Eyes On U.S. — How The World Is Tracking A High-Stakes Midterm Election
The international media is tuning in closely to Tuesday’s U.S. midterms, with global ramifications for everything from the war in Ukraine to action on climate change to the brewing superpower showdown with China.
PARIS — It’s becoming a bi-annual November ritual: International reporters touch down in some small American town or so-called “battleground state” that we’re told could decide the fate of the next two or four (or more) years in the United States — and the world.
Reporting for French daily Le Monde, Piotr Smolar was in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, where “culture wars” were infecting the schools ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections. Meanwhile, Smolar's French broadcast colleagues at France Info were in the ever crucial state of Florida, talking to locals at the grocery store about the economy.
“The prices are crazy. I’m a veteran, I spent 16 years in the army and this is what I get when I come home,” said a man named Jake in the city of Melbourne, Florida. “We’re counting every penny. It’s Biden’s recovery plan that put us in this situation.”
Yes, it will likely be local issues that determine the results of the midterm elections, where Republicans have a strong chance of taking back control of Congress and deal a potentially fatal blow to some of President Joe Biden’s signature policy objectives.
But the reverberations of the outcome will once again be felt across the world. A sweep by the Republican party still under the spell of former President Donald Trump would likely have serious consequences on several key issues on the global agenda: from the war in Ukraine and environmental policy to relations with China.
After the world watched the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, and Trump and his allies refusing to accept Biden’s victory, the very health of democracy is at stake as well.
🇺🇦 First up: Ukraine
The Biden White House is Kyiv's most crucial partner in the war with Russia, not only in arms supplies and financial aid, but in touting the importance of a Ukraine victory for the cause of freedom and democracy.
According to the Ukrainian edition of European Pravda, the Republicans taking control of Congress, with the Trump wing gaining strength, carries enormous risks for Ukraine — all the way up to the war's outcome. The last important vote on aid to Ukraine resulted in 11 votes against in the Senate and 57 in the House of Representatives. So the main risks for Ukraine may arise in the House of Representatives.
Nothing will change for us after the midterms.
Still, others believe that Washington will remain solidly behind Ukraine, even with a Republican majority in Congress. On Oct. 1, the Lend-Lease Act came into force, which allows military equipment to be loaned or leased to Ukraine under simplified export control procedures. In an interview with RBC-Ukraine, former Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former Ambassador to the United States and Russia Volodymyr Yelchenko sounded optimistic on the stability of U.S. support.
"Nothing will change for us after the midterms. Some aspects regarding the use of funds, increased control by the Republicans may be. But there is a land-lease program, even if the Republicans would want, they will not gain the necessary majority to cancel it," he said.
“Trump dictates the elections without participating,” titles Dutch daily de Volkskrant.
⛽️ Will climate action continue?
Though Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in an immediate uptick in Europe’s use of coal as a result of spiking natural gas prices and concerns about supply, Russian President Vladimir Putin may have inadvertently sent long-term investment in renewable energy into overdrive, reports German weekly Die Zeit.
For the first time, the Paris-based International Energy Agency sees CO2 emissions peaking in 2025, in part because of the investments various countries are making in moving definitely away from fossil fuels imported from Russia.
However, here too, global emissions scenarios hinge on U.S. Congressional action. In Germany, where in September 2021, 47% of voters saw the environment as the most pressing political issue, Deutsche Welle reports that a Republican victory would threaten recent steps the U.S. has taken to invest heavily in renewable energy.
🇨🇳 China lurking in the shadows
Beyond the immediacy of assistance to Ukraine and the urgency of climate action, the results of the U.S. midterms have implications for the rising tensions between the U.S. and China. Unlike Ukraine, it’s less about disagreement and more about the two U.S. parties trying to outdo each other to be “tough on China,” writesThe Diplomat, Southeast Asia’s magazine of reference for geopolitical views.
📌 All politics is local, democracy is global
Despite the global importance of the results, the international press is well aware that it is the sharp U.S. political divisions and economics that will be decisive. For U.S. voters in 2022, the major issues at play are social issues like abortion, and skyrocketing inflation. Spain’s El Pais notes that all of Biden’s economic successes — job creation, growth, drop in unemployment, increase in exports — “pale next to the sharpest price rises in four decades.”
Still, these are the first federal elections since the question of democracy itself was put into question by Trump and his supporters, with certain Republicans on the ballot Tuesday refusing to say they will accept the results if they lose.
Trumpism has bright days ahead of it.
The Japan Timesworries about an election taking place in an environment so tense — and so filled with disinformation and conspiracy theories — that armed activists are patrolling absentee ballot-drop locations—and perhaps intimidating would-be voters in the process. Spain’s El Diario, meanwhile writes that the “culture of misinformation has cast doubt on the U.S. electoral system and subjected officials from Nevada to Michigan to harassment and threats.”
The elections are also being watched from Brazil, coming off its own highly contested election, where incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro has followed Trump’s lead by refusing to concede the election or congratulate the winning candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. On Thursday, alongside the latest developments from Bolsonaro, Rio de Janeiro-based O Globo daily reported on the speech by President Biden, warning that democracy was at risk when candidates don’t accept election results.
For French observer Dominique Moïsi, none of the profound divisions in U.S. society or politics will be soon overcome. Even if Trump’s own future is uncertain, he writes, “Trumpism has bright days ahead of it.”
🇩🇪 IN BRIEF
Wunderbar! After the havoc wreaked by the Trump presidency on the international scene, Germans and Americans are seeing eye to eye again — although their views still diverge on several important points.
Eight German citizens out of ten currently consider the relations between the two countries to be good — that's four times what it was just two years ago. Such is the result of a joint survey by the U.S. opinion research institute Pew and the Körber Foundation, as reported in Germany’s Augsburger Allgemeine.
And the feeling is mutual, as 81% U.S. citizens see the relationship as positive. However, the daily notes, opinions still vary widely on issues such as the environment and policy vis-à-vis China.
📰 UP, FRONT PAGE AND CENTER
U.S. President Joe Biden is bumping fists — and butting heads — with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the front page of French daily Libération, as they get ready for a "crude duel" after OPEC+'s decision to cut oil production drew Washington's ire on Saudi Arabia.
😅 SO AMERICAN
Ever heard of a country named Listenbourg? That’s probably because this land purportedly located in the vicinity of Portugal and Spain only exists on Twitter. A French user invented a new map with the imaginary land of Listenbourg and the caption “I bet Americans don’t even know the name of this country,” to poke fun at Americans’ notoriously bad grasp of geography. The joke went viral on the social media platform, with other users inventing a history and a national anthem for the fake nation, and the official account of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games welcoming Listenbourg among the national delegations.
📰 UP, FRONT PAGE AND CENTER, PART II
The financial supplement of Monterrey-based Mexican daily Milenio displays U.S. President Joe Biden's "anguish" on its front page, worrying that his "economic achievements" may not be enough to see the Democrats through the midterms.