On the way to regime change in the US?

December 15, 2021

Where is the United States going? After the brief euphoria following the election of Joe Biden in November 2020, worrying news followed. It was not just the January 6th attack on Capitol Hill, but also the increasingly unfavorable polls for the Biden presidency and, ultimately, the disastrous results of the local elections on November 2nd. Analysis of these various elements shows that the evolution of political forces is increasingly playing against the Democratic Party and consolidating a republican party dominated by an extremist faction ready to question the traditional mechanisms of American democracy.

An ambiguous victory for Biden

Contradicting comments from Biden’s election sought to draw the lessons of the poll. While some pointed out that with 7 million more votes than Donald Trump he had benefited from the widespread support of American voters and therefore the opportunity to initiate an ambitious reform program from more pessimistic minds, recalled that Trump had gained an extraordinary number of votes and that moving 50,000 votes to four key Midwestern states would have given him a majority on the electoral college.

What confirmed the pessimists’ view was the final number of seats in Congress. When all the protests were settled, it turned out that the Democrats had lost about 15 seats, giving them a slim majority of six seats. This disappointing result is interpreted by political scientists as saying that voters wanted to get Trump out, who was deemed too incompetent in dealing with the pandemic, but that they retained their trust in elected Republican officials and women in particular, a new fact in a male dominated party.

Another lesson from the 2020 poll was the Democrats’ inability to invade Texas and Florida, two states with great demographic and economic dynamics that remain firmly anchored in the Republican camp. Contrary to the predictions of some pollsters, the Democrats failed to win seats in predominantly Latino constituencies, a worrying sign for a party that has relied on non-white minorities for decades.

One year after Biden’s election, the poll’s verdict is negative for the president as well. According to the technical side Five Thirty Eight, there is an average difference of nine points between voters who reject Joe Biden (51.9%) and those who support him (42.8%). Such numbers bode very badly for the outcome of the midterms of November 2022, when the entire Congress and a third of the Senate will be renewed.

It turns out that the Democratic Party is facing two challenges at the same time: the rejection of part of its electorate and a completely unfavorable functioning of the institutions.

The rejection of part of the electorate

The recent by-elections, which turned out to be very unfavorable for the Democrats, showed that a large proportion of the independent, non-party voters, representing around 40% of the electorate, left Biden’s party to vote for Republicans. This explains in particular the success of Youngkin, who was elected governor of Virginia with the support of 54% of the Independents. For the latter, as for a large majority of voters, the main issue is the economic and employment situation. However, the United States is facing sustained inflation, on the order of 6% annualized, and a sharp rise in fuel prices. Under these conditions, a recent CNN poll shows that 58% of respondents think Biden is not paying enough attention to important issues, and the vast majority of them think the most important thing is the state of the economy. As a result, Biden’s ambitious reforms of infrastructure renovation and support for families and the most deprived categories have had little impact on public opinion.

Another source of disappointment for the Democrats is the behavior of non-white minorities. These make up around 30% of the electorate and continue to grow due to immigration and their demographic dynamics. For a long time, the Democrats believed that their votes were won because of their support for defending the rights of these peoples. The reality is much more nuanced. It’s true that African Americans, who make up about 13% of the electorate, are 90% Democrats. The situation is different for Latinos and Asians, who together represent 17% of the electorate and 21% of the population. Analysis of the Pew Research Center’s 2020 presidential survey shows that 32% of Hispanics and 34% of Asians voted for Trump. More detailed studies by state underline the heterogeneous character of these population groups, whose voting decisions depend to a large extent on their origins. Cubans and Venezuelans vote Republicans, as do Vietnamese.

There is no reason to believe that these voters’ orientations will shift in favor of the Democrats. While the African American community has stabilized at around 13% of the population, there is a steady development of Latinos and especially Asians, especially Indians, who have no particular attachment to Biden’s party.

The growing rift between the two big parties also affects the Democrats, who cannot hope to win over moderate Republicans. A Gallup poll shows that 90% of Democrats approve of Biden, but only 6% of the Republican camp. Worse still, 65% of Republican voters believe Trump won the election, a percentage that has increased over the months.

The uprising of the republican states

The Republican Party is more than ever under the influence of Trump and his most extreme faction. However, these officials, backed by voters who believe in the need to regain and retain power at all costs, care less and less about the rules that have made American democracy successful. From their candidate’s defeat in 2020, they have learned that their control over the electoral system is insufficient. In most Republican states (about twenty of the thirty controlled by the Great Old Party) they are voting on new electoral regulations that allow the exclusion of minority voters and the centralization of voting decisions in favor of politicians, and thus their supporters of Trump.

This legislative fever exemplifies a reality that we in Europe tend to forget: the United States has a federal system and states benefit from extensive powers, in particular for the division of constituencies and the organization of elections. As a recent study by Five Thirty Eight shows, partisan redistribution (Gerrymandering) practically invincible Republican majorities in southern states such as Texas, Alabama or Louisiana. Knowing that out of 50 states 30 are Republican-controlled, we can gauge the extent of the challenge facing the Democrats.

The outlook for the 2024 presidential election is therefore very worrying. If the Republicans regain a majority in both houses, as is likely, in the 2022 election, they will have a decisive say in the outcome of the vote, as the Constitution allows Congress to make the final decision on the election of the president. However, many Republicans are convinced that if they had a majority in Congress in 2020 they could have rejected the election result and proclaimed Trump’s victory. Apparently they are not bothered by the refusal to accept the results of universal suffrage, a sign of a serious crisis in democracy.

In the face of this crisis, the Democratic Party seems ill-equipped to face it and defend the country’s traditional values. It is deeply divided into a left wing and a middle wing. When we examine the electoral situation of elected officials, we find that left-wing speakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes come from constituencies where the Democrats have a solid majority. The centrists, for their part, are elected from circles that often leaned in favor of the Republicans and can move back to the right. It is therefore extremely difficult to reconcile opinions that are closely related to their chances of re-election and thus to their political survival.

Under these conditions, we can only predict that the Republican Party, which is a national minority, will return to power in 2024, under the auspices of one very unscrupulous exploitation of the rules of the electoral system and the powers of the states it controls Conservative Supreme Court.

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