As American voters prepare to go to the polls as November 8 approaches, some of us worry about domestic issues like the economy, immigration and health care. Others worry about international issues like the economy, immigration, and health care.
The truth is that most problems are interrelated. What happens in this country affects the rest of the world and vice versa.
Think: Health issues like COVID-19 cross national borders.
Climate change affects every citizen in every corner of the world, but approaches to it vary depending on national policy.
Immigration is not an American problem because it shares a border with Mexico and immigrants flow into the United States from many countries.
Inflation isn’t just about what the Federal Reserve does with interest rates; It relates to everything from chip shortages to the price of corn and a barrel of oil.
Election integrity is not only a fair counting of ballots at home, but also interference by Russia and foreign countries.
All this means that pundits and pollsters must stop referring to domestic and international affairs as if they were separate issues.
Today we face what might be called “intermestic” problems. As the results of the upcoming midterm elections become clear, some things may change within the United States, and those changes will affect how America is viewed around the world and affects global affairs.
Take, for example, the war in Ukraine. We are already seeing partisan divisions emerge among voters in the United States over the Biden administration’s approach to Russia and Ukraine.
Recently, progressive Democrats wrote a letter to President Biden criticizing our Ukraine policy after it was leaked to the media and later retracted.
Some Republicans have also begun to question US policy toward Ukraine. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has proposed blocking further defense and humanitarian aid to Ukraine if he becomes speaker of the House next year.
A strong midterm showing for Trump supporters could revive the “America First” approach articulated by the former president.
Congress has a strong voice on war powers, meaning the composition of the House and Senate determines how much support there is for responding to Russian moves, including so-called “dirty bombs” on Ukraine or other countries. Use of strategic nuclear weapons. How the US and NATO would respond to any escalation of war, including how Congress and the executive branch interpret what “war” means.
Committee assignments on Capitol Hill, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could change, which could affect how slowly or quickly President Biden’s nominees arrive.
China is another area where the Congress is raising its voice. To date, there have been few bilateral agreements on US-China policy, resulting in the CHIPS and SCIENCE Act and the Infrastructure Act – both of which seek to strengthen US competition against China in things like semiconductors.
But a new Congress could reveal differences within the parties over areas like Taiwan or America’s stance in Asia.
Of course, the power of the purse is important. Congress has budgetary authority over military spending, which can reflect new sentiments depending on which members are elected. (In May, 57 House Republicans voted against a $40 billion Ukraine aid package. Eleven Republicans in the Senate voted against the measure.)
Congressional spending on everything from covid vaccinations in developing countries to sanctions against Russia could transform America’s economy. A Republican midterm victory in the Senate and House could have ripple effects for Europe and NATO as the war escalates.
Finally, there are ethical questions in this choice. The US is regarded in many parts of the world as a beacon of democracy. But that perception is under threat. Whether democracy is theory or practice, and whether America can still claim ownership of it — the midterms will signal what Americans value, sending a message about our national narrative and priorities.
Edward R. Professor of Public Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Tara D. is the Murrow Professor. Sonenshine.