Midterm polls show po­lar­ized US

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Ed­i­tor’s note: The Demo­cratic Party re­gained con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Repub­li­can Party re­tained the Se­nate in the US midterm elec­tions. What do the elec­tion re­sults sug­gest? And what in­flu­ence the re­sults will have on the US’ do­mes­tic af­fairs and diplo­macy? Four ex­perts share their views on the is­sue with China Daily’s Liu Jianna. Ex­cerpts fol­low:

Polls re­flect so­cial changes

The US midterm elec­tions ended in a small vic­tory for the Democrats and a small fail­ure for the Repub­li­cans.

The re­sults re­flect the Democrats’ ris­ing in­flu­ence on vot­ers and the in­abil­ity of the Repub­li­cans to win the sup­port of more vot­ers, which means the po­lit­i­cal rup­tures in the US could in­ten­sify lead­ing to more po­lit­i­cal fight­ing.

With a Democrats-led House, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s eco­nomic and im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies would be sub­ject to more checks and bal­ances.

To some ex­tent, the po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal dilemma in do­mes­tic af­fairs is likely to prompt the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to seek more diplo­matic break­throughs, which may man­i­fest in more de­ter­mined and tough sanc­tions on Iran, shoul­der­ing more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to keep US al­lies happy, and lay­ing more em­pha­sis on safe­guard­ing US sovereignty.

Con­fronted with mount­ing po­lit­i­cal pres­sure at home, the US gov­ern­ment could re­frain, to a large ex­tent, from in­ten­si­fy­ing the con­flicts with Rus­sia and China. Yet de­spite mil­lions of US house­holds’ im­me­di­ate in­ter­ests be­ing at stake due to the US-China trade con­flict, the chances of Trump in­ten­si­fy­ing the con­flict have only less­ened, not been ruled out.

In gen­eral, the re­sults of the midterm elec­tions will not greatly in­flu­ence the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s abil­ity to im­ple­ment its eco­nomic poli­cies, as the Repub­li­cans still con­trol the Se­nate, which wields more power than the House in al­lo­cat­ing funds.

Three dis­tinct char­ac­ter­is­tics were ev­i­dent in the midterm elec­tions.

First, both po­lit­i­cal par­ties paid un­di­vided at­ten­tion to the elec­tions and ex­hib­ited out­stand­ing ca­pa­bil­ity to mo­bi­lize vot­ers in a so­ci­ety that to­day is more dis­tinctly di­vided be­tween lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives. Which was ev­i­dent in the largest voter turnout and cam­paign funds in decades.

Sec­ond, the di­vide be­tween the two par­ties’ sup­port­ers is not con­fined to eco­nomic, re­li­gious and gen­der is­sues, but also in­volves the de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tion of the US. The ques­tion is: Can the US bal­ance its in­ter­na­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a lib­eral coun­try with the eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism that cham­pi­ons “Amer­i­can first”?

And third, young vot­ers played a more ac­tive role in the elec­tions. Not only were more youths at­tracted to the con­ser­va­tive camp, but also more of them cast their bal­lots hop­ing the US would re­turn to the tra­di­tional track of lib­er­al­ism.

As for China, it should nei­ther un­der­es­ti­mate nor over­es­ti­mate the elec­tions’ re­sults. With the two coun­tries reach­ing a cross­road in their re­la­tions, the most im­por­tant task is to push the di­a­logue mech­a­nism for­ward and en­sure the meet­ing be­tween the two coun­tries’ lead­ers pro­ceeds smoothly and yields mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­sults. Still, China has to con­cen­trate more on deep­en­ing re­form and open­ing-up.

Zhu Feng, dean of the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity

No real loss for Trump

The midterm elec­tions do not sug­gest Trump suf­fered a loss. The Democrats may have won ma­jor­ity in the House, but they can­not prevent Trump from ad­vanc­ing his poli­cies, be­cause de­spite not re­ceiv­ing the unan­i­mous sup­port of both houses even when the Repub­li­cans en­joyed ma­jor­ity in the Con­gress, he man­aged to im­ple­ment his dis­rup­tive poli­cies.

Most prob­a­bly, Trump will now ap­point new judges to the Supreme Court to con­sol­i­date the con­ser­va­tives’ hold over the ju­di­ciary, which will have a long-term im­pact on the US. Thus it can be said that Trump en­joys more in­flu­ence now as more Repub­li­cans are ex­pected to sup­port him.

What’s alarm­ing is that the Democrats won the House by pro­mot­ing iden­tity pol­i­tics and em­pha­siz­ing the can­di­dates’ gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, race and re­li­gion, rather than ta­lent and ca­pa­bil­ity. This could fur­ther di­vide the US so­ci­ety.

De­spite the cur­rent boom in the US econ­omy, an eco­nomic de­pres­sion seems to be loom­ing and could be­come re­al­ity as early as 2019 or 2020. And a split Con­gress would worsen the sit­u­a­tion, as the Democrats-led House may be more hos­tile to­ward China on is­sues such as trade.

Mei Xinyu, a re­searcher at the In­ter­na­tional Trade and Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion In­sti­tute of the Min­istry of Com­merce

Po­lit­i­cal dilemma likely to fol­low

A highly di­vided United States and vot­ers’ un­hap­pi­ness with Trump are what the midterm elec­tions have re­vealed. And given the split Con­gress, the po­lit­i­cal fight­ing be­tween the Democrats and Repub­li­cans could in­ten­sify. So, nei­ther the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies nor the poli­cies the Demo­cratic Party pro­poses are likely to be ap­proved, mak­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down a pos­si­bil­ity.

There­fore, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could cre­ate trou­ble over­seas to di­vert at­ten­tion from the dif­fi­cul­ties it is fac­ing at home, es­pe­cially be­cause Trump, as pres­i­dent, en­joys spe­cial pow­ers on the diplo­matic front. It is un­clear, though, whether the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will set its eyes on Eastern Eu­rope, the Mid­dle East or China.

Look­ing ahead, the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sults will de­pend on which party gains the up­per hand in the po­lit­i­cal fight­ing and con­vinces the vot­ers that its poli­cies are more ben­e­fi­ciary to them. Which could be a rather dif­fi­cult task for both par­ties.

Jin Can­rong, a pro­fes­sor at and as­so­ciate dean of the School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China

No ma­jor changes in US poli­cies

Given some spe­cific eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors, the risks in the US econ­omy are build­ing up. For in­stance, bub­bles in both the stock mar­ket and real es­tate mar­ket have be­gun to emerge as hous­ing prices have ex­ceeded the pre-fi­nan­cial cri­sis level while the stock mar­ket has ex­pe­ri­enced an unusu­ally long pe­riod of sharp rise. Be­sides, there has been no re­duc­tion in US debt; in­stead, it has ac­cu­mu­lated fur­ther. And the tax cuts the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­motes will fur­ther weaken the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nan­cial po­si­tion.

A Democrats-dom­i­nated House may make it dif­fi­cult for Trump to im­ple­ment his eco­nomic poli­cies, but it can­not pos­si­bly over­haul the poli­cies. And since the Repub­li­cans still en­joy greater say in the Se­nate, Trump could slow down a bit and use round­about ways to im­ple­ment his poli­cies.

Also, he is un­likely to back away from his trade pol­icy to­ward China, as it has al­ways been one of his core poli­cies.

There­fore, the elec­tion re­sults will ham­per the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s progress to some ex­tent, but may not deal a real blow to Trump.

Xu Xi­u­jun, an as­so­ciate re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute of World Eco­nomics and Pol­i­tics, Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences

Jin Can­rong

Xu Xi­u­jun

Zhu Feng

Mei Xinyu

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