Monday 23 September 2019

Editorial: 'Split-decision results show America not ready to heal'

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci


Something primordial predisposes us to view everything through the prism of winning and losing: the victor and the vanquished. Nature doesn't do split decisions but, at first glance, superficial analysis suggests Americans went for one in the mid-term elections.

As so often in a 24-hour breathless second-by-second news cycle, there is no time to pause for a long-term view.

Thus President Donald Trump, predictably, was able to pounce on the election results as "a tremendous success".

To give him credit, he made sure the blue wave did not become a tsunami, and even tightened his grip on the Senate.

The worry is the cost of his doing so will be totted up and paid for very dearly down the line. Even the most ardent Republican must accept that his deliberate choice of feeding the beast in his base by stoking up the fires of racism, preparing to dispatch 15,000 troops to meet the "threat" posed by a group of destitute migrants, has deepened divisions.

The humourist Robert Benchley said: "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who do not."

We know where Mr Trump stands. But if his exultations sounded a little forced, the Democrats did not have much to crow about either. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi assured cheering supporters in Washington: "Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America." But don't be fooled: the polarisation, partisanship and fear written all over these results is not fake news. America is not ready for healing just yet.

Perhaps the return of so many women, including the two 29-year-old Democrats, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Abby Finkenauer, the youngest ever to win House seats, gives some grounds for hope.

The arrival of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women, and Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland, the first Native American women to be elected to Congress, is also something of a rebuke to xenophobia. A Democratic majority in the lower chamber for the first time in eight years can act as a brake on Mr Trump's turbo-powered excess.

Democrats have the means to launch investigations into Mr Trump's affairs, from tax returns to potential conflicts of interest.

But they will need to tread warily not to provoke even more antagonism. Most discouraging for the Democrats will be that, despite being up against the most unpopular president in living memory, they failed utterly to deliver a heavyweight from their ranks who might lay a glove on Mr Trump in the 2020 presidential contest. Their rising star, Beto O'Rourke, did not have the requisite fairy dust, and it was Trump who was able to brag about magic coming out of his ears - or should that be the illusion of magic?

Irish Independent

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