As expected, the US House of Representatives has switched hands, passing over to the Democrats after eight years, while the Upper House of Senate stays with the Republicans. Nonetheless, despite Trump’s gloating over the outcome, it is a blow to a bumbling president who has riled various domestic and foreign constituencies with his arbitrary actions. Given that it was virtually a referendum on a highly divisive president, the outcome signals a brake on his polarising agenda. With the Democrats making up the shortfall of 23 seats in the previous House and then adding a few more extra seats to firm their grip on the lower House, the election of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, a post she held previously, is a near certainty.
The election of a record number of women, including two Muslim women, reflects well on the increasing diversification in American politics. Two 29-year-old Democrats were also elected to the House. Meanwhile, Pelosi is on record that they would not use the control of the House to hound the President, but instead restore checks and balances to ensure that the executive branch works within the four corners of the Constitution. Oversight of the Trump administration will get sharper teeth. The Republican-controlled House had shown extraordinary dispatch to endorse Trump’s immigration controls, scrapping of a core of the Obamacare and steep cuts in social spending. It will now be able to weigh all these controversial legislations more thoughtfully with a larger good of the people uppermost in its mind. Particularly on immigration, a humane touch can be expected, given that Trump had shown a mean and heartless streak, separating children from their immigrant parents and throwing them into hastily-constructed pens without any care for their food, water, sleep, etc. The new House when it meets early next year will now be in a position to reopen Trump’s financial record and his income tax returns which he has most stubbornly refused to make public.
Whether he has had questionable financial dealings with foreign entities, particularly with Russia, could be probed as also the report of the Mueller Commission on the collusion with Russia whenever he presents it. Even otherwise, Trump cannot expect an automatic clearance of the legislation by the House without thorough scrutiny. Several Trump administration officials who are under a cloud for financial misconduct will now find themselves in trouble. All of this means that the temperamental and crazy behavior of the President will attract immediate censure in the House. Whether or not the House initiates impeachment proceedings against him is not clear, but that possibility can no longer be ruled out. However, the control of the Senate continuing to remain with the Republicans would mean that Trump can hope to have his way on judicial and other key appointments, since the Senate has the superior power over the House in this regard.
Having appointed some 80-odd judges, including two to the US Supreme Court, Trump has given a marked conservative tilt to the judiciary. This may continue under him for another two years when the President comes up for a fresh 4-year term. In the Senate, the Republicans appeared set to increase the tally from the outgoing Senate of 51 to 49 to 54 to 46. Of the 35 seats which were up grabs, as many as 26 were held by Democrats. Trump personally threw himself in the campaign as if he himself was on the ballot. He used low tactics, fuelling fears of an immigration invasion, socialism, scrapping of healthcare, etc., if the Democrats won the election. Though his base was virtually intact, he had lost substantial support in urban and suburban areas, particularly of students, women, educated classes while the rural voters seemed to be still in thrall, buying into his overblown rhetoric of making America great again and his arbitrary tariffs on imports from China and even long-time US allies. His unconventional presidency which shamelessly abuses the domestic media as fake news and calls it enemy of the people, his gratuitous friendship with the merciless dictators such as Kim Jong- Un and distancing from democratic leaders of the EU, Canada, etc., speaks of an imbalanced approach to the conduct of foreign policy. Even the internal chaos in the White House with a record number of sackings and resignations underlines a president who lacks the mental grasp to be able to run the world’s most powerful country. The result of the mid-term election would help tame some of the waywardness of Trump, who might have been helped by the uptick in the economic cycle on the back of policies put in place by the Obama administration.