Interview by Şafak Erdem
The United States is going to elections. A great part of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives will be elected. These so-called midterm elections also provide an indication of tendencies towards the presidential elections in 2024.
Which topics dominated the electoral campaigns? How are the Americans viewing the presented arguments? What kind of reshuffling takes place with the campaign and the elections? And what do they indicate for the possible political transformation in the United States?
I spoke about these and more topics with Latif Bolat. Bolat is a musician of international reputation who has been living and working in the US for decades. He has organized several national and international festivals and activities in the US, thus visiting nearly all of the 50 states and entering into contact with universities and a variety of intellectuals. During Trump’s election campaign 2016, Bolat has been on a tour throughout the US, observing the tendencies within the American population on spot.
“A choice between two very different visions of America”
The United States is going to the elections. What are the most important issues that stand out on the agenda?
Perhaps Joe Biden made the most accurate analysis of this election in his speech in New York. “This is the most important election,” he said. “Two American visions are competing with each other. Folks, three days, three days until one of the most important elections in our lifetime. The outcome is going to shape our country for decades to come, and the power to shape that outcome is in your hands. It’s a choice. A choice between two very different visions of America,” he said.
This is a very accurate determination of the situation. That’s why even Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were taken out of their corners and included into the election campaigns. Biden’s wife also went to Texas and joined the campaign.
There is another very important statement made by Democratic ex-presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. They claim that the goal of the Republicans is to annoy voters and prevent them from thinking properly. For them, not thinking decently and not voting for Democrats is the same. In a speech, Obama said, ”Okay, you’re right, there are a lot of things that you’re angry about the government, but please remember that we need democracy, take care of democracy.”
The danger of impeachment for Biden
If he loses the election, Biden is in danger of impeachment. Donald Trump has been subjected to the impeachment process twice before. Two issues were brought forward: 1) Russia’s interference in the election in favor of Trump and 2) Trump’s request from the Ukrainian state to disclose evidence in order to uncover some corruption allegations related to Biden’s son Hunter Biden. They have spent millions of dollars on research to impeach Trump, but nothing has come of it. So Trump has a revengeful feeling on this and will push for Biden’s impeachment.
If he loses the election, Biden will have received a heavy blow. His authority will be reduced. Using an expression from political literature, he will fall into the state of a “lame duck”.
People’s first agenda: Economic hardship and inflation
How can Biden’s impeachment be put forward and on what grounds?
Impeachment has two dimensions in domestic and foreign policy.
The economy is the main topic in domestic politics. The US is experiencing the highest inflation in the last 40 years. The results of a study conducted a few days ago say that:
- 80 Percent of citizens say the economy is agenda number one.
- 77 Percent say inflation is agenda number.
- About half of the citizens, 43 percent, say that they are “much worse off” during the Biden era compared to before.
- The issue of abortion has recently taken a very important place on the US agenda. Abortion comes after the economy, at 62 percent. The majority of this percentage is female.
These are very important indicators. Already, the Biden government has fielded Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, because it has seen these as very dangerous items for the election process.
But the Democrats don’t have too many real important issues to bank on during this election period. The only two somewhat important subjects are the issue of abortion and climate change.
It is possible to say that these policies are more attractive to female voters. According to polls, 59 percent of women declare that they will vote for Democrats, while this figure is 39 percent for Republicans. For men, the figure is 59 percent for Republicans and 36 percent for Democrats. It seems that the Supreme Court, close to Trump, codified the abortion ban into law, and Democrats criticized it as an effective issue among the female voters.
Two difficulties in foreign policy: Afghanistan and Ukraine
In foreign policy, there are two issues. First is the Biden administration’s retreat in defeat from Afghanistan. Second is the immeasurable aid to Ukraine. So far, $ 60 billion in aid has been provided to Zelensky government of Ukraine.
The leading Republican candidates are clearly saying in their campaign speeches: “If we win a majority in the Senate and the House, we will not give Ukraine even a penny.” Of course, there are some among the Republicans who promise to “continue support”, but the dominant trend is: “Enough is enough”.
