Original article (in Croatian) was published on 10/11/2022
It is too early to say whether Donald Trump has been written off, but his position in the Republican Party is quite shaken after this election.
If the American election is a boring topic for you or you need more time, just read the introductory summary. However, suppose you are intrigued by some details, including a candidate who is a descendant of Croatian lineage but does not follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, in that case, we invite you to wait patiently until the last sentence.
Who lost? The biggest loser is Donald Trump because the candidates he supported did not fare well.
What will happen to Trump and Biden? It is too early to say whether Trump has been written off, but his position in the Republican Party is quite shaken after this election. Most Americans do not want Trump and Joe Biden to run for president again.
When will we know who won the election? The Republicans are narrowly leading in the battle for Congress, but it is necessary to wait a few more days, and maybe even a whole month, because the elections for the senator will be repeated in at least one federal state, Georgia.
Where is the tension? In Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. The party, Republican or Democratic, that wins two senatorial seats from those three federal states will be considered the winner.
Why do Americans only have two parties? There are still parties in the US, but the system is designed to favour bipartisanship. However, this does not mean that some third party did not muddy the waters quite a bit during these mid-term elections because, for example, the libertarians won over two per cent of the vote in some places and thus mainly harmed the Republicans.
How will these elections affect Europe and Croatia? From the first comments in Europe, the conclusion is the following – it’s easier to breathe. On the European side of the Atlantic, many are very afraid of the return of Donald Trump’s politics, while others wish for just such a scenario. A lot depends on America – among others, the delivery of weapons to Ukraine and decisions on the economy and energy at a time of increased inflation.
The just-held American elections are like when the championship match between the two most famous Croatian football clubs ends with a score of 1:1. Passionate fans arrive excited with banners and shout from the stands, both coaches energetically announce the victory, but after the match ends in a tie, all supporters of the clubs leave the stadium feeling glum. The coaches of both clubs, as soon as the referee played the final whistle, declared that their team could have won if only they had not missed some opportunities and that they would definitely be better in the next match.
The most important thing that interested America and the whole world in these mid-term elections is to test how strong or weak Donald Trump is, and the result so far is – “neither good nor bad”. Namely, the former American president does not give up politics and tries to keep the Republican Party under control by supporting numerous candidates in various constituencies, tirelessly holding public meetings and often announcing his candidacy for the presidential elections in 2024.
Trump gladly supports candidates who are loyal to him without question, and such are often the spreaders of misinformation, conspiracy theories, worshipers of the QAnon movement, as well as those who deny the legality of the 2020 presidential elections.
Trump’s influence in the party is very strong, and anyone who tries to oppose him soon gets beaten up and booed in the conservative media that still supports the so-called MAGA movement (short for Trump’s slogan Make America Great Again).
Some new right
This year’s mid-term elections were, therefore, a test to show whether American voters have gotten tired of Trump and his ideology or whether there are still many who, regardless of all his sins, will continue to support him. The results of that test are still somewhat unclear. Candidates who, without Trump’s support, would never have achieved results in politics and who managed to win in these mid-term elections will probably continue to speak loudly with controversial positions that may worry not only the United States.
An example is Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won re-election in the House of Representatives and threatened that when the Republicans take control, they will stop sending any aid to Ukraine.
Taylor Greene may seem like only a marginal temporary case in American politics, but we already wrote about her two years ago when she started her first election campaign under the slogan “Save America, stop socialism”. She is a typical representative of the always-shocking Trumpism. Even after the election, the question remains how many candidates like her will penetrate the American institutions and influence the domestic and foreign policy of the USA.
A significant victory for a candidate supported by Trump was also achieved in the state of Ohio, where a seat in the federal Senate was won by J.D. Vance, also known for his shocking attitudes.
