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Sun 26 May 2019
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Michael Janofsky explains how the 2018 Mid Term elections haven’t resolved anything, only intensified the antipathies of the Republic.

The United States national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ is a song that venerates victory in war. Written as a poem during the War of 1812 against Great Britain, it includes such lyrics as “the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air”.

How prophetic it was. In our 242 years, we have engaged in no fewer than two dozen major international conflicts, not to mention dozens more with various Native American tribes and the U.S. Civil War, which led to the temporary bifurcation of the country over slavery.

Well, bombs are still bursting in air — political bombs, this time — launched before, during and after the just held mid-term elections that have finally pierced the Republicans’ one-party rule during the first two years of Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency: Democrats won the House of Representatives on Nov. 6; Trump’s Republicans held control of the Senate.

Each party controls one chamber. Progress toward uniting a fractious country, right?

Hardly.

In the new Congress that opens for business on Jan. 3, House Democrats will have more muscle in countering Trump’s policy preferences, meaning Senate Republicans will have to compromise before any final bill reaches Trump for his signature.

At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. In fractious, bombs-bursting America, don’t bet on it. Early analyses of what was a highly contentious and often ugly campaign season conclude that the U.S. may be more divided than ever.

Among the new Democrats in House seats once held by Republicans are quite a few left-wing hardliners who won by urging more progressive positions on such issues as health care, immigration, tax policy and gun safety.

Most Republican winners stood with Trump, an iron-fisted, combative right-wing president who talks about compromising but seldom does. Republicans who opposed Trump on one issue or another along with some who asked that he not campaign on their behalf came up losers.

As a result, the Congress is filled with Republican who buy into the same apocalyptic picture of America that Trump described in his inaugural address two years ago, a country overrun by Central American criminals and drug dealers, a national landscape rotted by murderous gangs and rising crime rates and a solution to school shootings that includes arming teachers and students.

And, so, we’re left to consider several major consequences of elections that would otherwise have appeared to balance the political scales:

One, whatever centre that remained on the American political spectrum is virtually gone. Forces are aligned further to the extremes, making potential legislative success less a function of compromise than capitulation by one side or the other, an unpalatable option for both of them.

Two, it’s unclear which variety of Democrats will prevail among them: Those emboldened by their new majority and the committee chairmanships that come with it to exact revenge on Trump with hearings, investigations, subpoenas, even impeachment proceedings against the president. On more moderate voices pushing the party toward the centre for policy deals on the off chance Republicans would be willing to meet them there.

Three, the traditional Republican party, born of President Abra-ham Lincoln and nurtured by Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisen-hower and Ronald Reagan, favouring low taxes, small government and a balanced budget, is nearly gone, as well. What’s left is the Trumplican party, led by a coarse and cruel leader enabled by acolytes terrified of crossing him lest he destroy their reputations by Twitter. For now, the new Senate, with an expanded majority, appears little more than a rubber stamp for any Trump initiative or policy position.

On top of all this is the endgame of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and any role Trump might have played in collaborating or hindering the probe, each a potentially impeachable offence.

Trump always called the investigation’“a witch hunt”, insisting “there was no collusion, no obstruction”. But, barely 18 hours after the mid-term polls closed, Trump fired his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, ostensibly for the crime of recusing himself from overseeing the investigation because he had worked on Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump never forgave Sessions for that and replaced him with Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff and a proud Trump loyalist.

Whitaker had publicly expressed doubts about Mueller’s investigation and argued against any Congressional legislation to protect Mueller from being fired before the investigation is completed. Whitaker replaces Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, as Mueller’s overseer. Rosenstein had always resisted Republican calls to fire Mueller, vowing to see the investigation to its conclusion.

The message from Trump seemed clear enough to many: He fired Sessions so Whitaker could fire Mueller. Whether that could lead to more grounds for impeachment or a Constitution crisis, Trump doesn’t seem to care. He lives for fights, legal or otherwise.

This is America 2018, after all. Democrats vs. Trumplicans. Bombs away.

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