Trump can consider himself stymied. The Democrats finally emerged from their electoral apathy and voted in large numbers in this week’s US midterm elections, and are now in a position to block Trump’s far right populist agenda. It may not be “a new day in America,” as Democrat Nancy Pelosi – the likely new Speaker of the US House of Representatives – claims. But Trump will have serious trouble pursuing his legislative agenda, and avoiding aggressive investigation into his business dealings, sexual assault allegations, and alleged Russian collusion.
With the Democrats now in firm control of the US House of Representatives, they will be able to control committee chairships, issue subpoenas, and can enforce aggressive oversight over congressional investigations. They can also initiate impeachment proceedings, but that would not translate into removing Trump from office as they would not get a two thirds majority in the Senate. With the Republicans firmly in control of the Senate, they will continue approving Trump’s cabinet nominees and appoint conservative judges to the bench.
What makes Pelosi so optimistic is that she says Americans are tired of the politics of division. But unfortunately Trump’s divisive rhetoric will continue unabated as he rallies his base, encouraging their racism, xenophobia and ultra nationalism. And behind his largely white, rural and working class base, is another key constituency of support – the white evangelicals who have also led the charge in favour of Trump’s policies. It seems they are not irked by Trump on issues of morality or his statements on women, claiming “many politicians have skeletons in their cupboards,” but are primarily concerned with Trump maintaining his socially conservative policies on issues like abortion and gay marriage.
For evangelical pastors like Tony Perkins, who led the “get out of vote” charge for the Republicans in this election, their support for Trump is viewed through a lens of “spiritual warfare.” For them Trump is on the side of the righteous, fighting against the forces of darkness. How spiritual leaders like Perkins can see Trump as representing the “straight and narrow” is inexplicable. Instead of engaging in critical thought and seeing Trump’s fear mongering for what it is, the evangelicals have been justifying Trump’s mobilisation against illegal immigrants, claiming that he is securing the country’s borders. Any humanitarian perspective on the matter is completely lost.
Trump has been using fictitious stereotypes to characterise the illegal immigrants coming from Honduras to the US border in order to paint them as dangerous criminals and terrorists. Trump has refused to describe them as what they really are – a few thousand impoverished young men and women with their children, who are leaving a largely destroyed country being ruled by a dictatorial government installed by a US-backed military coup in the 2009. Instead the procession is being described as a “caravan” evoking images of Arabs in the desert, playing into the already prevalent Islamophobia in the US. Meanwhile there are no pack animals or vehicles involved. Trump has gone as far as calling them disease ridden Arab terrorists, rapists, and killers who are trying to invade the US.
The fact that Trump has mobilised 15,000 US troops to meet them at the border is beyond belief – the largest military mobilisation on US soil since the Civil War. And if the troops are not enough there is the mobilisation of armed right wing militias who say they will open fire on the refugees if they dare to throw rocks – something Trump announced would be justified. Trump has made the most outrageous statements saying that he believes all asylum seekers are fraudsters, and claiming that they will all be kept perpetually in detention camps until their cases have been heard.
Trump knows exactly what he is doing – playing into the fears of Americans who have very little understanding of the world around them in the hope that it will make him more popular at a time where his popularity rating is sitting at 39%. It is unusual for a President to be so unpopular at a time when the economy is doing well with a 3.1% GDP growth rate, and unemployment is at an all-time low of 3.7%. That is why Trump said during his recent rallies that it is boring to talk about the economy, which he claims is the best in the world. He is all too well aware that despite the performance of the US economy he remains an unpopular President, and he is resorting to fear mongering to improve his popularity ratings. So Pelosi and her party have a lot of work to do to overcome Trump’s politics of division.
One of the great intellectual minds of this century Noam Chomsky had lamented prior to the midterm elections that we are living through one of the gravest moments in human history. He contended that the results of this election would impact on everything from climate change to nuclear weapons. He can breathe a sigh of relief that the midterm election results may now enable the House of Representatives to stop Trump in his tracks. Perhaps Trump’s dangerous alt-right trajectory has been slowed, for now at least.
Shannon Ebrahim is the Foreign Editor for Voices360.