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opinion

In recent years we’ve been made to wonder about the collective judgment of the American people, about some of the extreme political ideas they’ve supported.

What’s happened to the good sense that once made the country so impressive, we’ve wondered. How could Americans have become so gullible?

The results of the midterm elections eased some of that concern. Voters turned their backs on so many candidates espousing radical right views.

Donald Trump, however, is doing his best to further instability with his announcement – with the next presidential election more than 700 days away – that he will seek the presidency again. This, despite many of the candidates he endorsed in the midterms doing faceplants; this, despite the election constituting his third electoral failure – 2018, 2020, 2022 – in a row; despite his being impeached twice while president; despite his helping foment a vicious mob attack on the Capitol; despite his facing several criminal probes.

Unsurprisingly, the former president’s announcement featured a torrent of lies, exaggerations and wild accusations. There is comfort, however, in the knowledge that Americans are getting wise to him, probably wiser than he knows.

The elections were far from being a complete triumph for the Democrats. There was no red wave but no blue one either. The Dems lost the popular vote and it’s apparent they’ve lost their majority in the House of Representatives. But that should not take away from this election’s pivotal achievement.

The midterms moved the country back from the brink. The Democrats destroyed one of the gravest threats the country’s democracy has ever faced: the election subversion movement.

Election-denying candidates who were vying to take control of voting systems were wiped out in the six major battleground states. The latest loser was hotshot Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a demagogic member of the Trump-bootlicking brigade who was certain she was going to win. But voters weren’t listening to her stop-the-steal squeal. They wanted their democracy back.

There was no political violence at the polls, as was feared, and next to no allegations of fraud: “This was a vote for normalcy,” said Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, who, we’ll recall, Mr. Trump pressured to change the 2020 presidential election result in the Peach state.

Not all Republican extremists were defeated, but by and large the results were a ground-gainer for the forces of moderation and stability that the country desperately needs. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, where the party was able to maintain its razor-thin advantage, was confident legislative deadlock can be avoided: “What gives us the opening is that they know embracing Trump and MAGA is a failure. Not all Republicans know it, but a large number do,” he said.

Though Democrats lost the House, the margin is the thinnest of any first-term Democratic president since John F. Kennedy lost only five seats in the 1962 midterms. Republicans are deeply divided, meaning they will find it difficult to get all members on board to block Mr. Biden’s progressive agenda.

Had the Republicans, as so many expected, taken control of both chambers and had their election deniers score victories, one can scarcely imagine the consequent upheavals.

The greater stability brought on by the results will win back some respect for and confidence in the United States among traditional allies, including Canada. It’s hard to remember a time, going back to the early Confederation days, when Canadians have been so down on their neighbour as they have been in recent years.

Despite some differences on trade and cross-border issues such as Michigan’s plan, now before the courts, to close down the Line 5 pipeline, the Biden administration’s agenda aligns well with that of the Trudeau Liberals.

On foreign affairs, the results of the elections were immediately evidenced. Mr. Biden had a strengthened hand in his summit with China’s President, Xi Jinping, a meeting at which he lowered the temperature, saying that no new Cold War was in the offing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made no secret of his favouritism toward Republicans, will not be happy. Nor will Saudi Arabia ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was tight with the Trump White House and was effectively helping them in the campaign when he rejected Mr. Biden’s request for an oil price cut to ease inflationary pressures.

For authoritarian forces abroad and at home, the midterm elections were a significant setback. A pall over the great republic has been lifted. For the time being, the tides are moving against the backwardism of the hard right. Democracy is restored.