Written by Shania Dedigama
01 Nov, 2022 | 7:38 pm
On Tuesday, November 8, 2022, millions of Americans will cast their votes, with the future of Joe Biden’s presidency at stake.
The United States runs a two-tier system of parliament – the House of Representatives (known as the House) and the Senate – collectively called Congress. At present, both houses are narrowly controlled by Biden’s Democratic Party. But on Nov. 8, every one of the 435 seats in the House and 35 of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs.
In the Senate, which is currently 50 seats for Biden and 50 against, with the Vice President having a decisive 101st seat tie-breaker, a single Democratic seat going to the opposition Republican Party would virtually doom any future Biden legislation from budgets to abortion. In the House, Biden has a wider margin with 220 of the 435 congressmen being Democratic and 212 Republican with 3 seats vacant.
The ramifications for the United States are enormous, but no less for the rest of the world including America’s role in the Ukraine War and its global China policy.
Behind it all looms the large as life ex-President Donald Trump, and victories by his Republican Party would no doubt spur him into running for another presidential term in 2024.
Why are the US mid-term elections important? And what are the stakes globally?
Historically, the ruling party almost never fares successfully during a mid-term election. Possibly frustration with the incumbent president (and Biden’s embarrassingly low popularity ranking) has led to the ruling party losing control over the Senate and the House. Election predictions for this year's mid-terms predict favorable outcomes for the Republicans in The House.
Why it matters: If the Democrats lose control of either the House or the Senate, then President Biden's agenda/action plans could be jeopardized, because the Republican party will block any Democrat agenda.
Unless one party is in control, highly polarized bodies of government make it exceedingly difficult to pass important legislation; especially on the pressing issues of the War in Ukraine, abortion, economy and the climate. Additionally, during a mid-term if the other party gains control of the Senate and the House, they also inherit impeachment and investigative rights impeding the security of the position of the President and his administration. Prior to the elections, some Republicans have also pledged that they would impeach President Biden and make him stand trial in the Senate, much like the Democrats put former president Trump on Senate trials in 2020 and 2021.
The mid-terms should be just as closely monitored as presidential elections because the Senate and House control the legislation that is passed; the Senate reigns the influential role of approving Supreme Court nominations and depending on which party is in control they could block or pass the bills proposed by the president. The party in control of the House and Senate would also play influential roles in presidential
Global implications: The primary concern is that Republican control will disrupt the Biden agenda for aid to Ukraine. Whilst the White House approach to China’s growing economic empire will remain assertive and stable regardless of what party takes control, it gets more complicated regarding the war in Ukraine. Most Republicans look to the prospect of voting against financial aid packages to Ukraine.
Republican control of the legislature (Senate and House) also could amplify the voice of former President Donald Trump, who is expected to be the party’s presidential candidate for 2024. Trump pursued an “America First” strategy during his term in office, that prioritized America above intervention in the rest of the world. In May this year, 57 Republicans voted against a $40 billion USD financial package of aid to Ukraine- this remains their consensus on aid to Ukraine. Kevin McCarthy, currently the highest-ranking Republican in the House, recently elaborated on why the Republicans stand against funding Ukraine; “I think people are going to be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank cheque to Ukraine, They just won’t do it.”
Furthermore, the outcome of the midterms extensive implications for the Asia-Pacific region too. If the Democrats remain in control, foreign policy will remain focused on North-East Asia (primarily China), with an inclination to neglect affairs in South-East Asia. The Democrats will also sell their Indo-Pacific economic framework to their regional partners, however it does fall short of a comprehensive trade agreement so does not usher in as any benefits to Asia. In contrast, a growing number of Republicans are of the disposition that US foreign policy is best fitted to be isolationist at this particular time, and that it is in the interest of the nation to reduce its intervention in global affairs. If isolationist Republicans win seats in the legislature, it could disrupt or completely halt the military defense arrangements signed by the Biden administration with South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Moreover, the Biden-Harris policy to protect Taiwan from China has been strengthened, and should Taiwanese security ever come under threat, it has been made evidently clear that America would assist its defense. Nevertheless, should the Republicans win control in the mid-terms they will increasingly opt to refrain from intervening in Taiwanese affairs.
As per the conditions laid in the analysis above, the US mid-term elections have far-reaching consequences for the world and Asia too. For Americans however, foreign policy lags behind in importance compared to economic issues and specifically inflation.
America’s current mood will determine which party they cast their ballots for on the 8th of November. So what is your prediction?
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