US midterm elections and the Trump-populism problem - YASIN AKTAY

US midterm elections and the Trump-populism problem

As of tomorrow, midterm elections, including congressional and gubernatorial, will be held in the U.S. Trump is now facing the danger of seeing his party becoming a minority party two years after his election, at a time when he hasn’t even got used to his position…

In fact, even after these midterm elections, he will have to wait for the elections that are coming two years later in order to make more effective decisions, since it will be the second half of his presidency. Two years is a very short time for a U.S. president to pull himself together and handle the problems that his country is going to face.

Everything is happening so fast in the world and yet the election period is limiting the president of the U.S., the most powerful country in the world. This situation, in fact, can be pointed out as one of the reasons why the U.S. is losing its influence over world politics.

These pressures in the election process always force the presidents to implement more populist policies, but not every president resorts to populist measures at the same level, and not all of them resort to those policies at all times. The policies Trump has resorted to can be seen as unprecedented compared to his rivals. His discourse and policies, which no one likes and are the subject of heavy criticisms from intellectual circles, human rights activists and the world public opinion, are actually policies whose possible outcomes are well-calculated. Unfortunately, racism, xenophobia or closing the borders to migrants have a serious appeal in American society.

People whose well-being is at a certain level have a tendency to see foreigners, especially Latin American migrants, as people who are disturbing their comfort, damaging their economic conditions, disturbing the peace of the cities they live in, and destroying the harmony of that city and destabilizing it. That is why these groups of people whose Trump’s discourse and policies are addressing find them quite appealing. Therefore, Trump thinks that the harsher his language is, the more credit he will get.

As a result, it would be accurate if we say that all the recent actions of Trump and the discourse he has been using are appealing to this sociologic echelon. This is actually the discourse he used during his presidential campaign and he got many votes thanks to it. His statement about the Mexican immigrants, saying that he would respond to rock-throwing with bullets, the fact that the decision to suspend the investments to Iran was announced on the eve of the elections, his close follow-up on the pastor Brunson case, his announcement that U.S. birthright citizenship will be abolished: all of these are causing great excitement among the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) circles.

We can add the trade wars he started with many countries, which actually caused more damage to himself rather than his opponents, and the decision to move the Israel embassy to Jerusalem to these actions. Similarly, the dilemma he was in because of the Jamal Khashoggi murder can be added to these too…

While we clearly observed that the risk of losing a commercial privilege which he faced in the case that he took a stance against Saudi Arabia was giving him a hard time in his decision-making process, I don’t think that he was able to calculate well what he gained from his extremely pro-Israeli policies and what he lost because of them. It cannot be said that the U.S., which is declining every other day, understands what it is losing.

Despite this, another danger that will be waiting for the Trump administration is the vote potential of the Latin American immigrants, whom he opposes today, which could change the outcome of all his policies in the next presidential elections, if not in this midterm elections.

That is why, Trump or any other American politician who will assume his role, is facing the danger of losing the future because of such a discourse. If this group of people who are becoming more and more indifferent to the values that make America, America continue these policies, they will eventually end up in a place where they will not be able to win elections anymore.

One of the practices that make America, America is actually birthright citizenship. This practice is based on the 14th article of the U.S. constitution, which was written 150 years ago, and it declares that every person who was born on U.S. soil is a U.S. citizen.

Although we don’t know how much the people cared about it if Trump had not brought it up, but according to the PEW research center, mothers who illegally entered the U.S. gave birth to 275.000 babies who acquired American citizenship. Many mothers are illegally coming to the U.S. so that their children could become U.S. citizens, or they are coming to the U.S. by applying for visas through “birth tourism” and guaranteeing U.S. citizenship for their children. This practice has been going on for 150 years and rather than being a burden on the U.S., it provides numerous advantages for the country.

Nevertheless, on the eve of the elections, Trump decided to see the glass half empty and declared that he is going to abolish this practice. In an interview, he said: “The baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits.” He added: “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.” The populist and convincing aspect of these words is obvious. People may fall for the dangerous appeal of populism without even thinking about the benefits birthright citizenship brings.

In reality, an average of 450 women are giving birth in the U.S. through birth tourism annually, and it costs around $13 million. By the way, while the ways to change an article of a 150-year-old constitution is obvious, Trump claims that he is able to change it with an executive order. The legal experts in the U.S. are falling out with each other about this issue.

We will wait and see whether they will come up with a solution or whether Trump’s populist discourses will give way to more realist policies after the elections, which are going to be held tomorrow…

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