Between a House and a Senate: Can a truce be in the offing? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 08, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:19 PM, November 08, 2018

US Midterm Elections 2018

Between a House and a Senate: Can a truce be in the offing?

As one of the most talked about and, perhaps, controversial US Midterm Elections comes to an end, the US, as a nation, remains where it was before the election started. That is, at a crossroads, where the only good outcome would be for the two parties—Democrats and Republicans—to come together, talk to each other, and figure out how best to move forward as a nation through compromises from both sides. And by that I am not just referring to the politicians; supporters of the two major political parties, too, must be willing to build a bridge between them at a time when the country seems divided on a number of issues and quite passionately at that.

Of course, when it comes to the task of uniting the people, politicians are almost universally the worst candidates for the job. Already we've heard politicians at the highest levels of both parties claiming victory for their sides while vehemently attacking the other—forgetting the concept of being humble in victory altogether. Although, in all fairness, what they are actually doing is failing to be gracious in defeat as, looking at the election results, neither side can truly claim to have been victorious.

However, the fact that record numbers of people turned out to vote could be seen as a sign which reflects Americans' belief that their votes do matter and that their democracy is working—after the entire Russian collusion and election interference saga during and after the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Which is another reason why, perhaps unsurprisingly, at the centre of nearly every narrative surrounding the midterm elections was US President Donald Trump. That is why, perhaps, it is surprising to learn that the Republicans under him actually did better than nearly all past incumbents in the US, with their biggest achievement being winning seats in the Senate in the off-year election with an incumbent president, which has only been done five times in the last 105 years.

If we look at the performance of past presidents going as far back as Reagan, Trump by far seems to have the best record: Reagan lost 26 House seats and neither gained nor lost any Senate seat; HW Bush lost 8 House seats and one Senate seat; Bill Clinton lost 54 House seats and 9 Senate seats in his first term and won 5 House seats and neither gained nor lost any Senate seats in his second term; W Bush won 8 House seats and one Senate seat in his first term and lost 30 House seats and 6 Senate seats in his second term; Obama lost 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats in his first term and lost a further 13 House seats and 9 Senate seats in his second term. Compared to those numbers, Trump (at the time of writing this article) gained at least two Senate seats and lost at least 26 House seats. Taking the total tally of Senate seats for Republicans to at least 51 and House seats to at least 199, while the Democrats won at least 45 Senate seats and at least 222 House seats.

Despite these impressive figures, the Democrats regaining House majority will surely put a dent to the Republicans winning the Senate majority and to the “Trump Agenda”. These include increased difficulties to finance the building of “the wall” that Trump often talks about, getting changes in immigration and government spending cuts proposed by the Republicans through the House. And, most likely, will make it impossible for the Republicans to implement its Obamacare replacement plan.

If we look at the Democratic side of the aisle, the top two agendas on the Democrats' wish list—impeaching President Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—are now all but impossible as that would require a two-thirds Senate majority which they don't have.

So where does that leave the two parties? Seemingly at a deadlock—back to square one, as I mentioned at the start.

With the midterm elections over, in order to “keep his promises” to his voters as Trump keeps repeating, he must get his party to work with the Democrats. Even though that may be a difficult pill to swallow given the current animosity between the two parties, the good news is that, there are no other alternatives.

And the same applies for the Democrats. Even though they are stuck with Trump as president, much to their revulsion, the fact of the matter is that they, too, have made a number of promises to their voters which they would be wise to at least slowly work on prior to the next Presidential Elections. And that means they also have no other option but to work with the Republicans.

What does that mean for the US going forward? It means that the two parties can either continue to hold onto their uncompromising positions, as is the case in most dysfunctional democracies around the world or, it could take a lesson from its own people, who turned out in record numbers to vote, as should be the case in any properly functioning democracy, and make certain compromises that are necessary to get policies that are good for the nation and its people through.

That is the reality—which has a kind of an ironic twist to it.

At a time when democracies around the world are faltering, this deadlock provides the US with another chance to demonstrate to the world how a true democracy should function. Thus, this is the perfect time for both parties to recall what a past giant of the Democratic Party, John F Kennedy, had said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

With the whole world watching, the US should realise it now has the opportunity to again work towards becoming a shining example of democracy for the world, as it once was, keeping in mind what one great leader of the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, had said, “We have it in our power, to begin the world over again.”

Eresh Omar Jamal is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star. His Twitter handle is @EreshOmarJamal.

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