The wisdom of the American voters amidst intense polarisation
Former President Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Up to Jamaica Observer press time Monday, the results of the United States midterm elections were showing the Republicans winning the House of representatives with 218 seats and the Democrats trailing by six with 212 seats, and another five seats yet undeclared for either party.

At the same, the Democrats retained control of the Senate, winning 50 seats, and with one seat — Georgia — slated for a run-off on December 6, 2022, could end up with an additional one seat to take them to 51.

However the undeclared five House seats go, the Republicans have taken the House of Representatives from the Democrats by a narrow margin, ensuring that the two chambers of the US Congress are shared.

To those not following US electoral politics closely, it would be perplexing to see that the midterm results are being treated as a major loss by the Republicans, or Grand Old Party (GOP), and an equally major victory for the Democratic Party.

On the face of it, the elections would seem to be a tie, and the margins would suggest that neither party made any big gains, but for the historical fact that US midterms have always represented a massive loss for the party of the sitting president.

For example, the 2010 midterm, when President Barack Obama held the White House, saw the Dems lose 63 House seats, even though they narrowly held the Senate. In the following midterms, the Dems were obliterated in both chambers.

Indeed, for the 2022 elections, the GOP enthusiastically predicted what they called a "red wave" and, in some cases, a "red tsunami", meaning that they were going to deliver a severe thrashing to the Dems in both the House and the Senate. That obviously did not materialise.

The midterm elections came at a time of the most extreme polarisation, being the first polls after the infamous January 6, 2021 insurrection when supporters of then President Donald Trump attempted to upend the counting of the electoral college votes that would certify Mr Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential elections.

For the 2022 midterms, the GOP, at the instrumentality of Mr Trump, fielded a large number of candidates — called election deniers — who had joined the ex-president in declaring that the 2020 polls had been stolen from him by fraud, which has still not yet been proven. The majority of them lost their seats.

It seems to us in this space that the American voters were trying to use the midterms to force the parties to work together in order to achieve meaningful legislation, by making it difficult for one or the other to have complete dominance over the Congress. That, we hold, is collective wisdom.

However, whatever the electorate had meant to achieve by its vote, it has resulted in great disappointment for the Republicans, and Mr Trump in particular, who had apparently been hoping to launch his bid for a 2024 third run for the presidency on the back of a big win.

Moreover, the midterm results have emboldened many GOP leaders who previously supported Mr Trump to call for him not to run, blaming him for the performance of the party.

Early indications are that the two parties are unlikely to agree on anything that could bring forth legislation that would redound to the benefit of the American people as a whole. It is a great pity.

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