By Arab News
By Maria Maalouf*
It is widely felt that the US midterm congressional elections on Nov. 8 are not just about the election of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 35 members of the Senate, but also a replica of the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump two years ago.
They are the ruthless continuation of a fierce rivalry between two presidents. On the one hand, Trump is recycling his old presidential themes, emphasizing that Biden and the Democrats are making the US vulnerable to foreign influence and are weakening America by making it a socialist country. On the other hand, Biden and the Democrats are accusing the Republicans and Trump of racism and extremism, including often employing the word “fascism” to denote the dangers of right-wing politics in America.
There is no moderation in the election campaigns. America is as divided as ever, with Biden and Trump trying to denounce and trounce each other. This is not a good sign for American democracy. It leads to vicious methods of campaigning and an unwillingness to compromise.
Visibility is a critical aspect of this congressional contest. Trump will try to be the most visible person in the race. He wants to renew his presidential campaign through the voting on new members of Congress that he has backed. He is using this campaign as a barometer to test his popularity ahead of a potential run for the presidency in 2024. According to a Republican consultant: “If 70 percent of the candidates whom Trump endorsed… for the Republican nomination for the offices they are contesting, including those who were nominated for the offices of governors of states, for sure, Trump will consider himself the natural candidate for the Republican ticket in the presidential election of 2024.”
Biden is less visible and is limiting his appearances to offering support for a very few candidates. The reason for this is that Biden has been making many gaffes, giving the impression to many that he may not be in sound mental and physical health. Biden is also not very popular. Therefore, most Democratic candidates will not want to associate themselves with him.
Trump will use language that could amount to charging the Democrats and Biden with treason. Nevertheless, Biden will refer to Trump as someone who violated the US Constitution by keeping sensitive national security documents in his private residence. This will insinuate that Trump must face justice and be put on trial.
It is expected that the rivalry between Biden and Trump will continue after the elections in November and its ferocity will depend on the outcome of the midterms. It is also important to recall the phenomenon in American politics known as “the October surprise.” This means that a big, unexpected event can occur in the few days or weeks prior to the elections that could create a totally new reality. There are few predictions regarding what the game changer could be this time. Several analysts are saying that something dramatic, such as the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, could be the creator of a new reality ahead of the midterms. This is still a remote possibility.
Biden is trying to portray himself as a leader who has made significant contributions to American politics, such as with the passing of legislation supporting the rebuilding of infrastructure in America and boosting the country’s scientific and technological advantage. Trump will tout the fact that he is still very popular and will renew the charge that the 2022 election result was not legitimate.
Interestingly, absent from this Biden-Trump animosity are their deputies. Former Vice President Mike Pence has not involved himself in many of the races, while the incumbent Kamala Harris has not been campaigning strongly. This gives Trump the chance to sharpen his attack on Biden personally. Such shrewd political propaganda is being utilized by Trump to send a message to the American electorate that he is practically a candidate in this race.
Trump wants to reclaim his political mandate in this current race for Congress. He insists that his speeches are drawing large crowds, even overshadowing the candidates he is soliciting votes for. He is spreading the narrative that he is so concerned about the deteriorating situation inside America that he wants everyone to be aware of the damage Biden and the Democrats have been doing to the country.
What is unique about this Biden-Trump confrontation is that neither are talking about the regular victories and losses typical of any political race in the US. Instead, they are addressing the American people as if calamities will befall them if the other’s candidates are elected. While Biden and Trump are intensifying and perpetuating their hostility toward each other, the millions of dollars Americans are spending on the elections are provoking and endorsing such a political feud.
• Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher and writer. She has a master’s degree in political sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib