Much has been written in the past few years on the discrete role and influence of the US Congress. It is positive that, albeit belated, and despite the urgings of those who understand how the American political system works and were not heeded to the degree that they should have been, importance is now being placed on the decisions and interventions of the legislative bodies.
As political leaders, and also as a society, we are starting to understand here in Greece that, in contrast to European legislative systems, the US Congress is not only institutionally powerful, it is also quite independent. This is essential when it comes to planning how one promotes strategic goals and national interests.
This is the prism through which we need to assess the results of the midterm elections in the United States. Among other things they showed that the Greek-American community still has a strong voice. This was confirmed by the re-election of five members of the House of Representatives of Greek heritage – three Democrats and two Republicans – and by the fact that in both the House and the Senate, more and more lawmakers are becoming aware, interested and, when required, involved in Hellenic issues.
The Greek-American community’s influence is not just apparent in the election of Greek-American or pro-Greece candidates, but also in the defeat of some who were opposed by the diaspora – most notably Mehmet Oz in the crucial state of Pennsylvania – because their presence in Congress would have had negative consequences for the issues that concern us.
In the American federal system, moreover, it is not just developments at the national level that count, but also at the state. In that context one cannot overstate the importance of Eleni Kounalakis’ re-election as lieutenant governor of California, the world’s fifth-biggest economy.
If President Joe Biden decides not to run for office again, California Governor Gavin Newsom is one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination and, if he is elected president, that will mean Kounalakis becomes governor.
In Illinois, another populous and important state, Alexi Giannoulias is back, this time as secretary of state.
And there are many more politicians with Greek roots at the local level.
Given that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to improve ties with Washington – as was apparent from his recent meeting with Biden at the G20 summit in Bali – the midterms sent a clear message: The Greek-American community has real influence and is a strong link between the two countries, as they deepen their multifaceted and mutually beneficial relationship. For Greece’s friends, competitors and even foes, this is a reality they’re simply going to have to learn to live with.