Midterm polls show polarized US
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