15 Nov 2022. One week after the elections, I am in the plane back from the US to Europe. Time to kill, time to reflect: What’s the upshot? What was learned? Anything to keep in mind? It’s not that the event went unnoticed. The public reckoning is all-encompassing, the thoughts as firm as they are plentiful. Here is another dozen– six regarding America and six geared towards the other country.
- Conventional wisdom is a volatile force (red wave before the election, Trump’s demise after) and also a global one. Interestingly enough, it grows in self-assuredness with distance from the origins. The further away it travels from the American scene, the more likely its dernier cris are blown into herold’s calls. Nary a doubter among the overseas experts.
- There will be lawsuits. True, democracy won the day over the “big lie” election-deniers. The Trumpists lost to a man/woman, and most of them have conceded. But not all of them. Belief or at last suspicion that some elections were rigged will live on, with litigation in the offing. The first one is ironically from Georgia democrat Raphael Warnock who has a beef with early voting rules in his upcoming runoff.
- Trump remains a powerful factor in Republican and a mighy one in national politics. But he won’t be alone. Right-wing politics in the United States will hardly be a one-man band any more. For the Caudillo, it is unus in pluribus.
- The Republicans have a problem with their old man who is too powerful. The trick will be to put Trump to pasture without alienating his flock of followers.
- The Democrats have a problem with their old man who is too feeble for a convincing second run. If Biden decides to forfeit a second term, Vice-President Harris will expect to be anointed. Snubbing Harris will bring the party into a dilemma because Harris is a black woman. And blacks and women are structurally indispensable for Democrat success.
- The true problems went more or less unnoticed in the-midterm -campaigns. They are climate change, strategies for coping with the 8-billion-people-world, nuclear annihilation, to mention three The latest twist of conventional wisdom – Biden proved to be the world’s sustainability leader at the recent United Nations climate conference in Egypt – is a joke. The United States lags behind everybody else in limiting emissions, the American public has no stomach for real cuts into the unsustainable “American way or life”, and the Biden green law contains provisions to add more coal and gas production, not to reduce it.
As Switzerland, my country, also knows a thing or two about democracy, here a half a dozen midterm-takeaways for domestic consumption.
- Don’t sue over elections. If there are problems with how elections are regulated or handled, it is for the political powers to sort them out, not for the courts. Democracy lives by trust. It can be lawyered to death as is the risk in the US.
- Don’t open campaigning to paid electronic media. Never. The ridiculous amounts of dollars spent on American elections (the Pennsylvania senate race cost more than 300 million dollars) goes mostly into TV and radio advertising. This is forbidden in Switzerland and should not be made possible. Not even for the all-powerful and eternally needy public broadcasting company. Never. Don’t.
- Don’t open voting to people who are not sufficiently documented. Giving the franchise to resident non-citizens might be alright. But only to people who are clearly registered with the appropriate commune. Not like in the US where a man is allowed to the ballot by showing an electrical bill.
- Don’t put all your stock in the concept of a US-led “west”. The United States has its own agenda, in very important areas different from us. Climate change is one example.
- Think Europe. Coping with climate change, global migration and even defense surely are not solely national matters. Where they go beyond the national realm, they are are first and foremost European, to be addressed on a European level. The US will not – not always – bail us out.
- Don’t treat America as the enemy. The oldtimers on the left view America as sort of a global Beelzebub, with a dirty hoof in every evil of the world (often plausible, but not always). More recently, this perspective is shared by the European right (with ideological strings reaching all the way back to the swamps of the 1930s). America is neither an enemy nor a satan. Culturally, economically, socially and politically, it is a friend for most parts. For some, a model.