Thoughts on the Mid-Terms

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For the record, I’m neither surprised nor particularly saddened by the Republican rout in yesterday’s US mid-terms. The result was a defeat for the Republican Party (obviously) but at worst an even break for US conservatives – who, as local commentators are wont to forget, are not necessarily the same people. The congressional GOP in recent years had become so politically cynical, so statist in its inclinations, that its loss can hardly be called a loss for the conservative agenda. While the netroots crowd is going wild with excitement, it’s worth pointing out that their victory was as much a product of conservative dissatisfaction as it was of liberal anger. Conservatives are rightfully disenchanted with the mismanagement of a war they supported, and a runaway fiscal policy that has produced a massive increase in the size and scope of government. A spell in the political wilderness might be a good thing for the GOP: it will likely force the party to reevaluate the craven policy of “compassionate conservatism”, and (hopefully) to reform and root out the institutionalised corruption that had taken hold.

Bonus local perspective: If I had to make a guess, I would say the result is probably a bad one overall for South Africa. The Democrats are less disposed to support free trade than the Republicans, and will almost certainly refuse to renew George W. Bush’s fast-track authority to negotiate new trade agreements when it expires next year. That in turn will stall the revival of the multilateral trade regime for at least another two years, which would be a bad outcome both for South Africa and the entire developing world. Not that the revival of the Doha Round was especially likely or anything – but now it will be virtually impossible. Just a thought.