Whither the US mid-term elections

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

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By this time tomorrow we would have seen if the American populace remains consistent and hands the opposition party — in this case, the Democrats — a mid-term election victory through majorities in the House and, possibly, the Senate.

The umbilical cord historically connecting Jamaica and the United States has ensured that Jamaicans follow keenly the results of elections in America, more so in recent times because of the election of the first black President Mr Barack Obama, and latterly the constant drama revolving around the current President Mr Donald Trump.

Jamaicans have also taken much interest in the developing issues around immigration, particularly because of proposals to end chain migration through which most Jamaicans become residents or citizens of the US, and denial of citizenship to a child born there, if the parents are not themselves US citizens.

Once again, the opinion polls are showing the Democrats on track for a win or, as they are calling it, a blue wave. Observers of US elections, especially of the 2016 presidential polls, will not soon forget that nearly all the public opinion surveys had the Democrat Mrs Hillary Clinton winning over the Republican candidate, Mr Trump.

Of course, the Democrats are staking their hope on a long history of the incumbent party — in this case, the Republicans — losing big numbers of seats in mid-term elections. As things stand, while the polls are predicting Democratic inroads into the House, the outlook for the Senate is not as clear-cut.

A loss of the House and Senate would be a big blow to the Trump Administration as that would make it decidedly harder to push through legislation and achieve budgetary goals. We saw this clearly during the Obama Administration.

Some pundits are positing the elections as a referendum on President Trump after two years in the White House. This is left to be seen. Voting in midterm elections in the US, as in local government polls in Jamaica, tend to be based more on local agenda and local candidates who are usually better known to the electorate.

There are predictions that these mid-term polls could well see the highest turnout of voters, based in part on unprecedented turnout in early voting this time. Additional interest has been sparked by two black candidates — Mr Andrew Gillum in Florida and Ms Stacey Adams in Georgia — who are vying to create history as the first black governor of their states.

The Republicans are going into the mid-terms on the back of strong economic indicators, notably record levels of job creation. Some pundits say it is somewhat perplexing that the party seems to be more reliant on stoking fears of a far-away caravan of Central Americans heading to the US.

For their part, the Dems appear to be attempting to link the killing of 11 Jewish men and women and wounding of six others at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Philadelphia, plus the sending of pipe bombs to high-profile Democrats and the CNN, to rhetoric used by Mr Trump.

One should not rule out a win for the Trump-led Republicans or conclude that a loss would mean the end of the Trump presidency in 2020. Mr Obama handsomely won re-election in 2012 after losing the House and Senate in the 2010 midterms.

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