how Donald Trump’s shadow hangs over midterms

Conspiracy, degagism, stolen election… Within the Republican Party the “Trump question” has been decided: the candidates supported by the former president have won the primaries. A Trump victory on Tuesday could boost a Donald Trump candidacy in 2024.

Has a former president ever had so much influence in an election?? Generally, when a re-elected head of state loses, his party readjusts its political line and program for the next election. Paradoxically, after Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in 2020, the Republican Party has not deviated from its ideology.

On the contrary, at the time of partial examsmidterm elections scheduled for Tuesday“the party was wrong”, sums up Marie-Cécile Naves, director of research at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris).

“It is unprecedented,” said political scientist Nicole Bacharan, a specialist in the United States, interviewed by “However, in 2020, the Republicans have lost everything.”

A “grip” on the Republican Party

Despite his defeat, Donald Trump still got 76 million votes in the last presidential election. “That’s 12 million more than in 2016,” says Marie-Cécile Naves. Similarly, despite the swing in the Senate, the Democrats suffered a slight setback against the Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The day after the presidential election, the Grand Old Party (GOP), as it is known across the Atlantic, faced a Manichean choice: for or against Donald Trump? The second option prevailed, leaving the members of the party unfavorable to the former president totally marginalized.

“Others have changed their speech for opportunism and now swear allegiance to him, like Kevin McCarthy, leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives,” explains Nicole Bacharan.

“It is completely exceptional, it is in the personality of Donald Trump, his influence and his constant activity,” continues the political scientist.

Candidates “made” by Trump

For Senate elections, eight states are particularly scrutinized because they could tilt control of the upper house of Congress; without a majority, Joe Biden would be greatly hampered during the last two years of his term. In seven of these swing states, the Republican candidate chosen in the primaries is a Trumpist.

“As Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party has strengthened, they can’t do without him,” explains Nicole Bacharan. The former president even regularly brags about having “done” several of them.

Among these candidates are, for example, Don Bolduc (New Hampshire) and Blake Masters (Arizona) who argue that the 2020 election was stolen, Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania), a doctor adept at unconventional methods who promoted hydroxychloroquine to fight against Covid-19. or Herschel Walker (Georgia), a former American football player, who played in a franchise owned by Donald Trump.

Former US President Donald Trump throws caps
Former US President Donald Trump throws “Save America” ​​hats into the crowd during a campaign rally in Arizona on October 9, 2022. © MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP

There is still JD Vance (Ohio), who after being a “Never Trumper” (never succeed), now fully embraces his line, having understood that his chances of victory depended on the support of the former president. “JD wants my support so much it pisses me off.” Donald Trump recently mocked.

Liz Cheney symbol

In the race for the House of Representatives, it was Liz Cheney’s defeat that showed the extent of the party’s trumpification. This conservative-elect was the symbol of anti-Trumpism within the Republican Party: she is one of the ten Republican representatives who voted in favor of his impeachment and is, above all, vice president of the commission of investigation on the insurrection of the Capitol, which occurred on September 6. January 2021, a few weeks before the transfer of power between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The former president had launched a vendetta against who was seeking her fourth term in the House of Representatives. It was Harriet Hageman, a Trumpist, who largely won the Republican primary in Wyoming.

“Two years ago I won those primaries with 73% of the votes. I could have done it again, it was easy. (But) I would have had to accept President Trump’s lies about the 2020 elections,” Liz Cheney launched on the night of the 20th. her defeat

The Stolen Election Thesis in 2020

Adherence to the Trump doctrine is based, in fact, on the disinterest of the traditional Republican elites and on the denial of the 2020 defeat. This thesis has been widely spread by Donald Trump and his followers within the party, despite the complete absence of evidence.

For this first national vote since the election of Joe Biden and the events on Capitol Hill, many Republican contenders are disputing the Democrat’s victory. “Half of the candidates adhere to this thesis”, says Marie-Cécile Naves. According to a study60% of Americans will find on their ballot a candidate who denies the 2020 result.

Many local representatives are also elected during these partial exams. Republican candidates who doubt the 2020 results, or even actively worked to overturn them, are running for positions where, if elected, they will have enormous influence on counting votes and validating the results of future elections.

We find, for example, Mark Finchem, in Arizona, a member of the Oath Keepersa far-right militia that notably participated in the insurrection of January 6, 2021. Also present at the scene was Doug Mastriano, the Republican who invested to run for governor in Pennsylvania, rented buses and offered trips to the Capitol.

In Michigan, the candidate for the position of Attorney General, Matthew DePerno, is accused of having carried out a clandestine and illegal investigation of the voting machines to demonstrate an alleged manipulation of the presidential elections. Unfounded accusations that have never been proven, despite multiple procedures.

Republican activists at a rally on October 1, 2022 in Michigan, a man wears a cap
Republican activists at a rally in Michigan on October 1, 2022, a man wears a cap that says “Trump Won,” a reference to the 2020 presidential election. © JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP

Democracy at the center of the vote?

With such profiles, Marie-Cécile Naves fears “fraud, disputes over results, violence” on the night of November 8 and in the following days. “Of course there will be some,” laments the specialist. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they killed a senator or an elected official,” even anti-Trump Republican Senator Susan Collins declared in early October in New York Times columns.

On October 28, a man wildly assaulted the husband of the leader of the Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi. Two weeks before the midterm elections, it was she who was attacked. The attacker shared conspiracy theses on social networks, in particular about the “stolen” elections of 2020.

Faced with the situation, the democrats and in particular Joe Biden tries to make democracy the central issue on the ballot. The current White House tenant is also involved in making this midterm election something of a remake of 2020.

“I think I can beat Donald Trump again,” he said recently.

For Marie-Cécile Naves, the pace of mobilization of Democratic voters will be decisive. “The issue of democracy or others such as abortion are important to them,” explains the political scientist.

However, “the concerns of the campaign are not favorable to them,” says Nicole Bacharan. Purchasing power and inflation seem to be the main themes of these partial exams. And “in the United States, in economic management, we rather trust the Republicans,” he continues.

A winning bet for Trump?

Will Trumpization at the Ballot Box Pay Off for the GOP? He won the majority in the primaries, often embodied by political novices with radical positions. However, it is not certain that the trend will continue for partial examswith a larger electorate.

“It can scare independents and moderates, but it is more of an election of the convinced, the others will not necessarily go to the polls”, tempers Nicole Bacharan.

A Republican Party campaign rally for the midterm elections in Arizona, on October 9, 2022.
Republican Party campaign rally for the midterm elections in Arizona, October 9, 2022. © MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Donald Trump knows your chances for 2024 they are based in part on the victory of “their” candidates in the midterm elections. If there is a Republican wave, the former president is expected to try to use it as a springboard for the next presidential election. “If the bet is won, he will be able to race again in 2024, it is important for the future”, concludes Marie-Cécile Naves.

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