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Conservatives are fighting back


THE US mid-term elections are under two months away. Forget any poll that over-samples Democrats, though bizarrely most US polls do. Barring some big political event in the next seven or eight weeks, the Republicans will retake the House of Representatives. When they do, expect them to do to the Dems what the Dems have been doing to the Republicans for the last four years – so in addition to myriad hearings about the conduct of Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray, we may well also see them impeach a sitting President. They wouldn’t expect this to get through the Senate’s two-thirds vote. But game theory tells us all, including even the odd Republican, that when the other side weaponises the normal rules and conventions you must reciprocate. At any rate, all that is on the table with a Republican-controlled House, together with legislative gridlock.

The Senate map is diabolical for the Republicans. Remember, one-third of the 100 Senate spots (two per state, with six-year tenure before the next election) are up for grabs every two years. This November there are 35 Senate races, one due to an unexpected vacancy. Of those, 21 are currently held by the Republicans; the 14 currently held by the Democrats are all in states that Biden won in 2020. Sure, that tells us that the luck of the Senate map will be very favourable to the Republicans in 2024. But right now the Senate is a 50-50 draw with the Vice President having the casting vote and thereby giving Senate control to the Dems. So the Republicans need to produce at least a net plus-one outcome to retake the Senate. Other than Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the Republican Senate spots look safe. But these three are toss-up battles in November. The Republicans need to win, to hold, at least two of those three. I think Trump-endorsed J D Vance (the author) will hold Ohio for the Republicans. Wisconsin is a coin toss. Pennsylvania looked bad for the Republicans until recently but now has moved into the toss-up category. So-called Dr Oz, the TV presenter Mehmet Cengiz Öz, also Trump-endorsed, is the Republican candidate, who’d be the first Muslim in the Senate. He’s a loose cannon. But the Democrat candidate, John Fetterman, is to the left of Bernie Sanders, if that’s possible. He’s a super-woke trust fund rich kid who seems to wear only hoodies and who never had a job till his forties. He’s currently the State’s Lieutenant Governor. He recently had a stroke. Right now it’s a coin flip race. That leaves four or five current Democrat spots that the Republicans could win. I think they’ll take Georgia, that Raphael Warnock (a black man) will lose to Republican (and Trump-endorsed) Herschel Walker (also a black man who was a college football superstar for the University of Georgia). Arizona will be close. Nevada will be close. New Hampshire and Colorado are slight ‘lean Dem’ states at the moment but very competitive. The Republicans need to take one or two of these currently Democrat seats, depending on whether they hold all three or just two of their own current toss-up Senate seats.

The left-leaning US press is saying the odds favour the Dems to keep Senate control. I’m betting they’re wrong and the Republicans win the Senate, picking up a net two spots, maybe even three.

This Senate mid-term is important for all sorts of reasons but here are just a few. First off, if the Republicans win the Senate now the map in 2024 will be favourable enough to make them big favourites to extend their Senate control noticeably then. (Remember, Democrat Joe Manchin is up for election in 2024 in West Virginia which with Utah is the most Republican-leaning state in the Union. His vote for the Biden spendathon is leading many already to write off his chances in two years. That would be a Republican flip right there.) Secondly, with Senate control comes the ability to block any or all Biden judicial nominations to the Federal courts as well as who heads the main agencies.

Not all will be blocked, of course, but many will be tied up in limbo for years. And any radical choices won’t have a prayer. Thirdly, with both houses controlled by the Republicans you can expect them to send a steady stream of legislation up to President Biden to force him to veto all sorts of Bills. The optics of this can be diabolical for the Democrats if the Republicans pick their Bills cleverly (so 50-50 at best, given the general Republican incompetence). Here’s one more. With Congress wholly in the hands of the Republicans, the ability to govern by executive fiat will reduce (leave aside that the Republican judges will feel more scope to invalidate these Presidential decrees).

So there’s lots to play for in the US come the first Tuesday in November. Meanwhile in Canada the Conservative (or Tory) party has chosen its new leader. In Canada the decision was taken completely out of the hands of the partyroom – you’ll be shocked to hear the view was that politicians were out of touch with the base, the party members. Party members over several months voted for their preferred leader. And the most right-leaning, conservative candidate Pierre Poilievre has won. He would have had zero chance of being selected by his fellow MPs but the party base loves him. He has made all sorts of right-leaning promises (look out CBC, for one, and the Governor of the Bank of Canada will be gone on the day after he wins an election for a second).

Of course all of polite society in Canada hates this development. The horror – a conservative party led by an actual conservative proposing to do conservative things (and, for that matter, to appoint actual conservatives to commissions, tribunals, the courts and the rest). Best of all, Poilievre has a great back story and seems like a fighter. That said, he has to win an election and in Canada (where there are not equal numbers of voters per constituency and where Ontario and Quebec decide elections) that means taking the suburbs. Inner-city seats have long gone totally left-wing.

Last comment: did readers notice that Liz Truss stacked her Cabinet with right-leaning supporters and left the ‘moderate’ Tories out in the cold?

We always hear in Australia from the legacy press that the Coalition can’t do that. ‘Not the done thing, old boy.’ ‘Not good for party morale.’ ‘Need to follow the Textor playbook and aim to be a centimetre to the right of Labor, dear fellow.’ Well, overseas conservative parties are starting to move in the US direction of offering conservative policies and fighting for them with politicians who believe in them.

This article appeared in Spectator Australia on September 24 2022 and is republished by kind permission.

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James Allan
James Allan
James Allan is Garrick professor of law at the University of Queensland.

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