Thirty-eight-year-old Vance is an educated young force of the new right, a kind of intellectual version of Trumpism. He has flirted with ideas of white supremacy and is supported financially and in other ways by Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley powerhouse who is increasingly influential in prestigious American conservative circles. Thiel, let’s recall, is one of the first investors in Facebook who also gave some advice to Mark Zuckerberg, one of the few who always supported Trump from Silicon Valley, and is increasingly present in American politics. Thiel also strategically and financially supports a former employee in his investment firm, Blake Masters, in this election for the Senate candidate in Arizona. Under the patronage of Thiel, Masters and Vance are considered representatives of the new right, which is crystallising as a separate wing that emerged from Trumpism and is entering high politics for the first time in these elections.
The end of the Trump era?
Although he was defeated in the presidential elections two years ago, Trump has so far managed to maintain control over all kinds of currents in American conservative politics, primarily because no one has dared to openly oppose him and thus incur the wrath of his fanatical voters. But these midterms will be followed by open criticism within the party, as many candidates supported by Trump have been beaten, including Dr. Oz in the important Senate race in Pennsylvania.
“This is the end of the Trump era, like any of his disasters and this is the result of his stupid and frivolous decisions”, an unnamed Republican Party operative told ABC News, making it clear how unhappy the party is with the election results.
Another candidate supported by Trump, Sarah Palin, could lose in this election, and one of her culprits is Croatian descendant Nick Begich III, who, she says, cannot get out of her way. Namely, in Alaska, where Republicans Palin and Begich are competing against Democrat Mary Peltola for a seat in the federal House of Representatives, a ranked voting system has recently been in effect that allowed one Democrat and two Republicans to be on the ballot. Republican voters like Palin and Begich equally and, as opponents from the same party, actually harm them because they weaken their percentages of votes. By the way, Begich has politics in his blood because he is the grandson and nephew of three previous high officials, but unlike them, who were members of the Democratic Party, he opted for the Republicans. His ancestors were originally from Croatia – his great-grandfather and great-grandmother came from Lika.
The third brings (un)luck
The candidates in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada could also say something about who stole votes from whom and reduced their chances of winning, that is, precisely in the federal states where the majority in the Senate is decided. In all three states, candidates from the Libertarian Party and some other small parties competed and won over 2% of the vote. Libertarian Party voters are more conservative citizens, which means that the candidate of that party hurts the Republican candidate by taking away their votes. If, for example, all two per cent of those who voted for the libertarian candidate in Georgia, Chase Oliver, had circled the Republican, there would already be celebrations in Trump’s headquarters because the total would have moved 50%.
Oliver, who presented himself in the campaign as an armed homosexual, is just one of several libertarians who cause almost tectonic changes in American politics with the small percentages they win – two years ago, the candidate of that party in the presidential elections, according to some assessments, played a key role which brought victory to Biden and a defeat to Trump. It could be the same this time in Arizona, where the libertarian Marc Victor so far exceeds the very important 2 per cent, although he dropped out of the race. In fact, Victor decided to withdraw and invited his sympathisers to vote for the already mentioned republican Masters, but he remembered too late because the ballots had already been printed, and it was not possible to change them. Insufficiently informed voters did not know this and still voted for the libertarian.
In Nevada, on the other hand, the Republicans might have already declared victory, but they lack less than half a per cent of the votes to pass the magical 50 percentage points at the time of writing. Just as much as the libertarian candidate there collects. It is sometimes difficult for third parties to get their names on the ballot because the laws in some states, such as Alabama, are restrictive and favour the major parties. In that country, the threshold for a party is that at least one candidate gets at least 20% of the vote, which is usually quite difficult to achieve for smaller parties.
Some candidates won very overwhelmingly in these by-elections, such as Tony DeLuca, who won over 80% in the election as a member of the parliament of that federal state. DeLuca is not celebrating his victory because he died in October (at the age of 85), but by then it was too late to change the already printed ballots. Misinformation began to spread on social networks that the victory of the deceased DeLuca, otherwise the candidate of the Democratic Party, is clear evidence that the election was a murky and fraudulent game. Fact-check journalists reacted, explaining that according to federal law, candidates cannot be changed after the ballots have been printed and that in this and similar cases, special elections are subsequently held.