The results of the United States midterm elections, although many are too early to call, should give a huge relief not just to the US but also global civilization, because like it or not, US democracy remains the one to which the world looks up, despite all of its imperfections and controversies.
After the Nov. 8 vote it remains uncertain which party will control the US Congress.
Ahead of the polls, the Republicans stood a great chance of sweeping both the House of Representatives and the Senate but eventually had to be content with a slim lead, ensuring the checks and balances mechanism will work properly. This is very healthy and constructive in a democracy.
A landslide victory for the Republicans would have been disastrous for the world’s largest economy and military because it could allow the Republicans under former president Donald Trump to reinvigorate his Make American Great Again campaign.
“It was a good day, I think, for democracy,” US President Joe Biden told a press conference at the White House on Wednesday. “And I think it was a good day for America […] Our democracy has been tested in recent years, but with their votes, the American people have spoken and proven once again that democracy is who we are.”
For Biden, the midterm elections looked like a referendum on his performance over the last two years. Now he can fly to Bali to attend the Group of 20 summit on Nov. 15-16 in a much more confident mood.
Biden’s presence in Bali will be heartening for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the host of the summit, as he can hope the US President will play a more constructive role in the G20 meeting, which the world expects to produce concrete actions to cope with the multiple crises of energy, food, health, climate and economic slowdown.
For the Republicans, the failure to secure a majority is a flop. It is a disappointing outcome given that nearly all US media organizations and leading public opinion surveyors had predicted the US would swing heavily to the Republicans.
During his four-year presidency, Trump brought the US to the lowest rung of democracy, thanks to his dictatorial mindset and disrespect for international agreements.
When Biden defeated him in the 2020 elections, Trump refused to concede his loss, saying the elections had been manipulated. He even encouraged his die-hard supporters to revolt and did not do enough to stop an attack on the Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump had been expected to announce his bid to contest the 2024 elections on Nov. 15 if the Republicans had gained majorities in the Senate and Congress.
So far, the Democrats have secured 48 seats in the Senate, as have the Republicans. But there will be a runoff in some states because neither party could pass the 50 percent threshold.
For Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy after India and the US, the political developments in the US can teach a good lesson. Anyone who wants to manipulate democracy for their own interests will eventually confront the common sense of the voters.
American voters have proved their maturity in understanding the value of democracy, so will Indonesian voters who will elect their new leader in February 2024.