For the first time in six years, Americans gave Democrats a victory in national elections, putting an end to a streak of victories by radical right wingers, who often call themselves populist nationalists.
The Democratic retake of majority in Congress might prove to be one of the first signs that a global nationalist -- at times fascist -- movement might be running its course. The world might be recovering from years of anti-establishment demagoguery, and on its way back to the old, usual, sane policies, which swing between the center right and the center left.
President Donald Trump, who has run on one of the world’s most bigoted and hate-filled agendas, tried to spin his party’s House loss by pointing out that Republicans had in fact expanded their majority in the Senate. Trump also basked in two razor-thin victories in gubernatorial races in Florida, and probably Georgia.
Yet the fact remains that, no matter how Trump and the Republicans try to spin America’s 2018 elections, the same Americans who gave the U.S. President his victory in 2016 -- mainly those in the mid-Western states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Pennsylvania -- have now abandoned Trump’s “nationalist” rhetoric, and gone back to supporting a more moderate and globalist view of things.
Ever since the Republicans won the House and several local elections in 2010, they have been on a mission of gerrymandering districts in such a way that they believed would guarantee their dominance for the coming decade or two. The fact that Democrats actually managed to wrestle the House from Republicans is, in and of itself, a huge feat.
To understand how far the Republicans had manipulated electoral districts, consider that -- as vote counting continues and is expected to give the Democrats a bigger vote difference -- polls show that the Democratic Party beat its rival Republican Party by at least seven percentage points of the popular vote. Even though such percentage indicates a significant surge, or even a “blue wave,” it barely reflected on the number of seats they captured from the Republicans.
Seven percent of the 435 House seats comes up to 30 seats, which means that the Democrats should have won half the seats plus thirty, or 248. Instead, the Democrats are projected a maximum of 230 seats. With their electoral tricks, the Republicans shaved off some twenty seats off of the Democratic majority.
But math might not be an issue at this point. What is at stake is that the global populist nationalism movement is neither a majority in the U.S., nor is on the rise elsewhere. Trump himself was elected president after losing in the popular vote to Democratic Hillary Clinton by some three million votes. In the 2018 election, even though the Republicans expanded their 51-seat majority in the Senate, the total tally of votes shows the Democrats received over seven million more votes than the Republicans in the Senate race.
Other signs suggest that right wing “national populism” have a dim future, as can be seen in the demographic composition of voters. Whereas Democratic voters were mostly young, college-educated and racially diverse Americans, Republican voters were older, non-college educated and mostly White Americans. Women, for their part, preferred Democrats over Republicans by over 10 percentage points. Such numbers suggest that “national populism” was not really on the rise with Brexit, the election of Trump, and the strong performance of other radical right wingers in Europe and Latin America. National populist victories have been more of a last hurrah, than a movement that was on the rise or expanding.
Politics aside, the message from America’s 2018 elections is that the world is turning into a global village, and that there is no way back to the days of segregation along the lines of race, religion, gender or sexual preference. The old “nationalist” regime might have shaken things up over the past few years, maybe in a last push before its demise. Yet the course of history will continue, and the surge of racism and nationalism will eventually look like a hiccup.
This is not to say that America’s Republicans, or the right worldwide, are doomed. There will come a day when the Democrats will lose their House majority back to the Republicans. Elections will keep the different branches of government swinging between the right and the left.
What American elections 2018 mean is that the radical right was only an aberration that took over the right for a brief period of time, before radicals go back to the shadows as a marginal force. The world is on its way back to normal politics that swings between right and left. President Trump can either join normal politics, or risk losing the White House, the same way his radical brand of politics has cost him and his party the majority in Congress.
* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.