The Capitol is seen amid holiday lights in Washington, DC. While US politics will still be chaotic, it will no longer threaten global stability, says the author. [AP]
Results from this year’s US midterm elections have given Americans and the world a welcome bit of good news: The candidates threatening the integrity of US political institutions and future elections were soundly defeated.
Whether you support Democrats or Republicans, November’s votes for both houses of Congress and for state governments have restored a degree of predictability by overwhelmingly repudiating those who claim the US political system cannot be trusted. The results are also a victory for US allies and partners who need to know that future US governments won’t suddenly abandon Washington’s international security and economic commitments.
Former president Donald Trump has never acknowledged that he fairly lost the 2020 presidential election. Just days after the votes were counted last month, he announced his candidacy for president in 2024. Then, in early December, he used Truth Social, a social network of his own invention, to call for “termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” to restore him as the rightfully elected president. Members of both parties have denounced this absurdity.
Much more importantly, voters have made it easier for members of his Republican Party to speak against him more often by rejecting most key candidates for election this year who publicly denounced or questioned President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. That’s critically true for the state governors and legal officials who administer all elections under the US system. In fact, in the 13 elections for governor, secretary of state or attorney general that were held in the six most closely contested states from the 2020 presidential election, “election deniers” were defeated in every vote.
In this sense, the election was not a victory for Biden’s Democrats, who lost their majority in the House of Representatives, or for Republicans, who failed to earn a predicted majority in the Senate. Instead, it was a win for members of both parties who believe the laws that govern US elections must be respected and the institutions that guarantee the impartiality of their conduct are sacrosanct. Ironically, the result does help the Republican Party in one important way: It discredits Trump acolytes who might persuade large numbers of voters on the right that voting is a waste of time because their votes won’t be counted fairly.
It’s also a victory for governments of other countries that value the integrity and predictability of their relations with Washington. Even those who believe that US foreign policy is not a force for good in the world can take comfort from reassurance that the only country in the world that can project military power into every region of the world won’t become a wild card in international politics and the global economy, with major policy reversals following every new election.
Make no mistake: Donald Trump can still win. He remains a formidable figure within the Republican Party, and there is no guarantee that he can’t win his party’s nomination for president in 2024, particularly if a large number of anti-Trump Republican candidates split the anti-Trump vote between them. If Trump is the Republican presidential nominee, he could win the White House again. President Biden’s approval rating remains at or below 40 percent, and any replacement candidate for the Democrats will not have Trump’s built-in base of support.
But last month’s election results have emboldened more Republicans to publicly denounce Trump’s conspiracy theories and his calls to terminate constitutional rules. More importantly, the midterm results ensure there will be no cabal of political officials with oversight over upcoming elections who actively try to reverse unfavorable outcomes. That was the single greatest realistic threat to US democracy with dire effects on US foreign, trade and investment policies, as well as global economic growth.
What can we now expect from the US government over the next two years? Good old-fashioned gridlock. Republicans will use their narrow majority in the House to block President Biden’s agenda and wage political warfare on his presidency. Democrats will use their narrow majority in the Senate to prevent passage of Republican legislation and to approve more left-leaning judges to federal positions to balance the right-leaning judges appointed by Trump.
In short, US politics will remain predictably dysfunctional – but no longer in ways that threaten US and global stability.
Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media and author of “The Power of Crisis.”