Journalist Q&A: The US mid-terms


What are the mid-terms?

Half way through a president's term, the American public get a chance to vote for some of the people running the country. On November 6th, voters will be able to elect representatives to the US Congress and Governors of states. The elections are very important because they will affect decisions about spending, laws and other big decisions for the nation.

People also see the elections as a judgement on Donald's Trump presidency. This is because most candidates are running as either Republicans (the political party Trump is from) or Democrats. If more Republicans win, then it will be seen as a victory for Trump and his ideas. If more Democrats win, it will be seen as the public telling Trump they are unhappy with his presidency.

Nampa High School in Idaho, USA are running the Burnet News Club this year. We asked some journalists at The Economist to answer some Nampa High School student's questions about the upcoming elections.

Adam Roberts, Midwest correspondent at The Economist, answers some questions in video format.

  1. Why are Democrats and Republicans becoming increasingly polarised?
  2. After the election, will Donald Trump be impeached?
  3. Where can we find unbiased news?

We'll add more responses to this post as we get them!

We're seeing more polarisation everywhere in the world, not only in America.

Adam Roberts, correspondent at The Economist

James Astill, Washington correspondent at The Economist, answered more questions.

Why are Americans so divided politically?

In a two-party system, with 'winner takes all' electoral systems, it is almost inevitable that power should be tightly contested between the two parties. It's also inevitable in America, that emotive issues of race, as well as class, gender, religion and national and geographic identity should shape people's political identities. America has a history of racial divisions, which have fueled many of its most bitter political arguments: over slavery in the 1850s, over the racial equality in the Reconstruction period, and again during the civil rights era.

But we are now seeing something new. In the 1960s, perhaps the most recent time of major political conflict before the present, the ruthlessness of partisan disagreement was mitigated by the fact that both parties contained cross-cutting and contradictory racial and other sensitive identities. There were still many black Republicans voters. There were also plenty of white southern Democratic voters. Today, a time of arguably much less substantive policy disagreement between the two parties, they have become more uniformly defined around race, class, gender, and geography. Republicans are the party of whites, with a preponderance of evangelicals and blue-collar men, and a particular concentration in the south. The Democrats are the party of everyone else. As a result, politics has become a battle between highly emotive and competing cultural interests--men v women, whites v non-whites, rural v urban, non-college and college-educated voters. In President Donald Trump, America has a leader who sees personal advantage in escalating these culturally-defined conflicts - by presenting immigration as a threat to native-born Americans, attacking black football players, and so forth. The result is the current extreme pitch of division.

In a two-party system, with 'winner takes all' electoral systems, it is almost inevitable that power should be tightly contested between the two parties.

James Astill, correspondent at The Economist

What can bring them together?

In the past, Americans have been brought together by national crises - as after the 9/11 attacks, or WW2. It is far from clear that the country is capable of coming together in the same way today. The political rowing that followed the recent massacre of Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh was a warning sign. It is hard to imagine the political environment becoming less susceptible to opportunists like Mr Trump until a major political realignment takes place, to reshuffle the internal coalitions. In reality, this probably means politics will be as divisive as currently until the GOP can no longer win elections by rallying a fading white majority by stoking racially-infused, cultural fears - for example, of inundation by immigrants. .

Where can I find unbiased news?

The Economist

The views expressed in this post are those of the contributors and do not represent the view of the Economist Educational Foundation.

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