Under the bipartisan election competition-rotation system in the United States, the four-yearly presidential election is the focus of competition for power, while the mid-term elections (middle of the presidential term) re-elect some senators, all congress representatives, some governors, state legislators, and judicial personnel. It has become a competition between the ruling and opposition parties to use their two-year achievements to win more government seats. If the president's performance is good and his or her poll approval rating is high, the ruling party led by the president should be able to increase seats at all levels. Traditionally, this rarely happens. On the contrary, the President usually loses congressional seats. When Biden was elected president in 2020, Democrats controlled the House (238: 197) and the Senate (50:50) but the vice president (Kamala Harris, Democrat) could add a vote to break a tie (51:50). The President's control of the Senate and Congress is, of course, a great help in passing legislation, key personnel appointments and budgetary funding. On the contrary, the president may become a lame duck, and the entire administration may be restrained by Congress, the appointments of the cabinet, the request for additional budget, and any proposed bill may all be boycotted by Congress. The president may be forced to change policies or make compromises. Therefore, the mid-term elections in the United States are of great importance, more so when the country is encountering more difficulties. The mid-term elections become opportunities for the common people to sound the alarm and express their dissatisfaction by selecting people who can turn around the bad situation or even turn the tide by replacing the president in two years. This kind of mechanism is indispensable in the democratic political system, although its effect is not always positive. First, the national issues are too complex, and the people's understanding of them is very different, therefore, it is not easy to integrate and achieve a consensus of understanding among a large population. Second, the life experiences of candidates are very different with little rigorous screening. The voters’ selection is mostly influenced by superficial skills (oratory, attitude, appearance) and money (campaign funding, fundraising, PR). Therefore, when we look at the mid-term elections in the U.S., we must have the above understanding in order to appreciate the results.
The current national condition of the United States is in the most difficult time since WW II. The U.S. has gradually developed into a superpower in the world following the U.S. victory in WW II. Although facing the communist Soviet Union, the U.S. suffered the least damage and gained the most advantage through WW II. In addition to its vast land and resources, her post-war economic development quickly made the U.S. the world's largest economy, thus making her capable to lead the world in economic development and promoting post-war recovery. It is undeniable that the U.S. has indeed helped many countries to recover, including Europe and Asia, especially Western European countries such as Germany, and East Asian regions such as the Philippines and Japan, which have received the most funding from the U/S., later making them American allies. The Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union lasted for 40 to 50 years. In the end, the Soviet Union’s economy and the Union collapsed (1990), and the U.S. became the world’s greatest power. However, at this time, the U.S. had changed its economic structure, focusing more on finance and investment-related service industries, and favored only defense and military-related technologies, so that other small and medium-sized manufacturing companies gradually moved out of the country to be a part of the global supply chain. However, in the global economy, hard workers generate more and fast economic growth. For example, Japan and Germany used to have rapid economic growth, but that threatened the no. 1 economic status of the U.S. The U.S. suppressed Japan’s economic growth with a forceful agreement (Plaza Agreement). However, the U.S. economy had a slower growth rate compared with that of emerging countries, such as China, Brazil, India, etc., hence the U.S. economy was relatively weakened from 40% of the world economy to less than 20%. At the same time, China's rapid growth maintained into the 21st century (>17% of world GDP) making the U.S. felt pressured. The U.S. cannot force China not to grow like Japan. Biden's China policy followed Trump's trade war and sanctions against China with even increased pressure on her allies to target China, which naturally forced China to resist and retaliate. With the impact of the Coronavirus epidemic in recent years, the death toll in the U.S. exceeded one million, which gave a heavy blow to her economy and increased her domestic crime rate. On the foreign policy front, the U.S. lost Afghanistan and its leverage in the Middle East. Today, the U.S. is suffering from a 7% domestic inflation rate putting her in the most difficult time since WW II. The performance record of the Biden Administration is not as good as the press would lead people to believe, so this year's mid-term election will flip Congress with high probabilities.
Although the mid-term elections had passed, but due to the close contention of several races, the exceptional volume of the mail-in votes, and winning votes less than 50% requiring a run-off election, the final election results may not be completely determined until December. At this time, the author can only make a few comments for the readers based on the information from the news media:
1. There are a total of 435 members of the House of Representatives, divided as 238 Democrats and 197 Republicans (independents included according to their voting record). All 435 House Representatives are to be re-elected in 2022. The changes in this year's mid-term election may be tallied as of November 10 as 209 Republicans (gained 6 seats) and 191 Democrats (lost 7 seats). The projection is that Republicans may gain 13 more seats making a total of 222, leaving democrats 213 seats.
2. There are a total of 100 senators in the Senate. There are 35 seats (presently 12D and 23R) to be re-elected in 2022. According to the tally on November 10, the Republicans have won 19 seats plus 3 hopefuls (NC, OHIO, WIS) reaching 49 total and Democrats have won 7 seats plus 3 hopefuls (COLO, NH, PA) reaching 48 total. Georgia needs to have a run-off and Nevada and Arizona are still counting. Georgia may decide whether the Senate majority goes to the Republicans (51 seats).
Based on the election results above, one may conclude that Biden will be a lame-duck president. The first thing he will face is the need of raising the US debt limit. If the debt limit is not raised, the US government will be forced to shut down. Republicans are reluctant to expand the government's spending/debt, and will certainly not raise the debt limit easily. However, some people in the media actually described the matter in a sour-grape tone: "US presidents have always lost their congressional seats in mid-term elections. Obama is an example. When the Republicans gain seats, they will increase their internal fights. This is how Obama has slid to a second term." This is wishful thinking that Biden may also slide into his second term.
This column is a serious forum, especially in international affairs, we cannot treat state affairs lightly. Biden and the 118th Congress have to deal with the stoppage of the Russian-Ukrainian war, how to resolve the harmful rivalry with China, and how to turn the relationship into cooperation beneficial to the world. The two countries need to work together to solve the climate change issues. Both need to collaborate in technology development and space research rather than decoupling and confrontation. We citizens have to ask the newly elected government officials to treat state affairs with sincerity and seriousness, not sliding into the next term nor kicking the can to the 119th Congress. Diplomatically, we cannot say one thing and do the other. We cannot say that we want to talk and work with China but also pressure our allies to sanction China with us. Just look at the performance of the G20 versus G7, following the World Expo in Shanghai, China, and the air show in Zhuhai, the U.S. is losing its credibility. While we are sanctioning China in semiconductors, U.S. corporations are attending China’s expo and air show. Shouldn’t we be consistent with our words and deeds? As voters, we must view every election as an opportunity to demand change, progress, and improvements. Let's watch Biden and the 118th Congress.