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Columnists

The Irony of the Midterm Elections – A Spectre for the Community to Avoid

November’s midterm elections produced manifold results, with Republicans (barely) taking the House and Democrats retaining control of the Senate. The ‘red wave’ turned into a ‘cold shower’ compelling the GOP to ask itself just how – amidst sky-high inflation and a slew of domestic issues – they weren’t able to fare better.

Election night proved fortuitous for the Greek-American Community, which saw all its Congressional candidates get re-elected. And perhaps most importantly, it helped defeat Dr. Mehmet Oz – a countryman and personal friend of Turkish strongman Tayyip Erdogan – in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race. A popular TV personality, Dr. Oz had squeaked through the Republican primary with the backing of former president Trump.

The irony is that if Mr. Trump had not insisted on actively supporting someone widely viewed as an outsider by Pennsylvania voters, the GOP would have likely won the seat. The Democratic candidate John Fetterman had still not fully recovered from a recent stroke, which became glaringly evident during a debate, making his ultimate victory an even clearer indicator of just how wrong Mr. Trump was in this race.

Fortunately, Mr. Fetterman has shown support for Hellenic issues, among others, calling for the Aghia Sophia to stop operating as a mosque. Democratic control of the Senate also means that Senator Robert Menendez, a philhellene, will likely keep his position as chair of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, which bodes well for Greece.

The loss of the House for the Democrats could likely also end up being attributed to the extreme positions being pushed by the party’s far-left candidates in the traditionally ‘deep blue’ state of New York. The home state of Democratic Socialist darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ended up going red in several key congressional districts. Although the Democrats won the state’s tightest gubernatorial race in years, they clearly lost ground due to serious issues like soaring crime and over taxation, which they refuse to discuss due to ideological ankylosis.

According to many analysts, these key issues were enough to propel several Republican congressional candidates to victory. With the balance of power in the House of Representatives being ever so thin, the seats lost by the Democrats in their stronghold of New York undeniably helped cost them the majority.

With the midterms now  over (except for Georgia), politicians and voters turn their attention to 2024. The unexpected resiliency of the Democrats and ‘the red wave that wasn’t’ leaves questions about who will emerge as the face of the GOP – especially following Governor Ron DeSantis’ election cakewalk in Florida. With Mr. Trump having already formally declared his candidacy and taking his first jabs at his possible primary challenger, all signs point to a GOP ‘civil war’ in the making that will leave no one unscathed. Meanwhile, President Biden proved himself ‘hard to kill’, significantly outperforming his Democratic predecessors Messrs. Obama and Clinton in the midterms. Although his age and questions regarding his mental capacity cast serious doubt over plans for reelection, by avoiding lame duck status, he manages to retain significant political clout and influence in his party.

Meanwhile, the Greek-American Community cannot afford to merely observe developments as a spectator. It success in opposing the sale of F-16s to Turkey – despite pushback from the White House, as well as some Republic lawmakers – undoubtedly proves that the exercise of political influence and alliances with figures occupying key positions in the state apparatus can be a powerful weapon in safeguarding Greece and advancing Hellenic issues.

Together with shoring up Greece’s armed forces, which were badly overlooked during a decade of austerity-based memoranda, the strengthening of Athens’ geopolitical position proves to be a key factor in securing Greece’s territorial integrity and staving off threats from regional bullies like Turkey. All signs indicate that the die has been cast and Greece is getting ready to exploit the huge deposits of hydrocarbons it is believed to have in its Exclusive Economic Zone. This prospect could radically improve the outlook for the nation’s economy and geopolitical status. In fact, it may prove to be one of those rare generational decisive opportunities that could leave an indelible mark for the remainder of the 21st century.

The ability to capitalize on this historic opportunity presupposes further delimitation of Greece’s EEZ and expansion of its territorial waters. Turkey is sure to do everything in its power to block this prospect, and may even resort to the use of military force if it believes that its ‘window of opportunity’ is closing and the balance of power will shift in Greece’s favor henceforth.

Now is the time to be particularly careful with the political friendships and alliances that the Greek-American Community will forge. Luckily, there are supporters of Hellenic issues in both parties – just as there are opponents who are partial to Turkey. The times demand sobriety, hard work, and cohesion to ensure that Hellenism can increase its influence in U.S. politics.

Irrespective of political affiliations, it’s unconscionable for a Greek-American to have supported Dr. Oz’s candidacy, knowing full well that he would have served as an unapologetic agent of Turkish interests. Ideology and personal friendship have their limits; especially when the fate of Greece is involved.

Similarly, the absence of a Greek-American from the Senate is a deficit that shouldn’t exist. Senator Menendez is a staunch supporter of Hellenic issues (in some instances, perhaps serving Hellenic interests more effectively than a Greek-American or even some politicians in Greece); however, the Community has every reason to support him not only financially, but also through the election of homegrown candidates who can work together with him in advancing Hellenic issues.

The Greek-American Community must carefully scrutinize the candidates it supports from either party and avoid becoming a part of the tragic irony that appeared in the midterm elections, where powerful Republicans and Democrats ended up kicking away golden opportunities and boosting their opponents due to bad choices.

 

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas

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