A week in America | 4 November 2022

This week, Martin looks forward to the US Mid Term Elections - what it means for the shape of Congress, economic fortunes, progressive policies and who might be next in the White House.

Martin Liptrot

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It is election season here in the USA.

Election day is actually 8th November, but in many states and counties the ballot boxes are open for a week before to spur participation and involvement.

These elections – dubbed mid-terms because they mark the half-way point in the President’s term in office – are important for a multitude of reasons.

First, Congress – our version of Parliament – comprises The House of Representatives and The Senate. These are the bodies which propose laws and modify and vote on them respectively.

If the Democrats can hold on to power in one or the other, they can possibly get their high tax and spend policies through. If the Republicans win one or both, they can stop that in its tracks but without the President’s support can’t propose or pass any laws. Poll watchers are predicting the latter happens and the nation gets stuck in political deadlock.

Secondly, as British voters discovered over the past few weeks, what the electorate chooses as its preferred government is not the real decision-making process anymore, money is.

The electorate’s preference can be undermined at a stroke if the moneymen and market-makers on Wall St. don’t like the look of it. With a Treasury trying to nurse a soft landing, a Federal Reserve Bank set on dampening inflation at any cost and a recession looming, neither parties’ polices appear to offer trusted solutions to the economic turbulence.

The consequence of the politicians recognising they are no longer masters of the economy is they have to go looking for other issues they can promote to the public.

This is where the more unpalatable issues shine.

And these angry views are well funded and championed by all kinds of organizations. Banning abortion, ending immigration, building walls, lifting environmental protection, denying climate change, outlawing same sex marriages, gender or racial identity battles, gun rights: all have their advocates from churches to corporations.

And thirdly, with sour-tasting policies come sour-faced candidates.

The battle for the keys to the Governor’s Mansions up and down the country are an interesting watch, not just to see who is going to get the top job in many of the states.

Being the Governor of a big state – the ones where people actually live and work – is often, not always, but often, a springboard to higher things.

In two of the biggest states with election battles – Texas and Florida – those racing to win the gubernatorial elections also have an eye on the potential of being the candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election.

In Florida, my state, incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis – a protégé of Trump – is likely to be returned to office for a second term. But so confident is he of that, he could afford to detour from campaigning in the Sunshine State to go and collect a $10million check from a UFO-believing Casino owner in Nevada.

So far DeSantis has stuffed more than $200million into a war chest. That money is being spent in part on endless attack ads on Florida cable TV networks, but a lot will be used to make sure DeSantis is in consideration for the Republican ticket for the White House.

His Texan counterpart Gregg Abbott – a gun lobby funded Governor – is also hoping to be in the running.

But both these disciples of the Orange one, will be watching to see what the former President does.

According to Trump’s comments in a Utah rally last night he is ‘very, very, probably’ going to run – classic Donald-speak – and that could mean curtains for the DeSantis or Abbott campaigns, unless they are willing to give up the top job in their states to become the VP on Trump’s ticket – the most meaningless bag carrying job in US Politics.

Harris. Pence. Gore. Cheney. Quayle. Need I say more. Ok, Hubert Humphrey.

I speak from bitter experience. My wife’s family are descendants of Hanibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first VP. But that was the high-water mark of his career, being a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery, he was dispatched to be US Ambassador to Spain to clear the decks for slave-owning apologist Andrew Johnson to get on the re-election ticket to boost Lincoln’s chances.

Not that were still carrying a grudge or anything.

So, what to look out for this week.

If the Democrats fail to keep hold of power in either House, it could be the beginning of the end for the lack lustre President Biden. If pro-Trump candidates win big in the South and Mid-West he will be emboldened and talking up his chances of a return to the White House.

 If the votes are split between the two parties and no-one takes control, nothing significant will be achieved from Washington over the next two years which is exactly what the markets and stock traders want. This ‘checks and balances’ system is how Congress was designed and, bizarrely, might be Biden’s best chance of the economy being salvaged as his huge borrowing and spending plans would be gridlocked. But that would also mean an end to clean energy programs, challenges to any increase in military and political support for Taiwan and Ukraine, and the death knell for any chance of gun control or healthcare reform.

There are some interesting sideshows too – NFL football star Herschel Walker’s bid for Senate from Georgia could see the most unsuitable elected official since Sarah ‘you can see Russia from here’ Palin. And in Pennsylvania, Former TV celeb Dr Oz is battling Oprah-backed John Fetterman in a race to see who the ‘least-unpopular’ candidate is.

Predictions in politics are dangerous, but the rumours are the Dems hold the Senate but lose the House of Representatives.

And if history teaches us anything, it is that the markets are cautious going into mid-term elections but come roaring back afterwards.

We will all have to wait to see if Wall St. will behave that way this time.

Martin Liptrot

Martin Liptrot is a Public Affairs, PR and Marketing consultant working with UK, US and Global clients to try and ‘make good ideas happen’.

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