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Monday 19 November 2018
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Editorial

A powerful check

KEY BALLOT recounts are expected to get under way today, meaning the outcome of key races in the US midterms are up in the air. But while Democrats may be disappointed at not achieving a blue wave and wresting both the House of Representatives and Senate out of Republican control, the outcome nonetheless sends a clear and powerful message to Donald Trump.

For the first time in his presidency, there will be a powerful check on Trump’s power with Democrats now holding control of the House of Representatives. It’s the first time they’ve managed to hold that chamber in eight years. And it was done despite reports of gerrymandering, voter suppression and an economy that continues to favour Trump. With control of the House, Democrats can launch powerful probes into the president’s conduct and, crucially, they can halt Trump’s backward legislative agenda.

The fact that more women have been elected to Congress than ever before is also a significant milestone. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old Latina, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first Native American women elected to the House. Rashida Tlaib became the first Palestinian-American and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota became the first Somali-American in the chamber. The legislature is closer to reflecting the diversity of its citizenry.

But there were also disappointments, such as the failure to take the Senate, despite the hateful and racist rhetoric of Trump during his campaign. While more people voted for Democrats in Senate races, the system of voting tends to favour rural states more highly since each state supplies two senators, no matter its population. That’s how 12 million more could vote for Democrats than Republicans in the Senate yet the Democrats lost ground there.

Yesterday, Florida and Georgia, where two key Democratic candidates – Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum – had hoped to make history, began preparations for recounts. Given razor-sharp margins, the conduct of both parties in these states will be placed under the microscope.

Overall, the midterms were largely a referendum on Trump. And the encouraging outcome is that a clear signal has been sent that he will not be able to ignore. He will now have to figure out a way to work with opposition forces if he is to have a chance of pushing through his agenda.

At the same time, removal from office would now appear to be off the table with Republican control of the Senate. Additionally, Trump’s reshaping of the US Supreme Court will also become easier. But with the unusually high turnout and millions voting against him and his ideologies through proxy races, Trump is now forewarned. Americans have sent a message that they will speak up and speak out and, come 2020, a fight will be on his hands.

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