A red tsunami that never existed

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Midterm elections in the United States are usually held two years after the start of a president’s term. They are often seen as a referendum on the performance of a sitting president. Historically, most presidents come out bruised.

The midterm elections on Tuesday, November 8 were inevitably defined by four major issues, namely: inflation, abortion, crime and climate change. Since the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter was president, America has not seen inflation cross the 7% threshold. Although inflation was driven primarily by the Russian-Ukrainian war and other supply chain complications following the COVID-19 pandemic, it had a negative impact on the cost of living. The overturning of the Roe Vs Wade legislation, by a conservative-dominated Supreme Court, has upset quite a few Americans and abortion rights activists. Additionally, the jolt of America by a series of hurricanes and tornadoes, leaving behind death and destruction, has brought climate change to the fore.

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Midterm elections were announced with the hype and hype that has characterized presidential elections. President Joe Biden and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump campaigned for candidates in the Democratic and Republican aisle. The campaign has been exciting, with Biden and Trump on the hustings, prompting pundits to suggest this was a preview of the 2024 presidential election.

Former President Trump has deployed his massive war chest to support candidates of his ilk who have denied the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. He and his cronies have been touting a massive red wave or Republican tsunami at the end of the elections.

The rhetoric leading up to the midterm elections was so violent that Katy Kay, a BBC correspondent and veteran of several US elections, called it “disconcerting”. In fact, before the election, the wife of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was assaulted.

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Four hundred and thirty-five seats in the House of Representatives were at stake. The same was true of 35 out of 100 for the Senate and 36 governorates.

At the time of writing this article, the elections were particularly peaceful, calming the anxiety of those who feared the worst. And rather than causing a tsunami of Republican victories, Republicans won the House by a narrow margin. Even though the results for one or two Senate seats like Georgia’s are expected, the results for the Senate remained deadlocked and tied.

Overall, the outcome of the midterm elections generated a number of firsts. They were also interesting and revealing. For the first time, a black man, Wes Moore, became governor of Maryland. For the first time a woman, Sarah Sanders Huckabee, former spokesperson for Donald Trump, became governor of Arkansas. And for the first time a gay lesbian, Maura Healey, became governor. Eight Nigerian-Americans won seats.

Perhaps the guy who’s been hurt the most in this election is Donald Trump. He not only inserted himself as a juggernaut and presumptive presidential candidate for the Republican Party, he promoted the myth of an impending red wave. At the end of the day, the myth exploded. Its array of celebrities and prominent candidates for both chambers has been beaten. Consider the abridged catalog: For Senate alone, elegant TV doctor Mehmet Oz was beaten by John Fetterman in Pennsylvania; Don Bolduc was beaten by Senator Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire; Leora Levy was beaten by Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut; and Gerald Malloy was beaten by Peter Welch in Vermont.

As if that weren’t bad enough for Trump, the Republicans’ margin of victory in the House is nowhere near the “wave” he predicted. Worse, Ron de Santis, the governor of Florida, considered his replacement by calmer members of the Republican Party, was re-elected by an overwhelming majority. It is a measure of the likely shift towards de Santis that the NEW YORK POST, one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, has heralded as “the future.” Besides the re-election that raised de Santis’s profile, his powerful Kennedy-style acceptance speech was clear play for the presidency. In fact, pundits predict his tremendous victory will generate a “huge internal civil war” within the Republican Party against Trump.

If Donald Trump was overpowered by the midterm elections, on which he hoped to hang on to announce his presidential candidacy, President Biden was encouraged by their result. The tsunami that Democrats feared did not happen. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and a notable Trump ally, acknowledged, “definitely not a Republican wave, that’s damn sure.” President Biden, who had argued before the election that “democracy itself was on the table”, proclaimed the result as “a good day for democracy”. He said voters made their concerns clear and he was ready to work with Republicans. For good measure, Biden, who was previously coy about running in 2024, confidently said he would.

The midterm elections, their peaceful conduct and their focus on the issues, confirm America as a bastion of liberal democracy and the “Shining City on a Hill.” These attributes and values ​​should be commended to us in Nigeria as we organize the 2023 general elections.

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Nick Dazang is a former director of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

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