Midterm san­ity amid the mad­ness

Business Day - - OPINION -

Af­ter two years of po­lit­i­cal ran­cour and so­cial tur­moil, the US midterm elec­tions pro­vided an en­cour­ag­ing de­mon­stra­tion of the power of democ­racy in ac­tion. Elec­tion day on Tues­day was marked by a high voter turnout, close con­tests and a shift in the po­lit­i­cal bal­ance.

De­spite the ac­ri­mo­nious cam­paign, all Amer­i­cans should take sat­is­fac­tion from an out­come that shows the coun­try’s sys­tem of checks and bal­ances is work­ing.

The Congress that has just been elected does more to re­flect the coun­try in all its di­ver­sity, with a record num­ber of women elected to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The fact that both ma­jor par­ties have emerged from the midterms with grounds for op­ti­mism could also be good news for the US po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. If the US is to avoid a de­scent into even more bit­ter par­ti­san­ship, it is cru­cial that vot­ers can see that the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem still of­fers both sides a fair chance of vic­tory.

Drain­ing some of the ran­cour from the po­lit­i­cal de­bate will also be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of elected politi­cians. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has spo­ken of adopt­ing a more re­strained style of rhetoric, but there is lit­tle in his record to sug­gest he is will­ing or ca­pa­ble of do­ing that.

A lot will there­fore de­pend on the newly em­pow­ered Con­gres­sional Democrats. It is both le­git­i­mate and nec­es­sary for the House Democrats to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and malfea­sance, and to pro­tect the Mueller in­quiry into col­lu­sion with Rus­sia.

But in their own in­ter­ests and, more im­por­tantly, the broader in­ter­ests of the US, the Democrats should strive to use their new pow­ers with re­spon­si­bil­ity.

If the next two years are dom­i­nated only by par­ti­san in­fight­ing in Wash­ing­ton, the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s dis­il­lu­sion­ment with pol­i­tics is only likely to grow. The Democrats them­selves could be­come the tar­gets of a pop­u­lar back­lash. /Lon­don, Novem­ber 8

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