What happened to the “Red Wave”?
The corporate media are broadly portraying the better- than-expected outcome as a victory for the Democrats. The results, however, represent more of a vote against the Republican Party and its Trumpian leadership than they do a clear vote for President Biden and the Democrats.
Democratic voters appear to have turned out mainly over anger at the Republican attack on abortion with the Dobbs ruling on Roe v. Wade and concerns over the right-wing and threats to democratic rights. Exit polls consistently showed abortion as one of the top two issues, and abortion rights victories were won in five states where it was on the ballot.
Relative success for the Democrats seems to have been almost exclusively driven by turnout. In recent months, there was a wave of voter registrations by women and young people that likely contributed to historically high Democratic voter representation at the polls.
Biden agenda blocked
But even though the Democrats managed to hold onto the Senate, the Biden agenda will be blocked by the extremely narrow House Republican majority. The narrowness of the Republican majority gives the hard right-wing Freedom Caucus the balance of power, formerly enjoyed by the Squad of ‘progressive’ Democrats for the last two years.
They had a historic opportunity to fight for the popular program they ran on — including a federal $15 minimum wage and Medicare for All, yet they threw it away, effectively whipped into line by Biden and Nancy Pelosi as Leader of the House. Now the right wing will use its own balance of power to pose as the defenders of working-class people.
2024 starts now
Much of the corporate media has concluded that the midterm elections represent a defeat for Donald Trump. The results are more mixed. While the former president may have hurt the total Republican vote overall, the right wing made many advances with more than 210 election- denying Republicans winning seats in the U.S. House and Senate.
Trump has now announced that he will run for President in 2024. He will use his presidential run to further reinforce his hold over the party and go after any potential opponents. Hopes that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a big winner in the midterm elections, could offer an alternative to Trump as GOP standard bearer in 2024 are unlikely to bear fruit.
Deep crisis in both parties
The deepening levels of division inside both parties come from the growing crisis of capitalism itself, and the inability of the ruling class to agree on any way forward. This is a global phenomenon, as evidenced by the utter disarray in the British Tory Party.
With a worsening economic crisis, and a recession all but certain next year, the coming months don’t bode well for the Democrats. Biden may be able to fend off challengers in a Democratic primary, but that will not represent Democratic unity so much as fear of the party leadership of what a wide-open primary could look like.
To begin with, the Republicans will likely move aggressively to block the Biden agenda. In the short term, this could well play to their benefit as Democrats are still seen as largely responsible for the crisis in the economy. However, in the medium and longer term, they will be forced to further articulate their own agenda. Efforts by Republicans to create manufacturing jobs could be popular, though highly unlikely to be anything other than empty, populist promises.
On the other hand, one only has to look to Liz Truss’ disastrous and shortest-ever term as British Prime Minister to see how deeply unpopular neoliberal spending cuts are likely to be in the present crisis of capitalism. Certainly, if Republicans carried through with their threatened attacks on Social Security or Medicare, it would seriously damage them.
We need a party of our own
The rightward direction of the Republican Party, and it posing now as the “party of the workers,” represents an increasingly dangerous threat to ordinary people in the US and globally. But the growth of the right wing doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from the complete failure of the Democrats to fight for working people, including its “progressive” members like the Squad.
We need new mass organisations of struggle and a new political party for working people and youth. Such a party should root itself in mass movements, like Socialist Alternative’s elected Seattle City Councilmember, Kshama Sawant, and fight unambiguously for working people.
In this age of polarisation and disorder, working people are looking for a way to fight back. The growing efforts to unionise in the U.S. at major corporations like Amazon and Starbucks, alongside the mass protests to defend abortion rights, show the hunger for progressive change.