Global Trends by Martin Khor

Monday 9 October 2006


The political monopoly the Republicans have over the Congress, the Senate and White House has enabled US President Bush to carry out his administration’s foreign policy which has been disastrous for the developing world.  Suddenly it looks as if the landscape may change with the mid-term elections next month, due to a sex scandal that has even eclipsed the unpopularity of the US war on Iraq.


The United States holds its mid-term elections on 7 November.  Several seats are being contested for the US Congress and US Senate.

Usually there is not that much interest among the public outside of the US on what are seen as routine domestic politics.  But the Bush White House has been so controversial and its foreign policy so "activist" in ways that make so many people angry worldwide that this time the mid-term elections are being watched with greater interest.

The Republican party at the moment has almost a monopoly, as it controls both Congress and Senate as well as the White House.

This monopoly has enabled the Bush administration to do pretty much as it pleases, including in its aggressive and very damaging foreign policy.

In recent months it became clear that the US is caught in a quagmire of its own doing in Iraq.  Last week in a spell of three days the US lost 17 soldiers killed in Iraq.  In Afghanistan, there is a very significant resurgence of resistance against the foreign allied forces.

The terrible position that US took when Israel assaulted Lebanon -- supporting Israel in refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire --- lost it even more support not only in the Middle East but around the world.

Its aggressive stance towards Iran over the nuclear issue has got many people suspicious that it is planning to launch a bombing spree over that country, or even an invasion.

The so-called war on terror is making the world much less safe.  Around the world, more and more people believe the US approach has not made the world safer, but that terrorists are thriving because of its policies and that in the end it is the US that is inducing and even committing terror in the world.

What is interesting is that more Americans are realising this too.  And that this might be reflected in the mid-term elections.  Curbing the power of the Bush administration could keep its aggressive intentions in check.

With the mood changing, the Democrats have now a good chance to win back either the Congress or the Senate, or even both.

Last week the pro-establishment columnist Thomas Friedman, not known for radical views, signalled the change in mainstream American thinking when he wrote in the New York Times that "For the sake of the country I really hope the Republicans lose the House and the Senate to the Democrats."

He continued that "it is so important that the Republicans lose, because if the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice team can get away with the grotesque incompetence they have exhibited in Iraq, it makes the US look like a banana republic."

But if the Republicans lose, an even bigger factor may be the sex scandal that has blown up in the last week.  The Republican Congressman Mark Foley has been exposed for exchanging explicit sex-related email messages with under-aged pageboys who worked in the Congress.

Foley has resigned, but the spotlight is now on Republican Party leaders, especially on the House Speaker Dennis Hastert who knew for months about Foley’s acts of folly but did not discipline him.

The furor over this sex scandal is losing the public opinion war for the Republicans, including in their traditional Christian support base.  The party that campaigns on the basis of family and religious values suddenly looks immoral and hypocritical.

The Democrats need to win back 15 seats in Congress and six seats in the Senate if they are to take over control in these two Houses.

Opinion polls showed last week that they have a clear lead over the Republicans in at least 11 of the 15 seats they need in the Congress race and they also have narrow leads in a number of other critical seats.  And another poll shows that they are also within striking distance to win back at least six seats in Senate.

Suddenly, the political landscape has changed almost overnight.   The slow fuse was the increasing disenchantment over the government’s performance in Iraq.  The more immediate was the Congressman-pageboys affair.

One prominent journalist called last week’s events the “tipping point” in American politics.  Of course the Democrats could still "blow it", as the Americans say, as they have not been very clever in the past to capitalise on the Republicans' weaknesses.

And it is not clear that the Democrats are really that much better in terms of foreign policy, on how they view the rest of the world, and their actions especially regarding developing countries.

But many around the world feel it is time to end the monopoly of the Republicans which has enabled the Bush government to carry out such disastrous policies.  Perhaps the time has now come for the American public to feel the same and to act on it through their vote.