Alabama elections for senate and loss of the Republican seat to Democrats may appear to be insignificant for people outside the United States, but it is being felt as a tectonic shift in American politics. With a plummeting popularity, Republican Party and Donald Trump may be having cold feet this Christmas. Trump’s presidency remained controversial right from the word go; from the head counting of how many attended Trump’s inauguration on 20th Jan to defeat of Roy Moore on 14 Nov, it appears if nothing is working right for Trump. Trump’s addiction to twitter and participation in twitterati wars, something very unusual for POTUS, has created serious governance and foreign policy challenges to his team. Immediately after his inauguration the Russia-gate scandal became a dark cloud hovering over the White House. Allegedly Trump and his team were found to be conniving with some Russian businessmen and diplomats to adversely affect Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump had to fire his national security advisor Gen Flynn within seven days of his appointment, apparently due to pressure built up by CIA. The ongoing FBI investigation into Russia-gate is becoming a Pandora’s box with new discoveries on how extensive and deep was the involvement of Russia factor in the whole Trump campaign.
Coming back to the loss of Senate seat in Alabama by Republicans; it may be appreciated that Republicans lost the seat after 25 years and Alabama was considered a strong hold of the GOP in the ‘deep red south’. Loss of Senate seat in Alabama by Republicans indicates that Trump has lost popularity in a big way.
Alabama senate election was also hit by #MeeToo, a social media campaign which spread like wild fire after top Hollywood film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein was denounced and disgraced through allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. MeeToo has become a tornado in United states and the larger west as several famous women in showbiz, politics, academia, sports and church came up with their individual version of how they were sexually harassed or molested by men in positions of power and authority. The latest allegation has come from US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, when she demanded that Senator Al Franken and President Trump should resign on the issue of alleged sexual harassment of women. Earlier a 2005 “Access Hollywood” Trump audiotape of conversation with TV host Billy Bush made headlines during Trump campaign where Trump can be heard boasting about his ability for open and bold sexual advances while meeting with womenfolk. The #MeToo is now being used by Trump critics and opponents to expose him in the media. As reported by Boston Globe the #MeToo movement is knocking on Donald Trump’s front doors. More than 50 Democratic Congresswomen are calling for an investigation by the house Oversight Committee in the Trump allegations. In a letter to the Chairman, Republican Representative Trey Gowdy, they wrote, ‘we cannot ignore the multitude of women who have come forward with accusations against Mr Trump’.
Earlier in a press conference, Rachel Crooks, Samantha Holvey and Jessica Leeds, spoke about their accusations as well as how it felt to be dismissed and disbelieved while Trump was elected President. It may be interesting to watch the American political satire on daily talk shows and comedy programs as they indicate the general mood in the public. Stephen Colbert in the Late Show blasted Trump in a programme ‘Trump lost to the #MeToo’ movement. It is also interesting to note that Time magazine awarded the person of the year tag to #MeToo movement with the title, ‘The Silent Breakers’. Across the west, people are questioning the very IQ of 50% of America who elected Trump with such a majority; however Trump camp and constituency which has staunchly supported him in the first year has seen visible cracks especially in the Alabama Senate elections. The Steve Bannon phenomenon seems to be losing steam and has come under critical radar due to loss of this historic stronghold of the Republican Party in Alabama. Incidentally #MeToo movement also affected the senate elections in Alabama as the Republican candidate Roy Moore’s campaign was tarnished by allegations of sexual misconduct against young girls as well as his high handedness in dealing with non-white communities. While the white vote was dented due to #MeToo scandal, the blacks overwhelmingly voted for Democrat candidate Doug Jones.
Vox.com maintains that Doug Jones entered this race as a sacrificial lamb. The last time this seat was up for election in 2014, Jeff Sessions ran literally unopposed; he won 97.3 percent of the vote against a write-in Democratic candidate. But Jones was a reasonably qualified candidate. He made his name as a widely respected prosecutor who launched the successful prosecutions of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, two of the Ku Klux Klan members involved in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which killed four young black girls in Birmingham in 1963.
Another casualty of #MeToo campaign was Republican lawmaker from Kentucky, Danny Ray Johnson, nicknamed ‘The Pope’. As reported by Mail Online, ‘ he was facing allegations that he sexually assaulted his daughter’s friend at a New Year’s Eve party and shot himself dead on a Kentucky bridge on 14 Dec. Father-of-five and pastor Dan Johnson, 57, who made headlines for posting racist pictures likening the Obamas to monkeys and once claimed he had run a morgue at Ground Zero, wrote an emotional, Facebook post just hours before killing himself.
While in US domestic politics the Democratic win in Alabama and the #MeToo movement may affect the struggle for dominance of Senate, these trends along with Russia-gate could have serious ramifications for White House, Trump and the US foreign policy.
In one of our piece published in the Nation with the title, the Fired White House, we had discussed the challenges of governance faced by White House and the Capitol Hill. Trump’s style of governance remains an enigma, he has already fired more than a dozen senior persons in White House starting from National Security Advisor Gen Flynn to White House Communication director, Anthony Scaramucci. The Russia-gate investigators from FBI are under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, increasing the stress level in the White House and Trump presidency.
Russia-gate is already affecting foreign policy and has left deep scars on the foundations of American democratic system. Can people running the White House and Capitol Hill sustain so much of pressure, especially when dealing with sensitive issues of North Korea, South China Sea, Gulf crisis and Afghanistan. Taking cue from history and looking at President Nixon’s last year in office when water-gate scandal hit the US, one can conclude that US is heading into a period of domestic instability and chaos.
Metternich’s famous quote, ‘when France sneezes, Europe catches a cold’ may apply to US at present. Let’s hope that US does not sneeze, as the entire world cannot afford a cold, this winter.