A HOUSE DIVIDED
The World Ponders the United States of Confusion
Global reaction to the mixed outcome of midterm elections in the United States focuses on how tragically divided America really is.
ROME—There were those whose reactions to the divided result of the U.S. midterm election were predictable. In Italy, Donald Trump idolizer Matteo Salvini, the increasingly powerful interior minister, saw it much like as his mentor did: a clear Republican victory. He tweeted: “Congratulations to President Trump for the seats he won at the Senate and those he held in crucial states against everyone: left-wing journalists, actors, singers, directors and pseudo-intellectuals.”
And there were others that were more surprising, as in Canada, where headlines focused on disappointment and dashed hopes that their southern neighbor would have finally come to its senses by sending a message to Trump rather than settling for what seems more like a compromise. “If Midterms Were a Test of the Country’s Character, America Failed,” read one such headline in Toronto’s Globe and Mail.
In Mexico, the country’s largest newspaper, Reforma, ran online updates of the midterm elections and the progress of the migrant caravan with equal attention.
In France, Le Monde was reflective with an article title that seemed to sum up the collective confusion, “America More Divided Than Ever.” It noted that Trump’s reversal in House of Representatives was smaller than for Clinton and Obama during their first midterms, was simply confirmation that the 2016 election was “far from an accident.”
And the former Trump whisperer, President Emmanuel Macron, warned that the United States was now as big of a threat to Europeans as China or Russia.
Germans in their largest daily, Süddeutsche Zeitung, focused on statistics like the number of Muslims, lesbians and minorities elected. Heiko Mass, Germany’s foreign minister, tweeted that the outcome meant that Germany now had to reconsider its relationship with the United States since nothing about the election spelled change and, in fact, may mean that Trump could win again in 2020.
Perhaps most predictable of all, British Prime Minister Theresa May kept a stiff (and silent) upper lip and made no comment at all by mid afternoon in Europe on Wednesday. The BBC instead called the results a “Setback for Trump” while the conservative Daily Telegraph justified the results as a victory, running “four charts that prove why Donald Trump is right to call the midterms a ‘tremendous success.’” The Guardian instead took the middle ground in an article titled, “Midterms: Trump threatens Democrats over investigations after they take House.”
Japanese media cooly analyzed the midterm elections as “a painful hand” for Trump and noted that the Democrats now would have the opportunity and the ability to pursue the President over his abuse of power, possible collusion with Russia, and other ethical issues.
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which has been fawning and cozying up to President Trump since he took office, took a muted view of the results. Even before the midterm results had come in, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga took a pre-emptive strike at probing questions from the media by telling the press that the results wouldn’t matter, regardless of what they were. Suga said, “The Japan-U.S. alliance can’t be shaken. I believe Republicans and Democrats both understand the importance of this relationship.”
The left-leaning Mainichi Shimbun analyzed the results as a “a huge blow for the Trump administration” and added, “with Democrats controlling the lower house and the Republicans controlling the upper house, everything is contorted and it is almost certain that Trump will be faced with difficulty in running his political operations.”
Elsewhere, reaction was more focused on individual people.
In the tiny West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Foqa, residents celebrated the election of Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress. Her uncle Bassam Tlaib said, "The family, the village and the region are all proud of her historic victory." Tlaib had previously told Middle East Eye that her life as a Detroiter showed her that there weren't many differences between "the Palestinians' struggle for justice and the civil rights movement in the United States."
Tlaib, proudly told Reuters that his niece “stood against Trump” at a time when “even our Arab leaders are unwilling to face (him).”
Her “election is seen as a glimmer of hope in a very dark chapter in the Palestinian people’s history,” he added.
In the Israeli press, Jared Polis’ election as Colorado’s first openly gay and first Jewish governor made the biggest splash, mostly in headlines shared with Tlaib.
“They Made History” Mako news outlet ran as their headline. “Openly Gay Governor, First Muslim Woman in Congress.”
Haaretz, the only Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper that covered the midterms closely, noted that the new House of Representatives will elevate three Jewish men, veteran legislators, to crucial leadership roles. New Yorker Eliot Engel is poised to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Jerry Nadler of New York and Adam Schiff of California are expected to accede to the chairmanships of the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee, respectively. “Their rise to power is going to turn into a major headache for the Trump administration,” Haaretz predicts.
In Kenya, locals who run the massive Dadaab refugee camp, largely populated by Somalis, cheered Ilhan Omar’s victory in Minnesota, with local newspapers noting that the democratic senator elect had lived at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya for four years “and could not even speak English at the time she relocated to the U.S.”
In an article titled “Diversity, Division and Dismay,” Fortune Magazine rounded up reaction in Asia. “China Daily focused on voter dissatisfaction and the Democrats’ newly-won ability to investigate the administration.”
They also quoted the South China Morning Post’s interview with Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer, who called Trump “besieged” and warned that he was now “likely to act more erratically, more aggressively and potentially more dangerously for your part of the world.”
—With additional reporting from Jake Adelstein and Noga Tarnopolsky.