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Red and blue waves: Setting up the 2020 presidential elections

Walid Jawad

Published: Updated:

The much-touted Democrat Blue wave many pundits were foreshadowing was held off by a Republican dam. The unprecedented voters’ turnout made the typically unimpressive and much-ignored midterm elections more impressive than any other in recent history. Yesterday’s Election Day was of proportions similar to a presidential election.

The results proved the depth of the struggle between a divided America; Democrats regained control of the US House of Representatives, while Republicans expanded their majority in the US Senate. An impressive final result with many foretelling and extraordinary local races.

Some winners in hotly contested races triumphed in exciting fashion. Many survived the fiercest battles of their political lives. New faces and old names made for gripping races in battles of hope versus fear.

Although the most recognized name, Donald J. Trump, was never listed on any of the ballots, it was in fact a Trump election. The American people understood it for what it was: a referendum on his Presidency. So, did he win? The answer is yes.

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The simple reason being that he defined the parameters of the game and won it. Trump decided to focus his campaigning time and energy on Senate races. His calculation paid off: his Republican Party went beyond holding on to its Senate majority by expanding its lead with a comfortable margin.

Republicans had a slim majority with 51 of the 100 legislative Senate seats coming into this election. Once the dust settles, they are looking to increase their advantage to as many as 55. Trump emerged victorious delivering a loyal constituency for his Republican party.

The tide was in the Republicans favor with gerrymandered districts making it all but impossible for the Democrats to overcome Trump’s cult of personality in solidly Republican districts. Getting out the vote makes or breaks an election. Trump was successful in energizing his base winning big Senate races.

A different dynamic existed in House races. As expected, suburbia delivered a decisive victory to the Democrats. Women and other groups won big last night. Voters confirmed their support for equity and justice affirming a hopeful trajectory for the nation to combat the politics of fear that has been plaguing the country.

The American people understood it for what it was: a referendum on his Presidency. So, did he win? The answer is yes

Walid Jawad

An election of firsts

Rashida Tlaib, a female-Palestinian-Muslim candidate, won her race to the House of Representatives unopposed making her one of two Muslim-women candidates voted into Congress.

Along with Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American, they have shattered a once thought impenetrable political glass ceiling. The list of races worthy of recognition is long, even the ones where Arabs didn’t win.

As of yet, Ammar Campa-Najjar’s race has yet to be called, although he is predicted to lose. His loss is not a defeat. He has been a formidable challenger to a safe incumbent, Duncan Hunter. Hunter’s legal issues combined with Ammar’s vigor and appeal turned this race from a long shot to a narrowly contested election.

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Hunter used ad hominem attacks attempting to link Ammar to terrorism. Voters have shown a higher degree of sophistication giving Ammar a chance to make a case for himself. Despite the mudslinging tactics, Ammar has gained name recognition and a reputation as an effective campaigner.

Impressively, of the reported races with Arab-American candidates, two-thirds have secured their bids. According to the Arab American Institute’s website, Arab candidates won 16 of the 21 reported races up to the time of writing of this column. While many of the Arab names have gained recent recognition, such as Rashid, Elhan, and Ammar, others have been in the limelight for years.

Donna Shalala is one of those who has been in the public eye for many years. She was the Secretary to Health and Human Services in the Bill Clinton administration. Shalala’s win last night is significant for many reasons including her age, as one of the oldest at 77, and more importantly, as a Democrat who flipped a Republican district in the highly contested state of Florida.

But which party won?

Neither party won yesterday’s elections outright. The only clear result is the country’s growing division. The next two years, leading up to the presidential elections of 2020, are poised to be bitterly contested.

The nation will fight political battles for immediate gains along party lines in the name of saving America’s soul. Unfortunately, these political battles are expected to be vicious and ugly. America’s future will become dark as both Republicans and Democrats don their armors and sharpen their proverbial knives.

The new year, 2019 will bring a new Congressional dynamic as the newly elected cohort of candidates assume their seats. The Democrats are expected to aggressively move ahead with hearings into Trump’s Russia connections and investigations into Russian collusion with his 2016 presidential campaign.

Calls for impeachment proceedings will become louder and might gain traction. A possible constitutional crisis will appear on the horizon if Trump takes measures against the Robert Mueller Russia investigation.

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Trump’s personality of confrontation and political jousting will exacerbate the adverse effects of the political war between the two parties. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Politicians are myopically focused on advancing their personal gains losing sight of the damaging outcome befalling the nation.

Americans will be nudged to choose sides increasing their divisions. The next two years will create a new social and political norm that will take decades to overcome. Divisions of fear and hate will take generations to heals.

Yet, there is a silver lining. Americans have proven a much higher level of electoral discernment in yesterday’s midterm elections. They voted for candidates going beyond simplistic one-dimensional labels. Being Muslim is no longer a devastating accusation, being Arab is not an impediment to running and winning elections.

One can only hope that the resiliency of the American people can see the nation through the next cycle of devastating political wars.

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Walid Jawad is a former Senior Policy Analyst at US Department of State and a former Washington, DC correspondent. He covered American politics for a number of TV outlets since 1997. Walid holds an undergraduate degree (B.A) in Decision Science and Management Information Systems and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. You can follow him @walidaj.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.