By Ajaya Kumar Vemulapati
There has been a huge upsurge of interest in the outcome of the mid-term elections in the USA not only within the US but in India too. India is watching with great interest the happenings in one of the world’s oldest democracies.
So, what are these mid-term elections scheduled for November 6 and why are they relevant to us in India? Let’s first understand the US legislative system. The legislative body of the US known as US Congress has two chambers — House of Representatives and Senate.
US Legislative System
The House of Representatives also known as the ‘Lower Chamber’ has 435 voting members and 6 non-voting members. The Senate or the ‘Upper Chamber’ has 100 members, two each from each State of the US. The Vice President is entitled to a vote in the Senate only if there is a tie in the number of votes.
The House of Representatives has the duty of passage of legislation called ‘Bills’. More importantly, the House has the exclusive power to initiate all Bills relating to revenue and impeachment proceedings against Federal officers. The Speaker of the House is the third most important post in the US after the President and the Vice-President. The Republican party holds a majority in the House now. All 435 seats in the house are up for contest in these mid-term elections.
The Senate or the Upper Chamber has advisory powers and has to ratify the Presidential appointments. The Senate also has the power to conduct impeachment trial of Federal officers. It also ratifies international treaties. Bills passed by both the Lower Chamber and the Upper Chamber become law and are sent to the US President for approval. The Republicans hold a majority in the Senate too. Of the 100 Senate seats, 35 are up for election in the mid-term.
The Upper and Lower chambers have been designed as part of the checks and balances system of the US which is what makes it such a successful democracy.
Some of the key issues in the mid-term elections include Immigration Laws, Gun Laws, Trade Laws, Gender discrimination and Racial discrimination.
Donald Trump’s presidency has been marked by ‘America First’ and ‘Make America Great Again’’ slogans and its policies have ostensibly been oriented towards these objectives. This has received wide support from a sizeable section of the white population in the US, more so in the age groups, which are 45 years and above. However, there have been a number of detractors too who strongly feel that the policies of the Trump administration are not in keeping with America’s core values of Liberty, Equality, Justice, Diversity, etc.
Trump has also been actively indulging in trade wars renegotiating a number of trade pacts entered into with nations by his predecessors. Stricter immigration laws are being sought to be implemented but are seemed as discriminatory towards certain religions and races.
Increasing gun violence leading to mass fatalities, especially in schools, have led to the student community and the younger populace demanding stricter gun laws. White supremacy groups are being more vocal and they seem to sense an ally in the President of the USA who sought to equate white supremacy violence with the protesters against such groups.
Women have been particularly agitated by the present dispensation’s views on various issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights, environment and gender discrimination. Huge demonstrations signifying the power of women have been a regular feature during the last two years of Trump’s tenure.
Impact on India
For India, Trump’s move to do away with the H4 visa, which allows spouses of H1B visa holders to legally work in the USA, has been a huge blow. Similarly, tighter restrictions on the issue of H1B visas and the latest move to deny citizenship rights to a child born in the US to parents who are not citizens of the US are also seen as hitting at the immigrant Indian population in the US.
And since in both the chambers of US Congress, the Republicans are in majority, all the proposals of the President have a good chance of becoming law without too much of a hindrance. But the mid-term elections on the November 6 can change the game in a significant way.
The pre-poll surveys predict big gains for the Democrats in the House of Representatives and there is 6/7 chance of the Democrats taking control of the same. The Democrats may reduce the lead of Republicans in the Senate too and may end up with 50 seats. However, in this scenario, the Vice President who is a Republican is entitled to vote and this will tilt the scales in favour of the Republicans.
But if the Democrats do take control of the House of Representatives, the Trump administration will find itself shackled on various fronts. There are calls for impeachment of the President already and if this does happen, we will find that the last two years of Trump will end up in fighting bitter battles and he might not be able to further his agenda.
Some interesting trends in this elections are a huge increase in registration of first time voters, huge increase in early voting, highest number of women contesting in elections, and very high turnout of voters expected unlike the past mid-term elections where voter enthusiasm was generally low.
These elections are being seen as a referendum on the Trump Presidency and Trump has been stumping all across the country trying to galvanise his supporters. It remains to be seen as to how American voters perceive
Trump’s performance to date and whether they will back his controversial agenda. We are just hours from finding the verdict and the immigrant Indian community is waiting with bated breath.