In five days, on November 8th, the United States will hold midterm elections to renew the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. The media forecasts are rather negative for the Biden administration and for the Democratic Party, which currently has a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In general, the first midterm elections after the presidential election penalize the president’s party. Up until a few weeks ago, it appeared that the Democratic nominees might do a little better than expected, largely due to the Supreme Court ruling overturning the constitutional right to abortion, which could mobilize the progressive electorate and anger some of the moderates.
But now this effect seems to have worn off. The vast majority of Americans are primarily concerned about inflation and a possible recession and believe the Biden administration is not adequately addressing the situation. Republicans will almost certainly take control of the chamber and have about a 50 percent chance of winning a Senate majority, according to forecasts site FiveThirtyEight. Even the best-case scenario for Democrats (retaining control of the Senate) would leave Biden with limited reach over the next few years.
Commentators are beginning to wonder whether a change in Congressional control could affect US policy regarding the war in Ukraine. Various signs point in this direction.
As the election approached and the economy worsened, the Republican Party’s most isolated foreign policy faction, often fomented by former President Donald Trump and right-wing commentators like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, made its presence felt. Republican leaders, particularly Senate Party leader Mitch McConnell, remain supportive of aid to Ukraine (so far, Congress has committed $54 billion), but their position will tend to weaken over time, especially if the Republican nominees do well by Trump The election.
In mid-October, Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who will most likely be the next speaker in the House, said that in 2023 “Americans are facing a recession and will not be giving Ukraine a blank check.” In the same days, similar signals came from the Democrats. On October 24, a letter was published in which thirty party lawmakers urged Biden to change his strategy in the war in Ukraine. MPs, who are part of the party’s progressive wing, say economic and military support for Kyiv should be matched with diplomatic negotiations with Moscow to secure a ceasefire.
Both McCarthy and Democratic lawmakers have retracted their statements, but the fact remains that public opinion about Ukraine is changing, particularly among Republicans: a Pew Research Center poll found that 32 percent of them think the United States is “too much” 9 percent provide help in March.
Not surprisingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to exploit political divisions in the United States. During a speech on October 27, he addressed conservatives in Western countries directly, using the issues dear to their politicians and right-wing voters: “There are at least two Westerners,” Putin said. “One is the traditional, mainly Christian, values that Russians feel connected to. But there is another West — aggressive, cosmopolitan, neo-colonial — that acts as a weapon for the neoliberal elite, trying to impose its rather odd values on the rest of the world.”