US midterm results: Donald Trump victory lap signals he will weaponise hardline immigration for 2020 bid

New York: US president Donald Trump pounced on the mixed verdict from midterm elections 2018 and spun it as a “tremendous success”, signalling that he’s not going to back down from his hardline agenda on immigration and race as a political battle cry that speaks the secret lingo that his predominantly white, male and rural base wants to hear all the way into Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.

 US midterm results: Donald Trump victory lap signals he will weaponise hardline immigration for 2020 bid

Donald Trump is framing the midterm election results as a huge success. AP

Trump has good reason to stay on the offensive although one party rule is over for the next two years at least. Yes, Democrats are celebrating but their edge remains narrow. With 218 seats needed for a majority in the 435-member Houses, Democrats have won 220 and the Republicans 193, with winners undetermined in 22 races at noon on 7 November. Democrats are also fighting their way back to power in state capitols across the country in their nationwide strategy to reverse years of Republican gains in state capitols. Their victories in Illinois, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin were balanced by Republicans holding on to one of the top prizes, Florida, and the governor's offices in Ohio and Arizona. All three states will figure prominently in the presidential map in two years.

Barely 24 hours before the final votes were cast on 6 November, in a show of online brute force to drive people to the polls, he said he has proof that illegal immigrants not just crash the border but also end up voting. A complete lie but Trump is not speaking to multicultural America, he is speaking to its most militant opponents who voted for him because he spoke to their fears of losing their dominant status as the white majority, not job loss or economic anxiety. Demographics is destiny, a divided political result also proved in America’s midterms - cast by pundits and politicos as the most consequential in a generation. Despite Democratic gains, the grim reality of Trump's hard right foot soldiers turning out in record numbers to vote for keeping Republicans in power in the Senate is equally stark. There are plenty of takers for Trump's caravan conspiracy, no matter how wacky or distorted.

Broadly, suburban, college-educated voters rejected Trump’s warnings of a migrant “invasion" while blue-collar voters and rural America embraced his aggressive talk and stances. This is heartening for hawks in the Trump White House who dislike in equal measure the prospect of immigration-led demographic change and a female takeover in local and national government.

As of Wednesday, voters were on track to send at least 100 women to the House, surpassing the previous record of 84. According to data compiled by The Associated Press, 237 women ran for the House as major-party candidates this year. That number is expected to grow, as results had not been called for more than a dozen races in which women are running. Women struck by the "emergency" of the Trump presidency made headlines today and the male response in Trump country sounds like this: "It's every man's worst nightmare!"

The cultural divisions could not be starker but America has been here before. Back in the late 1950s (1958) bombs began exploding at places of worship and schools and public institutions about four years after the winners from the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education began enjoying the fruits of the Supreme Court decision. Desegregation was a triumph for many, but not for all. The fringe whites began organising to oppose desegregation. That’s when the violence began.

Columnist Ralph McGill wrote in the Atlanta Constitution at the time, an eerie reminder of what we were thinking when a Republican madcap spilled innocents' blood at a synagogue in Pennsylvania exactly two weekends ago. McGill wrote: "To be sure, none said go bomb a Jewish temple or a school. But let it be understood that when leadership in high places in any degree fails to support constituted authority, it opens the gates to all those who wish to take law into their hands.”

The same questions were asked of Trump. His response: "There are a lot of things that are offensive...". For a win in 2020, Trump has already indicated in ample measure that the ends justify the means. “I never regret anything, it all worked out nicely”, he shot back when asked if he felt bad about alleging that an opponent’s father may have been involved in John F Kennedy’s assassination.

It's easy to say America’s tight embrace of Trumpism began with his 2016 election win but no, it began with Barack Obama’s election if you take a 10 year view and it began with the Brown v. Board of the Presidency if you take a 50 year view. Five years before he ran and won the big prize, Trump began demanding that Obama prove his citizenship. When the White House served up Obama's birth certificate, sample how Trump responded: “I feel I’ve accomplished something really, really important.” That is precisely how the 2020 election will be fought. Not the economy, jobs, healthcare but the palpable insecurity that Americans in the hinterland feel about the colour brown.

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Updated Date: Nov 08, 2018 07:23:13 IST