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Editorial Trump's bluster cannot hide progressive gains in midterms

DONALD TRUMP has congratulated himself in characteristic style for leading the Republicans to a “big win” in the US midterm elections, but his victory is at best partial.

The US president pulled out all the stops to throw his weight behind campaigns to defend under-pressure Republican senators and to dislodge precarious Democrats so as to maintain his party’s small but important majority in the Senate.

This safeguards the Republicans’ control of nominations to the Supreme Court and other judicial posts.

The White House line is that candidates who secured Trump’s backing or defended his racist and xenophobic policies tended to win while his critics were unsuccessful, but this disregards victories won by Democrats in the House of Representatives, in state legislatures and in gubernatorial contests.

The president knows that the new House majority will empower the Democrats to put the blocks on his legislative programme and to set in train investigations into various aspects of his administration, family involvement and possible blurring of the distinction between state and personal business.

Trump’s petulant comment that “two can play that game” by threatening that his side could launch Senate investigations into unspecified classified information leaks indicates a certain vulnerability.

Positives to be drawn from the elections include an appreciable rise in the numbers of women elected to Congress, though totalling around just 20 per cent.

The House of Representatives continues on its gradual course of reflecting a little more the rich diversity of US society, with the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Abby Finkenauer from New York and Iowa respectively as, at 29, the youngest women ever to win House seats.

Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan became the first Muslim women elected to Congress, while Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland were the first Native American women and Ayanna Pressley was elected as the first black congresswoman for Massachusetts, as was Jahana Hayes in Connecticut.

Trade unionists can be forgiven a touch of schadenfreude at the demise of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, who introduced plans to deny state employees collective bargaining rights, refuse them the right to collect union dues and make them win recertification on an annual basis.

His defeat at the hands of Democrat Tony Evers prompted US national trade union centre AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to observe simply: “Scott Walker was a national disgrace.”

While the influx of new younger representatives, including women and national minorities, is encouraging, the Democratic Party establishment, which disgraced itself through its superdelegate manipulation to deny Bernie Sanders the presidential nomination that so many grassroots party members wanted, is still in control and unrepentant.

In a reflection of the triangulation tactic operated by New Labour in Britain, the Democrat establishment favoured appointing candidates likely to encourage so-called crossover Republican voters rather than emphasising a radical, progressive political alternative to Trump and his party.

There has been an increase in Democratic Party candidates emanating from service in the CIA or the State Department, all but guaranteeing continued cross-party consensus on foreign policy.

Trump’s seemingly open-hearted offer that erstwhile House minority leader Nancy Pelosi should take up the House Speaker’s role, having “earned this great honour” and, by the way, having pledged “bipartisanship, seeking common ground” with the president, can only arouse disquiet.

When Bernie Sanders or another member of the fast-growing Democratic Socialists trend within the party seeks the 2020 nomination, it can be safely assumed that the Democratic National Committee and leaders such as Pelosi will do all in their power to frustrate them once again.

 

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