While the counting of votes continues in the aftermath of the Midterm elections, one fact stands out immediately: the advance of the Republicans to conquer the lower house, while the Senate still hangs in the balance awaiting the outcome of some head-to-head challenges . And so, in the aftermath of the Midterm elections – the election date that falls exactly in the middle of every electoral term, when American citizens are called to renew much of Congress, determining the fate of the White House agenda over the two years. and in view of the next presidential elections – Antonio Monda, an Italian journalist, writer and intellectual based in Manhattan, has no doubts: “it went much less well than expected for Trump: we still have to wait for the final result of Georgia, but the dreaded “Red wave”, that is the majority affirmation of the Republicans, did not occur ».
Antonio Monda is certainly the Italian who best knows the contemporary American story: writer, professor at the “Film and Television Department” of New York University, he gives us a cross-section of the New York of our days, a real political-cultural manifesto which interprets the contemporary story of the capital of this state-continent, two years after the election of Joe Biden as President, the first tenant of a White House called to represent the more than 330 million citizens of the greatest economic-political power in the Western world .
Monda answers the questions of Panorama.it from his home in Manhattan, overlooking Central Park: the result is a conversation full of nuances, anecdotes and doubts (to the delight of his readers, of course …), whose solution we entrust to his well-known presence in the world of “stars and stripes”.
Professor, your compatriots have just voted for Midterm …
«I start from an illuminating fact. When Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the United States of America in the fall of 2016, in New York he collected about 19% of the votes, obtained mainly in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of the city, in which he had 48% . In Manhattan, Trump was under 8%. If we move on to analyze the point of view of the contents, it immediately stands out how these elections have shown that it will be the rate of inflation to decide them, even more so than abortion and the election of the new Supreme Court. Certainly very important issues, but which for the great majority of Americans pass intosecond level compared to the cost of gasoline, bread or other basic necessities ».
Monda, she is biased: she lives and works in New York, and she has dedicated many novels to her city …
«I have an epidermal relationship with the Big Apple, how can I deny it! Since my arrival in 1994, for five years I have worked as a super, a sort of doorman, a man of all things, inside a building on the Upper East Side, the most exclusive neighborhood in Manhattan ».
Speaking of novels, each is set in a different decade
«Yeah, with recurring characters. The first novel in the series is America does not exist, set in the fifties which was followed by La casa sulla pietra (sixties), Ota Benga (ten years), L’indegno (seventies), The evidence of things unseen (eighties), Io sono il fuoco (forties) and In the Devil’s territory (nineties), Il principe del mondo (twenties) and Il numero è nulla (thirties), which will be released next March. They are linked by ethical and spiritual themes, and by the attempt to reflect on the ultimate meaning of existence, without ever abandoning contact with reality… ».
Let’s go back to talking about the political results, starting from New York.
«Let’s not forget that it is the hometown of Donald Trump, a native of Queens, the second most populous district of the city. In New York they did not take well his already announced return to the national political scene, two years after the presidential elections of 2024 which will see him as a likely candidate for the Republicans: to be realistic, his announced return is seen as an absolute breakthrough, and I think too ».
Personal dislike or is there something more substantial?
“He is a barbarian, crude and violent, who despises people, especially women, and institutions. Returning to the results, the only president who managed to win first the Midterms in 1982 and then the presidential elections of 1984 with the percentage of the inflation rate higher than 7% – therefore a value similar to that of today – was Ronald Reagan: he too was detested in New York as were the two George H. and George W. Bush, but there is a fundamental difference, none of the Republican presidents of the past, as well as Richard Nixon, had ever gone so far as to be the inspirer of an assault on Capitol Hill. “
For New Yorkers that hill is practically sacred …
“Capitol Hill is located near the center of the District of Columbia: American history tells us that when he began to develop his plan for the new federal capital, in 1791, the architect and urban planner Pierre Charles l’Enfant, a Parisian of naturalized American birth , chose to place the seat of the Congress, that is the Capitol, exactly on the crest of the hill, in a place that he identified as a “pedestal waiting for a monument”. Its history is cloaked in myth, and it is a place that has a sacred dimension not only for New Yorkers but for all Americans ».
International commentators have noted Trump’s particular verbal violence towards Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“The sentence pronounced by Trump towards the young DeSantis (” Avoid 2024, I know unflattering things about you “) is certainly a sign of nervousness in view of the presidential campaign of 2024, when the two will probably face each other for the primary of the republican party: the young governor could undermine him from the final race to the White House ».
That expression tastes so much of a threat!
