American Politics, society, World Politics

The US election will leave Congress divided and society polarised


If presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump must be credited with one success this campaign – and only one – it is that he has certainly engaged many US citizens with the nation’s politics. For both right and wrong reasons, his comments, hair-dos and demeanour have captivated social media and many a conversation. On the other side of the debate, the growth in support for the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders has seen the creation of a new, more radical left-wing of Democrats, similarly energising interest in US affairs amongst the electorate. But not only are citizens now gripped by intense debate ahead of the November vote.

Both the Republican and Democrat parties have found themselves in considerable quandaries over their party policy in the midst of a presidential campaign which many hoped would see unanimous support for one candidate representing each party. Donald Trump’s policies have profoundly split the GOP down the middle in ways never seen before, with many delegates attending this week’s deciding Cleveland convention seeking to change their sides.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has had its support snatched by those who preferred the politics of the more radical Bernie Sanders. ‘Socialism’ certainly isn’t a curse word anymore. Even though Clinton is the candidate of choice for the majority of Democrats, many new left-wingers remain dissatisfied. It is the powerful legacy of Bernie Sanders which is, in the same way as Trump has split the GOP, sure to firmly part the two camps making up the US Democrats.

There is no questioning that Republican nominee Donald Trump is a powerful speaker, and that he has gained the attention of many with his outspoken and sometimes controversial remarks. His far-right politics has pushed the party into a new era which many supporters passionately welcome. But a large section of the Republican party remains unconvinced. Even those conservatives who don’t passionately support Trump will likely end up voting for him, more repulsed by Democrat Hilary Clinton’s campaign.

However, it is important to note that a vote for a Presidential candidate and a vote for a Congressional candidate are two very different things. Presidents do not have ultimate power over Congress, and thus Trump’s policy is this year not likely to reflect the views of the entire party. The anti-establishment, far-right legacy of Donald Trump is sure to live on for several elections to come. His campaign has seen the creation of two vastly different wings – one promoting typically populist, hard-right values, and another which represents supporters of more moderate, traditionally Republican politics.

Make no mistake – this is a divide which is something a little similar to the sort that currently ravages the UK’s Conservative Party, and one which could come to greatly disrupt Republican progress. This is bad news for the GOP. Passing policy in Congress has already been difficult for them and their Democrat counterparts, the Democrats just as divided between its internally liberal and more centrist wings. For them, the appearance of Bernie Sanders is likely to accentuate their party’s problems all the more. The final years of Barack Obama’s presidency have seen huge divisions between the Houses of Congress and the US Executive, with a Republican majority Senate, a House of Representatives which has gradually moved into Republican control, and, of course, a determined Democrat as US President.

The 2016 election campaign has sadly given us no hint that these internal barriers will break down. Bipartisanship will be more necessary than ever before when it comes to policymaking. Both parties may struggle to bring themselves to it given the disarray. As the US socialist movement has gained unbelievable momentum, with still existent support for Bernie Sanders, and after Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton has become embroiled in scandals relating to email malpractice, America’s liberals are just as split as the Republicans are with the Trump phenomenon. Mid-term elections take place as well this year, the results of which likely to serve as evidence of the deeply laid party differences in both Houses of Congress – differences that are sure to hinder US political progress.

As the American liberals became delayed in Congress, and their presidential candidates began to cause divisions, the Republicans believed that they were safe. Instead, the epidemic of populism has come to set their party back, as much as it has, in some ways, transformed it. Congress will now be a battleground not only between the Democrat and Republican entities, but increasingly between the more specific factions which separate politicians of both parties internally, too.

Winning a presidential election may be doable this November for Trump. But carrying through an effective presidency which commands unity amid such dispute could mean something very different if he is to gain success. Whilst Trump controls the most part of the Republican party right now, and Clinton prevails with most – but by no means all – Democrat party support, either one of them may become US politics’ next lame duck, failing to bring together even their own party members in Congress. Passing successful policy will now be some hard feat, and is sure to require hard bargaining.

It has to be said that a win for Trump would certainly be something quite paradoxical. It is predominantly he who has nursed such an intense split in the GOP. His new politics is the reason for his success, but could be the reason for his downfall should Trump win this year, and seek re-election in 2020. At the other lectern, Hillary Clinton must not fall into a state of illusion whereby she believes herself safe. The great support for Sanders, and also her own malpractice has come to weaken her support. Both US parties remain intensely split, and this will undoubtedly come to threaten the chances of success for the next President of America.