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Right after the US election results were clear on Wednesday, Bernie Sanders supporters rushed to social media to say: “We told you so!”, using various hasgtags such as #DontBlameMeIVotedForBernie, #StillSanders and #BringBernieBack. Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election came as a shock to many Democrats, some Republicans and generally a whole lot of people…

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Jennifer Victor, George Mason University

While the world was focused on Clinton versus Trump, the balance of power in the Senate was decided. While not all the races are decided at this hour, it is clear that the Republicans will maintain a majority of the U.S. Senate.

The Democrats needed to swing five seats in their favor in order to take the majority of seats (or pick up four seats, with a Democratic White House win where the vice president acts as a tie breaker). The pre-election analysis made six states appear poised to possibly flip from Republican to Democratic: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. These races were tight and had the power to change the majority party in the chamber.

Here’s how it played out.

How the critical states fared

Illinois Republican incumbent Mark Kirk ran into trouble running against a robust Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth has already created a national image for herself as a fiery double-amputee war veteran. Then a comment Kirk made at a recent debate was received as insensitive and racist. Duckworth winning this state was a pickup for Democrats.

One of the more interesting results of the night came from Wisconsin. In 2010 Republican challenger Ron Johnson defeated Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold. Feingold ran against Johnson this year to try to win back his old seat, and his support looked relatively strong throughout the season. In the end, the Republican incumbent held the seat, perhaps because Republicans rallied for Trump in ways that were not fully detected by the polls.

In Indiana, former Republican Senator and Governor Evan Bayh ran as a Democrat in a tight race and lost to Republican Todd Young. Bayh ran somewhat ahead for much of the race, but the trajectory was not in his favor. In the end, Indiana stays in the Republican column.

North Carolina hosted a narrow race between Republican incumbent Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, who has served as a state assembly representative. The race had narrowed in recent weeks, but stayed stayed within a margin of error. North Carolina stays red.

Pennsylvania saw Republican incumbent Pat Toomey challenged by Democrat Katie McGlinty. The race was close with McGlinty projected to win. McGlinty was one of the Democrats’ bright hopes this season, against a strongly conservative and fiscal hawk incumbent. Senator Toomey retaining his seat is a part of unpredicted Trump support in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

The Senate election in New Hampshire was too close to call as of this writing. Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte and her challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, were practically tied the entire election season. Democrats were optimistic about picking up this seat.

Does Senate majority matter?

The Republicans will keep the majority in the Senate, but it will be a narrow majority.

Having a majority matters because the party with the most seats gets the chair of every committee and subcommittee in the chamber, and the majority of seats on every committee and subcommittee. The majority leader gets to set the chamber’s agenda, which means controlling which legislation comes to the floor and when. Assuming Republicans control of the House, Senate and White House, this may include repeal of Obamacare or strict immigration controls.

But majority status in the Senate is not as important as it is in the House. The norms in the Senate tend more toward deliberation rather than the strong-arming used in the House. For example, the Senate uses procedures like “unanimous consent,” in which all 100 senators must agree about the rules that govern a bill before it comes to the floor. Also, the filibuster means that most bills need 60 votes, a “supermajority,” to come up for a vote on the floor.

Democrats will still hold significant power as the minority party. The minority party in the Senate is significantly more powerful than the minority party in the House, because of what political scientists call “negative agenda control,” or keeping bills you don’t like from passing. As the minority party in the Senate, the Democrats have greater power in the Senate, relative to the House, at preventing legislation to which they are oppose from coming to the floor. Because of that power, majority status means somewhat less in the Senate than it does in the House.

On the other hand, even if neither party has enough votes to “run the table” on any votes in the Senate, the Republican Party has a tremendous advantage now that it controls the Congress and White House. Republicans, for the most part, will not need many Democratic partners to achieve their policy goals.

The Conversation

Jennifer Victor, Associate Professor of Political Science, George Mason University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Donald Trump is the next president of the United States after a long, bitter and divisive election campaign, according to projections. Projections early on Wednesday showed that Trump clinched victory over Hillary Clinton to become the 45th US president-elect after securing the 270 electoral votes needed to win. “This is a political bombshell that we haven’t…

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In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Same Sex Marriage is now legal in the USA.

