U.S politics remains irreconcilably divided
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A great many residents of the United States hoped steadfastly that this week’s midterm elections would offer some clarity, some sense of resolution and perhaps even an encouraging sign regarding the direction ahead for America’s politics.
Those people must be sorely disappointed.
What unfolded Tuesday across the U.S. — and continues to unfold in states and races whose results are too close to call and whose vote-counting procedures may take days, weeks or, in some cases, even months to be resolved — is nothing more or less than a blunt-force reminder of how bitterly divided and irreconcilably at odds the American public conversation has become.
If anything, the results of this most recent vote for control of the U.S. Congress show the two-party system favoured by our neighbours to the south has been reduced to warring camps whose most strident adherents will say or do pretty much anything in order to demonize their opponents and convince their allies that theirs is the only viable ideological option.
What this fractured framework has produced is a polity in which consensus and co-operation no longer have a place in governance and policy-making. What the “other” promotes as necessary and productive must be emphatically dismissed, prevented or repealed, regardless of its worth; the primary motivation for those holding elected office is not to get things done, it’s to make sure the other side can’t get anything done.
President Joe Biden has two years left in his term in office. Whether he will or should stand for re-election in 2024, at age 81, remains very much an active conversation in Democratic circles. This, combined with the incomplete midterm results signaling a slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a razor-thin margin one way or the other in the Senate, means what lies ahead for American politics seems destined to be an extension of the posturing, sniping and gridlock that have characterized the past two years.
For an in-a-nutshell encapsulation of where U.S. politics stands, one might be inclined to cast a glance at the as-yet-undecided race for governor in the state of Arizona. On Thursday, with 70 per cent of the votes tabulated, Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs held the slimmest of leads, having received 50.34 per cent of the nearly 1.9 million counted votes; her rival, Trump-endorsed Republican candidate Kari Lake, had received 49.66 per cent.
Whoever is declared winner when the final tally is reached will have been rejected by half the residents of the state she will represent. Add to that the fact Ms. Lake — a former TV news anchor who has fully embraced the Trumpist “big lie” that the 2022 election was stolen — has declared she will respect the result of this election only if she wins, and what you’ve got is a rather succinct encapsulation of where America stands in 2022.
While many pundits had predicted a “red wave” that would give Republicans firm control of both congressional houses, strong Democratic turnout — likely in response to the U.S. Supreme court’s rollback of reproductive rights and the presence of numerous hard-right election deniers on the extensive midterm ballots — produced an outcome described by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman as leaving Americans as divided coming out of this election as they were going into it.
“Without being able to agree on what is true, we don’t know which way to go,” Mr. Friedman writes. “And without being able to trust one another, we can’t head there together. And everything big and hard needs to be done together.”