The US midterm elections were “an extremely important repudiation” of President Donald Trump, according to Samantha Power, the former US ambassador to the UN who served under his predecessor, Barack Obama.
The Dublin-born former diplomat rejected the general view that Tuesday’s congressional and state elections were a “split decision” as Democrats won back control of the House of Representatives while Republicans consolidated their grip on the Senate.
Speaking in Dublin, Ms Power – who acknowledging that, as a Democrat, she had “a dog in this fight” – said she viewed the result as “a blue wave” and was not in the “blue puddle camp” given how her party was disadvantaged by gerrymandering where voting districts for the House have been redrawn to favour Republicans.
“It was really something approximating a blue wave given structurally what Democrats were up against,” she told about 300 people during a speech to the Institute of International and European Affairs, the foreign-policy think tank.
Ms Power, now a professor at Harvard University, held up the 9 per cent margin Democrats enjoyed over Republicans in the popular vote for the House and the average 21 per cent swing in congressional districts that flipped from Republican to Democrats as examples of her party’s success on Tuesday.
“Suddenly, the electoral map and the prospects of Democrats competing in districts that had been written off has expanded dramatically. This creates really tough choices for people as to where they look for 2020,” she said, referring to the next presidential election when Mr Trump will seek re-election.
Tuesday’s results “sowed the seeds for even more accountability” of the president in the run-up to 2020.
A Democrat-controlled House could shift more spending towards diplomacy, oversee public officials more thoroughly, and focus on actions against climate change, dictatorial regimes and abuses such as the Rohingya genocide, she said in a speech lasting more than an hour.
Democrats gaining control of seven state legislatures and seven governorships was “huge,” she said, as were the “really difficult wins” for Democrats winning the governor races in Wisconsin and Kansas.
“If I were President Trump – and it is no secret I am not – I would view this election as a warning,” said Ms Power, a fierce critic of the US president.
The elections of more than 100 women in the House for the first time in US history and the first Muslim congresswoman, the first Native American congresswoman and the first Korean-American congresswoman were “an outward-facing story” to the rest of the world “about who we are”, she said.
“There is Trump’s version of who we are and then these other forces; it is very clear that those dynamics are in great tension at present and it is a fight to the finish,” she said.
Noting how 40 million more people voted in this week’s midterm elections compared to the ballot four years ago, she said people were “motivated now to claim a stake in the future of democracy”.
Ms Power acknowledged that maybe Democrats did not get “as wholesome and fulsome a self-renewal on Tuesday as some might have liked” or an “across-the-board thumping” of Republicans.
But the election showed the ways in which people “come out and vote with their feet and show again the importance of citizenship in the face of policies they find disturbing”.