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Will democracy save the Democrats?



Politics is not a Hemingway novel, but there is no doubt that Democrats are suddenly wondering: for whom are the bells tolling this midterm election year?  And has the earth moved?

A month ago, there was no doubt that this November would look like virtually every other midterm election:  the party that holds the White House, the President’s party, loses seats in Congress in the midterm elections. 

Given that Democrats hold the House by only four seats, and the Senate is tied 50:50 between the two parties, the expectation – until right now – was that the Republicans were a slam dunk to take control both houses of Congress.

In the past 100 years of midterm elections, only twice has the president’s party gained seats in both the House and Senate. 

The first time was in 1934, when FDR started delivering on his overwhelmingly popular New Deal. 

The second time was in 2002, when the country was united behind President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.  (Prime Minister John Howard also won re-election that year in part on his stance with the US on 9/11).

The Republicans believed they had this year nailed.  Inflation exploding, gasoline prices through the roof, interest rates rising sharply with more pain ahead, crime out of control in the inner cities, the southern border out of control with immigrants pouring into the country, a Democratic party suffused with wokeness on cultural issues from what is taught in schools to transgender rights to a party dominated by radical activists and socialists. 

The Republicans were in no doubt that the Democrats, led by their branding Biden as a weak, ineffective and too-old president, meant that November would be breeze.

The winds of change were also being fed by a powerful sense that the country is deeply troubled.  Nearly 70% of Americas believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Two thirds view the economy negatively.  More than half of voters have an unfavourable view of Biden.  

Signs of America’s quality of life in decline abound

US life expectancy has fallen because of the Covid pandemic – the sharpest fall in 100 years. Today, it is 76 years – down from 79 years in 2019.  Reading and math scores for 9-year-olds dropped sharply. The drinking water system in Jackson Mississippi has collapsed.

Trump spent the first seven months of the year backing his hand-picked acolytes for the House and Senate and also for offices responsible for counting and certifying the votes in the states that denied him victory in 2020:  Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.  Trump is counting on their winning and “fixing” the system to ensure that he will be declared the victor in those states in 2024 – regardless of whether he actually wins a majority of votes or not.

Then the earth moved.

At the end of June, the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right of women to access abortion services. As of today, one in three American women have lost the ability to legally have an abortion, and more restrictions are coming. The Supreme Court’s ruling is exceptionally unpopular.  60% of Americans believe abortion should be legal without undue restrictions. And voters know which political party is responsible for this.

In just one month, the abortion issue exploded.  Kansas – which has not voted for a Democrat for president in nearly 60 years – voted overwhelmingly to keep abortion rights in their state constitution.  In upstate New York, a Democrat, campaigning on this issue, came from behind to beat the Republican.  In Senate races, Trump anti-abortion extremists in several states are trailing.

In July, President Biden suddenly started winning in Congress.  The biggest clean energy program ever enacted.  The biggest health care package since Obamacare.  The most significant investment in computer chips and allied technologies – ever. A bipartisan gun safety law.  Better health care for veterans. 

In August, the FBI raided Trump’s home at Mar-A-Lago to recover thousands of documents, including dozens of classified documents, which belong to the US government and the American people. Trump may be subject to criminal prosecution for not turning over the documents took out of the White House.

By September, the overall trends were clear.  Where political analysts had been expecting a swing to Republicans of 20-30 seats in the House, the projected Republican gain today is just 12 seats.  In the Senate, the growing consensus is a 1-2 seat Democratic gain.

A poll this weekend by the Wall Street Journal reported that voters were most concerned about:

“The economy and inflation first, followed by abortion. But when offered a choice of five issues and asked which made them most likely to vote, they put the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade ahead of inflation.”


So the earth has moved.

Biden wants it to move to some more. Last week he invoked the reason he entered the presidential campaign in 2019:  to assert that the extremism fomented by Trump is not what America is, and not what America should ever become.  Biden sees Trump as a direct threat to America’s democracy.

Biden has seen enough, and this is why he addressed the country last week.  

“As I stand here tonight equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise…

TOPSHOT – US President Joe Biden speaks about the soul of the nation, outside of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 1, 2022. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

“There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA [Make America Great Again] Republicans. And that is a threat to this country … blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy…MAGA Republicans are destroying American democracy.”


No president since the Civil War has given such a speech about the country’s future.

Trump exploded in his response at a rally in Pennsylvania over the weekend. Trump thundered that Biden’s speech was,

“The most vicious, hateful, and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president…


“You’re all enemies of the state … It was not just my home that was raided last month. It was the hopes and dreams of every citizen who I’ve been fighting for … There can be no more vivid example of the very real threats from American freedom than just a few weeks ago, you saw, when we witnessed one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history,”

Biden believes that this urgency of affirming America’s democracy will save the country and his fellow Democrats.  We will know the day after the midterm elections whether this is true. 

If Republicans win back the Senate, Trump backed candidates will be the margin of victory. Trump will be boosted to declare his candidacy for president in 2024.

If the Democrats hold the Senate, it will be because they defeated the extremist Trump candidates.  That would mean that the Trump movement has peaked and is in decline – that if the party sticks with Trump the party loses elections.  

If the Democrats also keep the House – which still must be considered very unlikely – that will be a shocker. 

If both occur, they will constitute a Hemingway event of Richter scale. 