Press conference from the US President above.

President Obama reacted to the decision on Twitter:

You can read the full Supreme Court ruling here:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

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Mark Beeson from the University of Western Australia writing for The Conversation, gives us his opinion on Tony Abbott's decision to join China’s proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia

Even for a government that has recently made an artform of policy backflips, the Abbott government’s belated, but seemingly inevitable decision to join China’s proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) represents a manoeuvre of Olympian proportions.

While most of the attention has understandably been on the very public divisions within cabinet and between Australia and the US, there is arguably a more enduring lesson to be learnt about influence and institutional development.

One of the reasons that the Americans have been so concerned about the AIIB is that they – rightly – fear that it will dilute their own influence and that of extant regional institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Japan has been the principal actor in the ADB, but Japan is also a close – some would say highly dependent – ally of the US, and therefore poses less of a threat to America’s regional influence.

China is a very different proposition. While Japan may not have been any greater admirer of the Washington consensus than China is, Japan could generally be relied upon to at least look as if it did. China has no such inhibitions or filial loyalties.

Although China’s own developmental model has yet to be definitively articulated by its ruling elite, we have a pretty good idea what it looks like in practice. China’s hands-on approach to investment in Africa provides an insight into what large-scale infrastructure investment might look like closer to home.

Two points are important to consider in this regard. First, that China is going its own way and actually following a Japanese-style tradition of neo-mercantilism is more surprising than it might seem – at least as far as many observers in the West are concerned. True, China is adopting a well-established East Asian, state-led template, but many thought things would turn out rather differently.

The great hope and expectation among many Western governments was that simply by participating in the international institutions the US had helped establish and subsequently dominated, Chinese policymakers would be “socialised” into appropriate behaviour. In short, Chinese elites would become more like “us”.

While there is no doubt that this has undoubtedly happened to some extent – China is an increasingly effective player in many international institutions – the question is how much its elites have taken on the norms, ideas and goals of their counterparts in places like the US and Australia. Do they still have a very different idea about how institutions should operate and how they might be utilised to pursue national rather than collective goals?

This leads to a second consideration. Is China attempting to use the AIIB to quite literally cement its place at the centre of regional production networks that give material expression to its growing regional importance and influence? The reality is that China is already central to the so-called “factory Asia” of trans-regional production structures that have been established across north and southeast Asia.

As The Economist recently pointed out:

China produces about 80% of the world’s air-conditioners, 70% of its mobile phones and 60% of its shoes. The white heat of China’s ascent has forged supply chains that reach deep into South-East Asia. This “Factory Asia” now makes almost half the world’s goods.

China’s planned investment in badly needed regional transportation infrastructure will entrench its economic dominance and importance. There are few countries in East Asia that don’t have China as their number one trade partner. China-centric transportation links and the reconstitution of the old Silk Road will only reinforce this economic leverage and make disagreeing with China increasingly difficult and costly.

Are the US and Australia right to be concerned about the geopolitical consequences of all this? Possibly so. But what, exactly, does an alternative strategy look like? And what would its consequences actually be? The US – much less Australia – can’t stop China playing a prominent role in the region of which it is a part. It would be counter-productive to try to do so.

One of the reasons that China is trying to set up its own institutions and agreements is because it is either locked out of some – like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership – or underrepresented given its weight in the international economy. The US’s continuing veto power in the IMF is perhaps the most glaring example of the latter possibility.

Barring some – not inconceivable – economic crisis, the region will have to get used to becoming ever more dependent on China’s growing economic power. This is not necessarily bad news. It’s not China’s fault that we squandered the windfall provided by the resource boom.

Even more pointedly, for regional countries desperate for infrastructure investment China potentially offers vital assistance without the ideological, reformist baggage associated with the Washington consensus.

It could prove an irresistible combination and one that may help to enhance China’s influence in the region at the expense of America’s – despite continuing concerns about China’s geopolitical ambitions. How times change.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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