Looking ahead to the US mid-terms

Two years ago, I was a bit worried that everyone seemed to assume that Hillary Clinton would win the US Presidency. The lesson from the Brexit vote is that you can’t assume anything and that you need to fight for every vote in every seat right up till the last minute. I just wish Hillary’s campaign had done that.

Never again do I want to feel the sense of horror and grief I felt on both June 24th and November 9th 2016.

Trump’s election, though, wasn’t the scariest thing that happened to me that week. But then my husband having open heart surgery was, understandably, the most terrifying thing that has ever happened in my life – except that two hours in the middle of the night following the operation when he was rushed back into theatre to deal with a complication.

I do have something to thank Trump for, though. My husband’s blood pressure remained stubbornly low after all the drama, extending his stay in Intensive Care. It didn’t start to rise again until just after he had been told the election result. Coincidence? I think not.

The midterm elections happen this Tuesday. The 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs along with a third of the seats in the Senate, both of which are controlled by Trump’s Republicans at the moment. All Trump has to offer is a platform of fear and lies about a mythical caravan of terrorists coming to take over the US or warnings to young men that they aren’t safe from false allegations of sexual harassment. But as we know, that sort of fear could turn his base out. Will the Democrats’ messages on bread and butter issues such as healthcare be sufficient?

Again, most pollsters agree that it’s likely that the Democrats will take back the House. It is vital that they do because if the Republicans retain it, Obama’s health reforms will be dead, leaving millions of poorer, sicker Americans without any health insurance.

A Democrat House will also be able to investigate the hell out of Trump and his associates.

The most likely outcome for the Senate is a hold for the Republicans who may even gain some seats from the Democrats. This is simply because 23/33 seats up this year are held by Democrats and some of them in quite tight races. Claire Macaskill in Missouri is one of them. Five Thirty Eight gives her a 5 in 8 chance of retaining her seat but that’s a bit close for comfort.

The one gain everyone of a liberal nature would like to see but is unlikely to happen is Beto O’Rourke beating the appalling Ted Cruz in Texas. Beto has got closer than most Democrats. His championing of key liberal issues like support for abortion and gun control has not held him back. A lesson, perhaps, for those who want to turn this party into some sort of centrist mush. It’s not impossible for Beto to win, so keep everything crossed.

In addition to this, governors are up for election in 36 states. Out of all the elections, the person I want to win most is Stacey Abrahams in Georgia. She is in a very tight race with a Republican whose attempts at suppressing voter registrations amongst likely Democrat voters have just been ruled against by a Judge.

I heard Stacey on Crooked Media’s Pod Save America podcast earlier this year and thought she was brilliant. She’s had Obama and Oprah Winfrey campaigning with her this week as the Guardian reports:

Winfrey, who like Abrams grew up in Mississippi, recalled this history on Thursday as she joined the campaign trail, knocking on doors and speaking at rallies.

“I’m here today because of the men and because of the women who were lynched, who were humiliated, who were discriminated against, who were suppressed, who were repressed and oppressed, for the right for the equality at the polls,” she told an ecstatic audience in Marietta. “And I want you to know that their blood has seeped into my DNA, and I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain. I refuse.”

I have become seriously addicted to the Crooked Media stable of podcasts. Relevant, irreverent and full of humour and excellent analysis, they provide some essential background information about all aspects of American politics. Pod Save America is presented by four Obama era staffers, Jon Favreau, John Lovett, Tommy Vietor and Dan Pfeiffer and is virtually unusable for me.

Their Vote Save America site tells voters how, where and when to vote. The company has also raised over a million dollars to support candidates in tight races in the last few days from an initial target of a quarter of that.

Let’s hope that all the grassroots activism for the Democrats trumps (sorry) the GOP’s scaremongering and attempts at voter suppression.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • paul barker 4th Nov '18 - 5:48pm

    Who, exactly is on record as wanting to turn us into “Centrist Mush” ? I dont think that kind of misrepresentation of fellow Libdems is helpful.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th Nov '18 - 5:56pm

    @Paul, it’s the whole “Movement for Moderates” stuff – trying to be as inoffensive as possible so we can appeal to the centre ground when we should actually be appealing to those who want a radical, liberal force in British politics.

    Exhibit A is the egregious immigration paper presented to Conference which was amended to make it less awful but it is still some way short of where it should be.

  • David Warren 4th Nov '18 - 7:38pm

    I have been following these elections closely.

    I find US politics enthralling and find their system designed by the Founding Fathers to seek government by consensus to be far superior to ours where an ‘elected dictatorship’ can occur.

    In fact when the likes of Thatcher and Blair were in office it could be argued that is what we had.

    The aforementioned founders debated long and hard about what sort of government the new United States should have.

    It was by no means a foregone conclusion that there would be a President!

    Turning to now, a win for the Democrats in the House would clearly be a good thing.

    It would constrain Trump and also mean some new young radicals would be in a chamber where their party has control.

    The Senate will probably stay in GOP hands largely because in this cycle there are so many Democrats up for election some of whom won on the back of the Obama victory in 2012.

    One of these is North Dakota where there has been controversy around Native Americans being denied the vote.

    How ironic is that.

    Like Caron I would like to see Stacey Abrahams win in Georgia, I watched a recording of her debate with her two opponents on CSPAN and she came over really well.