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Trump’s campaign tactic – debase and disgrace the legal process



Donald Trump, former president of the United States, hated Arraignment Day I in Manhattan two months ago, the first time a former president had been criminally charged. 

Trump was being forced against his will into a proceeding he had utter contempt for.  He was being arrested and fingerprinted and photographed under an indictment under the jurisdiction of Manhattan in New York City for allegations of hush money payments and fraudulent bookkeeping practices to conceal criminal activity. Trump heard the charges read out against him and he entered a plea of not guilty.

Trump had a terrible day. Trump wore a scowl throughout. His countenance was fearsome.  What Trump hated most about his arraignment in New York is that he had to sit at a table with his counsel side by side with him — equal to him — and with the judge above him looking down on him. Trump could not control the discussion and could not interrupt to make his points.

Trump was subordinate to the judge. He was subordinate to no one as president.

Arraignment Day II

Arraignment Day II in Miami will be worse from Trump, even more stressful.  The charges are substantially more serious:  the alleged violation of federal criminal statutes involving the alleged mishandling and illegal possession of classified documents, lying to legal authorities, and obstruction of justice.  Potential penalties run to years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

Trump throughout his business life had always crafted his affairs to avoid being a defendant. But in his term in office, he was caught up in it big time. He was a defendant in two impeachment trials – again, unprecedented events – and left office in disgrace.

But Trump does not feel disgraced. He never does.  Trump does not have a reverse gear.  He never retreats.  Never admits. Never concedes. Never yields.  Trump is never embarrassed. Trump never feels ashamed. When something goes wrong, it is always the fault of someone else.

And Trump never repents.

Trump can feel this way because Trump is waging war on behalf of his armies in “the final battle” for the future of the county. In his first, fiery post-indictment speech in Georgia, Trump said, “They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people.  In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you … “Either we have a Deep State, or we have a Democracy…Either the Deep State destroys America, or WE destroy the Deep State.”

It is a powerful formulation, and his true believers love it.

Hours later, In North Carolina, Trump mainlined his distilled message for the Republican crowd:

“We are a failing nation. We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement.

It’s totally corrupt and we cannot let it happen.

This is the final battle.

With you at my side we will demolish the Deep State.

We will expel the warmongers from our government.

We will drive out the globalists.

We will cast out the communists.

We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country.

We will roll out the fake news media.

We will defeat Joe Bide and we will liberate America from those villains once and for all.”

Any lesser mortal would be staggered by these events.  Any other presidential candidate would be driven from the race.  But not Trump.

Debase and disgrace

Trump is using the same playbook today as he successfully triggered after being charged in New York:  debase and disgrace the legal process by terming it completely political.  Trump said the federal indictment is “election interference at the highest level.”

Almost every other Republican running for president has adopted this line, insulating Trump from pressure to leave the field.

Trump’s chief opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said after these indictments: “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation.”

Republican congressperson Nancy Mace: “This is a banana republic. I can’t believe this is happening.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Democrats are arresting their political enemies. and they work together in their corrupt ways to get it done.”

Trump is using his affliction to raise millions of dollars from his base.

Trump will likely face Arraignment Day III in Georgia in August.  A state prosecutor is expected to charge Trump with criminal interference in the certification of Georgia’s vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

As of now, there is no sign of cracks in Trump’s support among Republican voters.  There is no surge to another candidate.  What remains to be seen is whether Republican voters, as they see Trump spend his days in courtrooms and his evenings at rallies around the country, reach a conclusion that this is a spectacle too far, too much to bear, and that they want to turn to another conservative populist who stands for them in the political trials— and not the criminal trials – of 2024.

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Donald Trump’s legal woes will serve him well



It’s not often that a U.S. President faces federal indictment, but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it might as well be Donald Trump first.

The news that Donald Trump is facing a federal investigation over the removal of secret documents from the White House in 2021 came as no surprise.

Keen watches of the Washington soap opera have seen this playbook before, albeit in a different form.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a Washington outsider. But as seriously damaged as he may be (thanks to the events of January 6), his support base has only grown whenever he faces scrutiny.

For his supporters, his legal woes mirror their own relationship with the government – a giant, unfair beast that picks and chooses its fights.

Trump is accused of storing sensitive documents—including those concerning matters of national security—in boxes, some even in a shower.

The documents were seized last August when investigators from the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.

The Department of Justice has historically avoided charging people who are running for public office. Whether they should do that is a debate for another day. But it’s happening now. And it’s making it all too easy for Trump to claim there is a concerted campaign to get him away from the White House.

Trump exposed the deep state. IF they exist, they probably don’t want him back in power. Whether they exist doesn’t matter really, because plenty of Trump’s supporters agree with him, and believe the secret state is working against them. Call it QAnon, call it a conspiracy – it doesn’t matter in a democracy.

The DoJ now has to go all in. Failing to secure a conviction would be a serious embarrassment for the department.

This is the second time Trump has been indicted in recent months, yet the opinion polls show he only increases his popularity among MAGA and Republican voters. It leaves the Republican party in a difficult position. Support their leading candidate or support the law?

As other Republicans rallied around the embattled candidate, Trump held on to his loyal base of supporters.

For the Democrats, and for Biden, another reality will soon sink in – if Trump becomes President, and they lose office next year, how will a Trump-run DoJ deal with them?

Broadly, the tit-for-tat one-up-manship of U.S. politics is breaking tradition and potentially breaking the country.


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