Imagine if United States president Donald Trump visited New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi the same week when the local body (MCD) polls in a crucial Indian city were scheduled to take place – it does seem like an awkward comparison but something similar is happening in the United States. A high stakes election in a northern suburb of Atlanta, called Georgia's 6th Congressional District, is the first test of the Republicans' strength and the national political mood early in Trump's presidency.
It's happening on 20 June, 2017 (Tuesday) and is too close to call. It is the most expensive House race in the US history. Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff, 30, has raised more than $23 million, mostly from individual donors and his Republican opponent Karen Handel has spent nearly $17 million on this race.
Democrats need to regain at least 24 Republican held seats by next Fall to take back the House majority. Both the arms of US Congress - the House of Representatives and the Senate, are now led by the Republicans.
Republicans have held the Georgia 6th district seat since 1979. If the young Ossoff wins, it's an upset that will shake Trump backers to the core ahead of the 2018 midterm elections due in November.
Results will be factored in well before Modi touches down in Washington but the results matter to Trump and who might become his next whipping boy.
If the Republicans lose, that grizzled champion of 'America First' nationalism, Stephen Bannon won't go quietly into the night. He is likely to coach, prod, cajole or inspire Trump's next move.
If Bannon decides that Trump must go back to firing the faithful, that could well mean going back to the causes he advanced ahead of Trump's 2016 win - that societies collapse because elites stand by and watch while immigrants ravage America's cities and take away jobs, space and local culture.
America's immigration policy shines light on what is "exceptional" about the country's policy, not "normal" and under Bannon and Trump, "America may once again start behaving like a normal nation," Robert Kagan wrote in Financial Times just after the 2016 election. We're already seeing that happen - this is the first time in three decades since the Immigration Act of 1990 that the world's most powerful office has accused Indian companies of gaming the H1B visa system. The Asian-American population in the US now makes up the best educated and the wealthiest demographic cohort and Bannon does not think that these trends are palatable.
Bannon's nationalist cause will not be helped by Trump becoming moderate either at home or while dealing with foreign powers. It's unlikely that Bannon does not know or does not care about Modi's visit to the US.
Anti-immigration stories are a bread and butter like affair at Breitbart, the far right rag that Bannon ran before he stormed into the White House. Foreign policy experts are veering to the view that potentially choppy issues like the H1B may not surface in the Modi-Trump summit.
But what if the Republicans lose Georgia? Is Bannon watching the base slip away and wants a red-hot headline to fire them up?
At least until the Georgia results are out, it’s something to chew on.
Updated Date: Jun 20, 2017 21:04:49 IST