    The hurdle she faces though is that unlike most states Georgia has a run off system and the presence of a Libertarian candidate makes that a real possibility.

  • Mick Taylor 4th Nov '18 - 8:12pm

    Caron is absolutely right. I don’t want to be a member of the ‘Nice person’ party. I want to be in a radical, reforming party that seeks to change the UK by parliamentary reform, a fair voting system, devolution to the regions of England, proper funding of public services, progressive taxation of income and wealth, remaining in the EU, a real minimum income for all, industrial democracy and cooperatives, an end to allowing companies to trample on workers whilst directors rake it in and much more.
    I don’t want to tinker with the present system and not rock the boat!
    It will help stop the spread of the alt right if the Democrats in the USA win back the House and even better win the Senate as well. Let’s hope they really pull it together this week!

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Nov '18 - 8:59pm

    Well said Caron (5:56) and Mick (8:21).

  • paul holmes 4th Nov '18 - 9:03pm

    But of course one ‘problem’, under a FPTP electoral system, is that to win you have to have a wider appeal than that offered to a ‘Core Vote’. Across Europe purist Liberal Parties typically average between 5-10% of the vote and, roughly speaking, get elected in accordance with that. Had we such a system, that for example allows both an Economic Liberal and a Social Liberal Party to function in the Netherlands, then Nick Clegg and I would certainly never have been in the same Party here in the UK.

    All that however is a luxury we don’t have here. Ironically the 20% we averaged in the General Elections from 1983- 2010 meant that we consistently had the largest ‘Liberal’ Vote in Europe -but without of course the appropriate number of elected representatives to reflect that. Pursue too pure a Core Vote and you will deter the other votes you need to win under FPTP. Politics is indeed the art of compromise.

    Now you can go too far the other way. One reason Trump won in the USA was that the Democrats had tacked too far towards a Centrist Mush and were offering no message of change and nothing but acceptance of the excesses of Globalisation. Sanders represented a push the other way and some of the younger more radical Democrats among this years crop of candidates are following that path.

  • John Marriott 5th Nov '18 - 9:54am

    The US system may have been appropriate for the 18th Century; but like ours, which appeared to ‘evolve’ over centuries and then stop around 1928, it’s surely in need of urgent reform.

    David Warren talks about an ‘elective dictatorship’ over here. Well, isn’t that what they have over there at the moment. Others talk about being radical. Yes, you badmouth everything ‘the opposition’ does, as happens today in Congress and the House of Commons and, when given the chance, you try to undo everything the outgoing administration has introduced, as the Republicans are still trying to do and undoubtedly Labour would do if, God forbid, it came to power over here. It’s the ‘baby out with the bath water’ syndrome again.

    Paul Walter is quite right. The Senate system is more than ‘a bit nuts’. Fancy having a system where each state, regardless of population, elects TWO Senators. As far as the House of Representatives is concerned, Governor Eldridge Gerry of Massachusetts, when he sought to manipulate the shape of Essex County to his political advantage back in 1812, has a lot to answer for. Many Districts have been so contorted both by Democrats and Republicans over the years that it is virtually impossible to unseat the incumbent. In some cases, I believe, the opposition doesn’t even try. Mind you, we have ‘safe seats’ as well over here, especially where I live.

    The last time I looked, the Lib Dem’s still supported PR. Now the result of PR is that usually, but not always, you get hung parliaments. So, how much room for radicalism does that leave you? The most a smaller party could hope for, were it part of a coalition government, would be to exert ‘influence’ on its larger partner, which is, to some extent, what happened between 2010 and 2015 (tax thresholds, pupil premium, free school meals etc).

    Had the USA not evolved into the leading world power it is today and a power, let’s not forget, upon whom we in the West rely for our defence, it’s idiosyncratic political system would probably not be of that much interest to us. That’s why it’s so important that a little more sanity prevails next Tuesday. Like Paul Walter, I’m not entirely convinced that the voters in the US will collectively come to their senses. However, as I am hoping to visit some long lost distant relations there next April (if the planes are still flying) I guess I had better leave it there!

  • David Warren 5th Nov '18 - 10:07am

    Good analysis @paulwalter

    Like you I am prepared for a shock with these elections but I hope it doesn’t happen.

    Presidential power has already been increased far from what was envisaged by the founders and with Trump we have the ‘elected king’ figure that they were so keen to avoid when they drew up the constitution.

    The increased use of Executive Orders and the deployment of combat troops to various places without congressional approval are good examples of the extension of Presidential power under successive Presidents.

    With the current incumbent anything is possible.

    Washington really could do with some gridlock.

  • FWIW I think that it is likely that the Democrats will probably outperform their poll ratings. It is more than possible that they will turnout “their” voters – younger, minorities etc. more than is usual for the mid-terms. Even if more Republican-type voters turn out – older, white etc. they usually turnout more in mid-terms. So there is turnout improvement for Democrats. This should be in the polls but I am not sure that it is. So I am plumping for a reasonable majority in the House for them.

    In the Senate, for the reasons noted and simply because the Democrats are defending 24 of the seats up against the Republicans 9, even slipping back a bit will be good for them – especially if they make some Republican incumbent contests close even if they don’t win them.

    However I do think a good – may be even very good – night for the Democrats this year will be followed by a Trump win in 2020. Very good growth makes it difficult for an incumbent to lose!

  • Richard Underhill 7th Nov '18 - 2:59pm

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