What the midterm elections will signal to the world

As November 8 approaches and American voters prepare to head to the polls, some of us are worried about domestic issues like the economy, immigration and health care. Others worry about international affairs such as the economy, immigration and health care.

The truth is that many issues are interrelated. What happens in this country affects the rest of the world and vice versa.

Think about it: Health problems like COVID-19 transcend national boundaries.

Climate change affects every citizen in every corner of the world, but approaches to it vary depending on national policy.

Immigration is not just an American issue, as we share a border with Mexico and immigrants flow into the United States from many countries.

Inflation isn’t just what the Federal Reserve does with interest rates; It’s linked to everything from chip shortages to grain prices and a barrel of oil.

Electoral integrity is not only the fair counting of ballots in the country but also the interference of Russia and other countries abroad.

All this means that pundits and pollsters should stop referring to domestic and international affairs as separate topics.

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Today we face what might be called “content” problems. As the results of the upcoming midterm elections become clear, things may change in America, and those changes will affect how America is viewed around the world and affects global affairs.

Take the war in Ukraine for example. Already we are seeing partisan divisions emerging in the US electorate over the Biden administration’s approach to Russia and Ukraine.

Recently, progressive Democrats sent a letter to President Biden criticizing our Ukraine policy, which was retracted after it was leaked to the press.

Some Republicans are also beginning to question US policy on Ukraine. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested he could further block security and humanitarian aid to Ukraine if he becomes speaker of the House next year.

A strong midterm showing for Trump supporters could revive the former president’s professed “America First” approach.

Congress has a stronger voice over war powers, meaning the House and Senate decide how much support there is for responding to Russian moves, including the use of a so-called “dirty bomb” in Ukraine. Use of tactical nuclear weapons. How the U.S. and NATO respond to any escalation of war will involve how Congress and the executive branch interpret the meaning of “war.”

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Committee assignments on Capitol Hill, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could change, which could affect how quickly or slowly President Biden gets his remaining nominations for the post.

China is another area where the Congress is raising its voice. To date there has been some bipartisan agreement on US-China policy, resulting in CHIPS and the Science and Infrastructure Act – both of which seek to strengthen US competitiveness against China in things like semiconductors.

But a new Congress could expose differences within the parties on areas such as Taiwan or America’s posture in Asia.

Of course, the power of the wallet is key. Congress has budgetary authority over military spending, which reflects new sentiments based on which members are elected. (In May, 57 House Republicans voted against a $40 billion Ukraine aid package. Eleven Republicans voted against the measure in the Senate.)

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Congress can change America’s economy by spending on everything from COVID vaccinations in the developing world to sanctions against Russia. A Republican midterm victory in both the Senate and House would have ripple effects on Europe and NATO as the war escalates.

Finally, there are ethical questions in this election. The United States is judged worldwide as a beacon of democracy. But that perception is under threat. The midterms will signal what Americans value, sending a message about our national narrative and priorities — whether democracy is theory or practice, and whether America can still own it.

Tara D. Sonenshine is the Edward R. Murrow Professor of Public Diplomacy at Tufts University’s Fletcher College of Law and Diplomacy.


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