You mentioned that the economy would decide the elections. What are the Democrats proposing on the economy?
The Democrats have no tangible solution. Some countries are more accustomed to inflation. The Turkish society is an example. But the Americans are not like that. For them, it’s a big deal to buy bread for 1.5-2 dollars, which they have been buying for forty years for 1 dollar. For this reason, the most effective element in determining the outcome of the election seems to be the economy.
This also explains the fact that the Republicans announce in the election rallies: “We will not give Ukraine even a penny anymore.” As I said, $ 60 billion was given, and this is a very serious figure.
The difference that is becoming apparent within the Republicans
This election process has also made the political divisions within the Republicans more obvious, and these will definitely continue to increase. For example, one of the most important Republican politicians, Liz Cheney, Dick Cheney’s daughter, who is a member of the Neocon group, switched to the side of the Democrats and announced that she would vote for them.
With the sharpening of this continuing trend, if Trump wins the election in 2024, he will sift through the Republican ranks for such Democratic sounding people and tighten more finely in the government that will be established. Trump has already learned lessons from his former presidency and has already begun to select and position better-qualified, more suitable cadres for him. In his last government, there was a lot of staff in a shaky attitude, including the vice-president Pence. The people Trump is running this election campaign with are viewed as future government officials. There are even those who use the term Republicans vs. Trumplicans for this divisional line that re-shuffles the Republican Party.
Trump’s preparation for government
Trump will probably announce his candidacy for President right after the election. It seems that the candidates supported by Trump will win the contested seats, increasing Trump’s power considerably. For example, there is Mehmet Oz, who has been openly supported by Trump from the beginning of his candidacy. It looks like he’s going to win the elections, and if he does, he’ll be the first Muslim senator in the history of the USA.
As a note, let me quote the following: Mehmet Oz participated in a television program. He was asked: “To what extent are you a Muslim, what do you believe in?” He replied, “I am supporter of the Mevlevi Sufis.” This is interesting, because a wide circle in the United States, a rather big percentage of those who tend to other religions and spirituality, are interested in the Mevlevi way of Sufis, whom they consider more humanistic and universalist.
Operations against Trump were fruitless
They made three judicial moves to block Trump. From the moment he first became president, they launched a judicial process called the “Russian Probe”, investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which Trump won. It took two years, they spent $ 10-15 million, but nothing came of it.
They then investigated Trump’s companies on suspicion of “tax evasion”. There was no result from this either.
Finally, the FBI raided his home in Florida on the grounds that he illegally ”took top-secret presidential documents to his home”. Nothing came up again, so far.
Despite all this, Trump has continued on his way and is doing so. He knows that half of the population is behind him. He also knows that not all the Democrats are against him as a block.
Accusations of Trump’s being “friendly to Russia and Putin” are not yielding results
What is the public response to the accusations of Trump being “friendly to Russia and Putin”?
First of all, those accusations are not finding much support among the general public. Such issues do not weigh on the public’s agenda. It may be very much on the agenda of the media and writers-illustrators, but it’s not like that in the public. There is already weariness in the American people about the alarm bells that have been ringing for 70 years, “The Soviets are coming, and the Russians are coming”. Let’s not forget that Trump won 49 percent of the vote in the last election in 2020 when he lost with a very small margin.
The American people who didn’t go to the election
When Biden was elected, the turnout in the election was about 66 percent – the highest in recent US elections. Obama was elected with one of the highest turnout rates, which was only around 55 percent. In other words, almost half of the population of the USA does not even go to the polls in general.
And beware, the election is always being held on Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Normally, the election is expected to be on Sunday so that people can comfortably vote on the day when they are not working. But the US has been holding elections on Tuesday for 250 years.
For example in Türkiye, elections are held on Sunday. People go to the polls wearing their prettiest clothes as if they are going to a national holiday celebration, and the participation rate is 80-90 percent. Considering a population of 350 million people, it can be easily understood how small the vote given to an elected president is. Of course, it is in the interest of the authorities to hold elections on Tuesday, because they know that most employers will not allow workers to go to the polls.