The November 6th U.S. elections: catastrophe or salvation?

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The short answer to the question is neither. As I write, one week before definitive counts in the U.S. elections, the consensus seems to be that they are too close to call. Most analysts believe this is a Trump election in two senses:


First, most voters are choosing their candidates for senator, representative, governor, or lesser offices as a function of their feelings for Donald Trump.


Secondly, the outcomes will affect profoundly Trump’s further political strength.


If the Republicans keep the Senate, they will be able to fill federal judicial offices with probable control for a long time to come. For the anti-Trump coalition this represents catastrophe.


If the Republicans keep the House, even by one vote, they will be able to ensure a fiscal program of their preference. In addition, a Trump victory would make far easier repressive behavior that the anti-Trump forces see as the great danger — another catastrophe.


If Republicans win the gubernatorial elections, they will be able to gerrymander electoral choices to their benefit for at least a decade — a third catastrophe.


Inversely, if the Democrats win the Senate, they can force more so-called moderate nominees to be appointed — ending a dream of the pro-Trump coalition.


If the Democrats win the House of Representatives, they can pursue harassing investigations of Trump and his people, thereby gaining more strength in the presidential elections of 2020 — catastrophe for the pro-Trump forces.


If the Democrats win gubernatorial elections, they can reverse much gerrymandering of the past to their benefit.


Of course, there could be results that are a mixture of these results, with uncertain consequences. Any loss for Trump will weaken still further his power within the Republican Party.


What is wrong with these analyses is the assumption of long survival of the victorious electoral behavior. Office-holders die. People are chased from office. The economic realities change drastically and with such change there often follows a change in political atmosphere, despite previous electoral results.


We must not forget that we are living in the chaotic fluctuations of a structural crisis of the modern world-system. Wild fluctuations are the basic reality. Nothing lasts too long. Catastrophe today, salvation tomorrow. Catastrophe then again.


To be sure, we must still vote as we think best to prevent short-term negatives. But the victories are necessarily short-term — important but never decisive.



- Immanuel Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar at Yale University, is the author of The Decline of American Power: The U.S. in a Chaotic World (New Press).


Copyright ©2018 Immanuel Wallerstein — used by permission of Agence Global
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