US may have ‘more divided govt’ after midterms as recession fears drag Biden's ratings
Published: Oct 11, 2022 12:40 AM
US President Joe Biden Photo: AFP

US President Joe Biden Photo: AFP

Only less than four weeks to go before American voters find out whether they will have a more divided government and Congress amid growing fears of a recession, protests over abortion rights and ever-escalating polarized politics, Chinese observers said. They noted that US President Joe Biden, as the "biggest negative equity" of the Democratic Party, has dragged down drastically the favorable views of the Democrats. And even though the gap between the two parties has tightened in recent weeks, the Democrats will most likely lose the House in the midterm elections, the observers added. 

The result will be a more divided US government, no matter which party takes control of the Senate, observers said, warning a Republican-controlled House indicates Biden will find himself running out of room in pushing for major domestic legislations as well as budgets, and more countries will lose trust in the US due to its inconsistent policy and chaotic administration. 

The battle for control of the Congress has been intensifying for both parties recently ahead of the November 8 midterm elections as candidates of both parties ramped up attacks on each other in recent campaigns and the raging inflation and rising gas price has just fueled the campaign battle. 

Polling center in various places have beefed up security, and some centers may have security guards stationed on the Election Day, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Biden's approval ratings have been stuck at around 40 percent according to several US polls, though a slight increase compared to those in summer. Some Americans and the US media are worried that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its non-OPEC allies' recent plan to cut oil output would further aggravate the inflation and affect Biden's popularity. 

Reuters said the production cut is "reigniting US voters' No.1 fear"- high inflation - and handing a potential boost to Republican candidates. 

Inflation is one of the fiercest weapons the Republicans have been using to attack the Democrats, especially as it has reached a four-decade high. Chinese observers said the economic issue is the most critical factor in the midterm elections, which might be followed by traditional issues such as immigration and crimes, and then the personal performance of the candidates. 

According to a Monmouth University Poll released on October 3, 82 percent of Americans view inflation an "extremely or very essential issue" for the federal government to handle. 

The OPEC+ oil production cut will make matters worse for the Democratic Party in the elections, especially for the House of Representative which focuses more on domestic economic issues such as people's livelihoods and employment than the Senate, said Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.

"The oil production cut will have a direct effect on the oil price, which will further affect US domestic inflation and the feelings of American public. But its decisive role in the midterm elections still remains to be seen because several other topics such as the overturning of Roe vs Wade and the investigation into former US president Donald Trump are also affecting the voters' choice," Diao told the Global Times on Monday.

Even if the third-quarter GDP might turn out to be a miraculous growth, which is good for the Democrats, it's unlikely to change the final outcome that most likely the Democratic Party will lose the House, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. He predicted that the Republicans might have a 90 percent chance to win the House in the elections. 

Although Goldman Sachs increased its third-quarter GDP growth estimate to 1.9 percent from 0.9 percent last week, US Federal Reserve's recent steep interest rate hikes in dealing with inflation have worried many that it may push the economy into a recession, according to US media reports. 

Lü said that if the Democratic Party loses the House, it could be because of Biden, the biggest negative equity of the Democrats, as Biden has seen his approval ratings drop to even below Trump's in the second year of his term. 

"I have not seen the approval ratings curve of a US president like Biden, whose average approval ratings in the second year of his term were almost the lowest in American history since approval ratings were introduced," Lü said, noting that Biden's low popularity has resulted in the sharp decline of the Democrats' favorable views. 

Highly divided government

As the Democratic Party is predicted to be very likely to lose the House of Representative, Diao said Biden will face "a divided government" no matter whether he can control the Senate. 

Amid a highly polarized political environment, Lü said, Biden would have little room in pushing for major legislations that could face possible block from the Republican-controlled House, and that's why he contained much of his other policies such as medicare and climate change into the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, signed into law in August. Meanwhile, Biden will also lose the initiative in bills concerning budgets and finance under a Republican-controlled House, he said.  

Biden didn't effectively promote any domestic agenda even in the past two years in a Democrat-controlled Congress, and a republican-controlled House may launch a political witch hunting on him, including a possible wrong decision on withdrawing the US army from Afghanistan and Hunter Biden's covert connection with Ukraine, Diao noted.

Although the US midterm elections are mostly about domestic issues, analysts said that it might indirectly affect the country's foreign affairs. 

"If Biden wants to get reelected in 2024, he has to show strong leadership in foreign affairs where the US president has stronger power than Congress. And this may bring more uncertainty to China-US relations because Biden could further promote the Indo-Pacific Strategy and strategic competition with China to show his tough stance," Diao said.

Observers said that Biden's inconsistent and unstable policy and chaotic response to domestic affairs will also make more countries lose trust in the US. Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries are now at a stage where they have lost trust in the US politics since they decided not to follow the US in geopolitical issues and cut oil production despite Biden's pressure, observers said.