The US Midterm election is over: Republicans won the House of Representatives, barely, Democrats held the Senate, barely. This election reflects the current state of the country: two virtually equal Parties, increasingly distant from each other, voters did not repudiate either side, they elected a split congress. Now What?
For the next two years, there will be dysfunctional government, gridlock. Any initiative by the majority in one chamber will be blocked by the opposing majority in the other.
The razor-thin Republicans majority in the House will give enormous power to the right-wing extremist House members, they will make life miserable for their own leadership, but also for Biden, and for the country. Republican House leadership will launch numerous accusatory investigations into Biden, his family and his administration. They will use the House’s sole authority to raise the debt ceiling to provoke chaos, threatening programs dear to Democrats, and they may well launch an impeachment procedure against Biden. None of these efforts will be successful, politically, they may well backfire on Republicans, but they will force the Biden Administration to spend time and energy defending themselves, rather than progressing on their agenda.
Handcuffed domestically, Biden may well turn more to an international agenda, where he will have more room to maneuver. Will increased Republican power in Congress lead to a reduction in US commitment to defending Ukraine? There is sufficient bi-partisan agreement to maintain US support for Ukraine, but probably at a somewhat lower level.
What is the impact of the Midterms on the 2024 presidential race? Everyone speculates, no one knows, two years in politics is forever, much unexpected will happen. Many Trump-backed candidates lost, so the current conventional view is that Trump, who has just declared his candidacy for 2024, has been seriously weakened, and is likely to be replaced by the rising star of Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida who won re-election decisively.
I would observe: i) for the last 7 years, underestimating Trump has always been a mistake, ii) one of Trump’s greatest skills is destroying his opponents, he will turn the full force of his talent against DeSantis and any other Republican opponent, iii) DeSantis is completely untested on the national scene, iv) Trump has a firm hold on the Republican Party base, he has delivered for them, given them the most conservative Supreme Court in nearly a century, they love him with intense loyalty, forgive him his faults, and in the US system of Primaries, his millions of devoted followers are the ones in each state who will choose the Republican candidate in 2024.
What about Biden? After the most successful first two years in legislative accomplishment of a presidency in decades, he has strengthened his position by leading the Democrats to a much better than expected result in the Midterms, reducing (but not eliminating) the calls for him to step down to leave place to a younger candidate. He has not succeeded in convincing the country of the quality of his, and the Democratic Party’s, leadership, but if Trump becomes the Republican presidential candidate in 2024, Biden remains the best Democratic candidate to beat him, again.
If we had to guess today, and guessing today is surely a mistake, the 2024 election will have the same candidates as 2020, surely the worse of outcomes for the country.