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Donald Trump, Inevitable Winner of the Upcoming Midterm Elections?

Three Questions to Dominique Moïsi

INTERVIEW - 5 November 2018

Midterm elections are elections to both Houses of the United States Congress and are held two years after the election of the President of the United States. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the 100 seats in the Senate are renewed. These elections are crucial and almost as decisive as the 2016 presidential election: our Special Advisor, Dominique Moïsi, tells us why.

Why are the key issues dominating the American midterm elections so particular? How are they decisive?

The campaign lines were deliberately transformed into a "For or Against Donald Trump" referendum, and by Donald Trump himself. This referendum underlies two questions, which he formulates as follows:

  • "If you want more migrants, i.e. a growing concern for your security, then vote Democrat."
  • "If you want the vote you cast in 2016 to be challenged by an elite class of judges, elected parliamentarians, and journalists, then vote Democrat."

The agenda was set and dominated by Donald Trump. In doing so, he is following Steve Bannon’s advice, who recommended that for these elections, the President's personality be emphasized as a sufficient issue of its own. This is how he indirectly transformed the elections into a referendum.

How could these elections impact American domestic politics?

These midterm elections are in fact a kind of second presidential election, which aims to confirm or invalidate the 2016 result, but also to prepare for the 2020 elections. The main question to ask is thus: "will Donald Trump be strengthened or weakened by the elections?".

These midterm elections are in fact a kind of second presidential election

Traditionally, incumbent Presidents are in a weak position after two years in office. They usually lose one or two Houses. Maintaining the House of Representatives and the Senate’s status quo would be a great victory for Trump. If he loses the House of Representatives, but wins the Senate, then it will depend on the extent of the loss: either it is spectacular and he will be weakened, or he will still be in a good position and pursue his presidency.

The issue is the gap between Democrat and Republican seats: if Republicans lose the House of Representatives, then the Democrats’ victory must be clear. If he were to be strengthened, then he would have all the powers and would approach the 2020 elections with even more certainty.

What consequences could these elections have at an international level?

If Donald Trump is strengthened, will he not endorse a more radical, more daring and destructive stance? If he is strengthened, will he not take more risks?

On the other hand, would he not do the exact same thing if he were weakened? "I am the President of your country regardless of your opinion." In both cases, whether strengthened or weakened, he can become even tougher. During the next two years of his term, he will cultivate his firmness towards China, his severity towards Iran, his rejection of multilateralism and of the Paris Agreement. We might have an intensified version of the current Trump in the next  two years.

Trump's great strength lies in his very radicality, which is aligned with the spirit of the times: from Brazil to Germany, the wind is blowing in favor of populists.

On the other hand, would Donald Trump not do the exact same thing if he were weakened?

 

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