“It is and it speaks volumes about who Trump is. It should also be remembered the support that the ex-president offered him at the time of the election campaign for the governorate of Florida in 2019. In reality, the bright, threatening and often vulgar tone that connotes the American election campaign is not new: anecdotes are wasted… ».
Well, tell us a few episodes, then …
“In 1977, in the primary of the Democratic Party for the elections for the office of mayor of the city of New York, Ed Koch, who would then win and remain in office until 1989, and Mario Cuomo, who between 1983 and 1994 would compete state governor of the state of New York. The first was homosexual, and he went through the electoral campaign without having revealed it. Well, do you know what Cuomo used for his election posters? The words “Vote Cuomo not the Homo” (“Vote Cuomo, not the homosexual”). We are talking about a quality politician, who was an excellent governor, yet, in the electoral campaign he lowered himself to this meanness. Already 45 years ago, verbal violence characterized American political life ».
You mentioned earlier Ronald Reagan, Republican president for two consecutive terms, between 1980 and 1988. Another style …
«Trump does not represent a logical consequence in the political evolution of the Republican party, as much as its degeneration. The Republicans have had great presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln, 16th president between 1861 and 1865, who was responsible for the abolition of slavery, Theodore Roosevelt 26th president between 1901 and 1909, reformist and interventionist: he is with him that America becomes the most important nation on the planet ».
And what does he tell us about Reagan?
«Mine is a judgment of light and shadow: the defeat of communism is due to him and to Pope John Paul II, and he was also an excellent communicator, just remember that“ knock down that wall, Mr. Gorbachev ”. But we cannot forget, for example, his silence on AIDS. He today remains the second most loved president by the Americans, behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt ».
We come to the results: how many surprises!
«With the count still open, it seems that the Republicans have snatched six seats in the Chamber, while in the Senate the two parties are in perfect balance. The Republican Ron DeSantis triumphed, reconfirmed himself as governor of Florida and, as we said, Trump’s opponent in the presidential elections; the Democrat Maura Healey is the first woman and first gay governor of Massachusetts (how distant are the years of the Koch-Cuomo challenge…); still among the Democrats there is the success of Wes Moore, elected the first African American governor in the history of Maryland; even the 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, the youngest among those elected to Congress, is the first of the so-called Generation Z, that of those born between 1997 and 2012 ».
They lost the Trump colonels.
«Another aspect that leaves me surprised, as in the case of Mehmet Oz, a well-known cardiologist whom television had turned into a star -“ Dr Oz ”- thanks to the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey, who later repudiated him. At the end of the count, they seem to have lost the most unlikely and aggressive “Trumpian” candidates. That is, those in the image and likeness of him ».
And at the end of the count, precisely, what will happen?
«We will certainly see the advance of the Republicans, but in numerical terms more narrow than they hoped, without prejudice to the result in the woolen thread in the Senate. This does not mean that it went well for the Democrats, who – in fact – lose one of the two Houses, and on whose result they will have to hurry to reflect. But it could have been much worse for them. ‘
And on the democratic side?
“In the end, Joe Biden will have resisted in his fort, bringing home an unexpected and flattering result compared to his predecessors: in the 2018 Midterm elections, Trump lost 41 MPs, including deputies and senators, and Obama, in those of 2010, lost he lost 63. So Biden held up well, sort of the best of the losers ».
Let’s go back to New York: they say that his wife is a sort of “commander in chief” in the kitchen …
“Not just in the kitchen, Jacquie is the queen of the house. I don’t like to mention the names of our guests, but most of them come because of her ».
We wouldn’t mind dining with Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, Joel and Ethan Cohen, rather than with Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep or Wes Anderson: we await the invitation, then!
«Panorama is always a welcome guest…».
Antonio Monda, born in Velletri in 1962, journalist, storyteller, essayist and university professor at the Film and Television Department of New York University, is one of the most authoritative connoisseurs of contemporary American literature. He collaborates with La Repubblica, Vogue and RAINews 24, where he keeps the column “Central Park West”. He has lived in New York since 1994 with his Jamaican wife, Jacqueline Greaves, and their children Ignazio, Caterina and Marilù. In February 2015 he was appointed artistic director of the Rome Film Fest which he led until the 2021 edition: he hosted the in-depth television program Letter from New York for TG5. Winner, among others, of the Cortina d’Ampezzo Prize and the Biagio Agnes Prize, on 3 June 2019 the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella awarded him the honor of Officer of Merit of the Republic. In March 2023, his new novel “The number is nothing” (Mondadori), the ninth of the New York saga, will be released.
Panorama.it Egidio Lorito, 10/11/2022