Trump may double down after midterms
The Democratic Party recaptured control of the House of Representatives that it lost eight years ago, giving it more leverage to challenge Donald Trump’s presidency. The Republican Party retained its control of the Senate, but it will be difficult for Trump’s policies to break through. The election result sent a signal that Trump’s governance is facing more controversies and the American voters wish to restrain him.
But Tuesday’s election result doesn’t amount to a turning point for Trump. He still has the opportunity to mobilize his supporters and bring Republicans together to contest a Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential election. Obama won the re-election in 2012 despite the Democratic Party losing con- trol of the House in 2010.
Now Trump faces two options: adjust or strengthen his style. The first option can help him win more voters in the middle ground for the 2020 presidential elections. The second will consolidate his main support and pass the blame onto the Democratic Party for a fiercer partisan struggle. He is more likely to choose the second.
The biggest suspense will be whether the Democratic Party will start impeachment against Trump, using its control of the House. Impeachment needs the support of more than twothirds of senators to work. Therefore, it has almost no chance of success. Yet the process may still appeal to Democrats as it will embarrass the president and throttle his reelection plan. But it will depend on the result of the investigation into the Russiagate scandal.
Trump will have to face new obstacles on international issues that have no bipartisan consensus such as the Korean Peninsula. Yet he can still do what he wants against pressure given the House’s limits of authority on foreign affairs. What endured the least impact from the midterm results was the China-US relationship as the tough line on China is among topics on which Democrats and Republics can agree. Losing the House will hardly have any direct bearing on Trump’s China policy.
What’s underlying deteriorating China-US ties is the US mentality of refusing to accept China’s rise. Beijing and Washington have to move together to reduce overall tension in bilateral ties. If the US intends to change its foreign relations, Europe will be the first. The Trump administration has significantly crippled transatlantic solidarity and created serious conflicts with Europe. European elites will be more than happy to see the midterm results. So will be Japan, South Korea and Australia. They will pin hopes on a milder attitude from Trump under constraints.
It’s hard to conclude that global populism will be thereby disappointed. After all, the Republicans still control the Senate and Trump is able to continue promoting America First, just with technical adjustments. High uncertainty lingers in international relations.
China doesn’t need to be deluded by a perceived change in US politics. We should just go about our own business.