"Red wave" coming in US midterms
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. A Quick take to get you started on your week, and of course, we are looking forward, if that's the right term, to tomorrow's midterm elections in the United States. Increasingly a time of political dysfunction and tension and polarization and conflict, and tomorrow will certainly be no different.
First of all, in terms of outcomes, almost always in the United States, the party that is not in power, that doesn't occupy the presidency, picks up seats in the midterms. Tomorrow should be no different. Biden's approval ratings are not incredibly poor, but certainly low. View of the economy, which is the top indicator that most people say they are voting on, is quite negative, and expectations are negative going forward, even though the US isn't quite in a recession.
That means that the Republicans will easily win the House. I don't think that there's any need to question predictions around that front. It's more whether it's 15 seats or whether it's 30 seats, how much of a wave it actually looks like. Some believe that it's easier to govern if there's a 30-seat swing, because that will mean that the Republicans will be less beholden to relatively extreme members of their caucus.
But either way, the relevance of the MAGA right in going after Biden in launching investigations and making it much harder to go about the business of day-to-day governance for the Democratic president, I think, is certain from the new House. So that's the first point.
And on the Senate, I think it's a much, much, much closer race. We're talking about a few individual races that really matter: Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia. The Republicans should take the majority back, but then again, the Republicans should have had the majority in the last two years, and they didn't. And the reason they didn't, very oddly, is because former president Trump, angry that he had lost the election and promoting the idea that it was stolen, called all of his friends on the ground and said, "What are you doing to help me overturn my election?"
When that didn't happen, and there were special by-elections in Georgia that the Republicans should have won, Trump was much more focused on the fact that he had lost his election and he claimed it was stolen, and that meant that a lot of people that otherwise would have turned out in the by-elections for Republicans down ballot from Trump chose not to vote.
And the Democrats, and no one, no friends of mine in Senate thought the Democrats had a shot to win these elections, they ended up winning both of them. And so they ended up with a 50-50 seat majority. Biden owes that majority almost completely on the actions of former President Trump.
And here you have some of that happening yet again, where the Republicans would have a much easier time if Trump personally was not pushing and endorsing a number of candidates that are particularly weak, but they're very loyal to him. And we're talking about, of course, Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania. Should be easy for someone to beat Fetterman, especially given the challenges that he has experienced in campaigning and then on the debate stage after his stroke. There's no question that that has hurt him significantly in how he is perceived in the upcoming election. But Dr. Oz is an unfit candidate to run, and so the Dems have a chance of actually winning that seat.
In Georgia, Herschel Walker is just thoroughly incapable of acting as a Senator, should not be running for Congress and certainly shouldn't be the nominee, but because he is, the Democrats have a chance of holding that seat; Reverend Warnock in a very, very tight race against Herschel.
Even given all that, I still think the Republicans are likely to take the Senate, maybe pick up one or two seats. If they have a very strong day, they could even get to 54. It's possible.
But the fact that the Democrats are still in this race is really because of Trump. And it's so interesting. So you try not to generalize on politicians, but if you were going to generalize, one thing that I certainly always felt was true is that they want their party to win. And in this case, that's really not true. Trump cares about winning personally, but doesn't care all that much about his party winning if it's not about him. And as a consequence, the Republicans are less likely to pick up the Senate than they might otherwise be. And this, of course, is deeply frustrating to rank-and-file Republicans in the leadership of the GOP, but they're not going to say it publicly. Why? Because Trump is still by far the most popular character in the party.
Now, the Democrats are in trouble here, and Biden in particular, who has shifted his campaign message from overturning abortion to focusing more on the economy to then now the idea that this is about the end of democracy: if you don't vote for Democrats, it's the end of democracy. Whether or not you believe that's true, it's really not a great campaign strategy for a couple of reasons.
First is because the Democrats haven't acted that way at all. If you think about how the Democrats have actually run Congress over the last two years, it's not been as if democracy was under threat. It's been legislating as usual. And furthermore, the very fact that Democrat leadership has actually funded election deniers in Republican primaries, because if they win, they're more likely to lose the general election to a Democrat; that's certainly not consistent with the idea that democracy is in threat. It's consistent with the idea of, "No, this is politics as usual. You do everything you can to win these individual races."
So I think that Biden should not be using this argument. And furthermore, you should really only talk about democracy being an existential risk in an election where either, number one, you're pretty confident you're going to win, or number two, you're desperate. Well, the Democrats aren't desperate right now. They have two years still with the presidency under their belt, and we don't know what the Republican nomination process is going to look like or whether Trump is going to be the nominee.
So I don't think you need to do that, and furthermore, after Biden and the Democrats take up pretty significant to potentially a pretty catastrophic loss for them this week, it's going to be very hard for them to move away from the, "Wow, we said it was all about democracy and we lost." So what does that mean for your ability to govern going forward? What does that mean for the way you're perceived internationally going forward? So I think that was a mistake, and the way they took this on at the end.
Of course, the biggest problem that we all have is that right after the Congressional midterms, we are going to be dead into presidential elections, and Trump will almost certainly be announcing his candidacy in relatively short order, probably back on Twitter and on Facebook and all the rest, and the country is just going to feel politically so crisis-oriented. It's just going to feel like a disaster.
And for American allies around the world who want to count on the United States, that looks a lot weaker. It makes it feel like the two years of Biden were not a move back to normalcy, but actually a brief breather in the midst of a country that is becoming much more dysfunctional, much more divided, much more politically incompetent as a partner. And of course, for adversaries, it means more opportunity for them to act against American interests with impunity.
We'll see where it gets, but the level of division in the United States is certainly going to affect not just US domestic policy, but US foreign policy as well. Anyway, those are a few words of how I'm thinking about the midterms tomorrow. We'll all be watching very carefully, and I'll be talking to you real soon.
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