberal democracy and the “Shinning City on a Hill”. These attributes and values should commend themselves to us in Nigeria as we conduct the 2023 General Elections.
Nick Dazang is a former Director at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)