It is an election campaign with an intensity that you normally only see in presidential elections. US President Donald Trump travels all over the country for his now famous campaign meetings. He himself is not on the ballot, but the interim elections in the United States are more than ever about the president.
“A president in times of disaster must actually play the role of an almost religious leader, Trump can do that a few minutes after every tragedy, read something written by his staff, but the next time he stands in front of a camera, throws he immediately overboard that role, “says Jonathan Haidt.
Haidt is a social psychologist at the University of New York and specializes in political polarization. “We do not exactly have a president who tries to calm things down.”
According to Haidt, American society had never been so divided. “People do not even disagree as much about substantive issues, but people hate the people of the other party more and more because they really like each other, they do not want their sons and daughters to marry someone from the other side.”
Because of the polarization in American society, the two parties have come into direct opposition. In their political campaigns, both the Republicans and the Democrats create fear around the other party with warnings that if one party wins everything will become different and people will no longer recognize their America.
Research shows that half of the Republican and half of the Democratic voters are afraid of the other party and experience feelings of frustration.
Haidt: “I have learned one thing by having friends on both sides, and that is that we all see the craziness from the other side and that we are all blind to the craziness of our own party.” Social media have created a world where dozens of things are done by someone on our side, but we do not notice it, only the other team notices it. ”
There is a lot at stake in the next Tuesday’s interim elections: the power in Congress with which Trump will soon have to work together. There will be a total of 35 seats in the Senate, where the Republicans now have the power.
The Democrats must take two seats to take over that power. But analysts do not consider the chances of success. It seems more exciting in the House of Representatives, where the Republicans also have a majority.
Abuse of power
In the House Tuesday all seats will be voted, by far the majority of conference members will simply be re-elected, but with about 100 seats it can still be done. When the Democrats conquer 23 seats on the Republicans, they take over. The probability that this succeeds, analysts estimate about 70 to 80 percent.
If the Democrats manage to seize power in the House of Representatives, they can not only stop Trump’s policy agenda, but they can also start all kinds of investigations, for example on abuse of power and self-enrichment by the president.
Moreover, the progressive supporters of the Democrats will put great pressure on the party leadership to start an impeachment procedure, which, even if it does not lead to the deposition of the president, will completely paralyze the political process.
“The biggest part of America is what now calls itself ‘the exhausted majority'”, says Haidt. “People who believe that we really have to compromise, because most Americans still want democracy to work, but what we see now most closely resembles a religious war.”
The American economy is now booming, but that is not the main campaign topic of Trump. The president thinks that his party is most helped when he reverts to his most successful theme: immigration.
The caravan of migrants that is currently moving north through Central America is therefore a rewarding campaign for Trump. He tackles that with both hands. Because he also knows what history teaches: in the case of interim elections, the party that sits in the White House almost always loses ground.