By Campaign Agent Lyell Tweed
What is the significance of the midterms?
The US Midterm elections fall on November 6 and could be highly significant for the future of the Trump administration. The Republican Party would be hoping to maintain their majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives; however, recent tumultuous events in the US have put this election on a knife edge. The stakes for Donald Trump are extremely high as a Democratic victory in either house would give the Democrats a window to open up investigations into various areas of the Trump administration. Therefore these midterms could be the most eventful and important in recent times.
Recent events in the US have deepened the divisions of a country increasingly split down the middle on highly partisan lines. Some US media outlets have suggested this may have changed the whole voting behaviour for this election. ABC suggested that voting may now become more ‘parliamentary’ with people voting for a party rather than their own congressional candidate, which is unusual for America. It has also been predicted that youth turnout will be much higher than usual, again perhaps due to the divisive nature of this particular election. This, as well as many other key evaluations of Midterm elections, may have been thrown into doubt however with the unpredictable events of the last week.
What has happened?
Firstly the discovery that a number of homemade pipe bombs were sent to some high profile Democrats and people who were outspoken against Trump sent shocks through the political spectrum. This was made worse for Trump when it became clear that the man at fault for this, Cesar Sayoc, was an ardent Trump supporter with his van covered in many far-right cartoons/literature. This included pictures of some of the people he sent the bombs to covered with a target. Secondly, the acts of a lone gunman, killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, became the worst incident of Anti-Semitic violence in US history. Although this man was not a particularly outspoken Trump supporter he had supported some of the rhetoric used towards immigration. So how do these link back to Trump and what effects may they have on the forthcoming Midterm Election?
Trump’s rhetoric and language has always been considered unusual and he is known for often overstepping the line; however, it is now being seen to have disastrous and visible consequences. After last weeks horrible incidents, Trump’s choice of language in his political rally speeches and especially his tweets have come under serious scrutiny. Trump almost immediately tried to blame the pipe bombs on the ‘fake news media’ which was then inevitably backed up by America’s right wing outlets. This led to a number of high profile commentators on outlets such as Fox decrying the pipe bomb scandal as a ploy by the Democrats to try and gain votes or even just a flat out hoax. This is even more concerning when Trump labels the media, despite the fact that one of the pipe bombs was sent to CNN, the ‘true enemy of the people’.
Throughout these events, Trump has consistently tried to stay on his partisan message for the election. This is especially relevant when looking at the policies the Republicans are trying to push. Trump recently sent over 5000 troops to the US/Mexico border to stop an ‘invasion’ of immigrants fleeing violence in Central America, even though this ‘caravan’ has only just reached the southern Mexico border over 2000 miles away. This is clearly a ploy to try and rally his core supporters but is especially concerning after recent events. The talk of this ‘invasion’ echoes the hate-filled writings of accused synagogue gunman Robert Bowers just before the attack took place. It is clear to see how Trump’s rhetoric is deeply divisive in times such as these, especially when under pressure to deliver election results.
What impact could this have?
Before these events took place Trump was having a relatively successful October. His Gallup approval rating was up to 44%, unemployment has reached a 49 year low, and he got his second nominee onto the Supreme Court, giving America’s highest court a decisive conservative majority for the first time in decades. However, the events of recent days may have dented much of this progress made by the Trump administration.
There can be no definitive answer as to what impact the pipe bombs and the synagogue attack will have on the midterms until we see the results; however, it has had a significant impact on campaigning for now. It has completely overshadowed the topics that the GOP would rather be talking about, such as immigration and the economy. It has given the Democrats hope that the recent violent attacks could scare independents and moderates, who are expected to be crucial voters in a number of key battlegrounds. Although, some are arguing that the Democrats scathing attack on Trump for his reaction to the recent situation could galvanize Trump’s supporters and energise the Republican core base.
For now all we can do is speculate. However this election could become one of the most infamous in history irrespective of the result, with the country likely to be more divided than ever.
Sources and Further Reading
Walter Sharpio, ‘Rightwing Terror Stalks America. Will Trump do anything to stop it?’, The Guardian (29 October 2018)
David Smith, ‘Donald Trump’s Rhetoric has Stoked Anti-Semitism and Hatred, Experts Warn’, The Guardian (29 October 2018)
Nick Bryant, ‘Is this the Most Successful Month of the Trump Presidency’, BBC News (16 October 2018)
Brian Stelter, ‘Trump’s Media Bashing is a big part of his Midterm Election Message’, CNN Business (30 October 2018)
Dana Milbank, ‘Trump’s America is not a Safe Place for Jews’, The Washington Post (28 October 2018)
Michelle Maynard, ‘The US mid-terms will be like no American election before them — here's why’, ABC (29 October 2018)
Katie Reilly, ‘Youth Voter Turnout in the Midterm Elections Could Be Historic, According to a New Poll’, TIME (30 October 2018)
Melanie Zanona, ‘Pipe bombs threaten to derail GOP midterm messaging’, The Hill (27 October 2018)