The Yomiuri ShimbunThe outcome of the U.S. midterm elections can be considered to have demonstrated the popular will that wants to put the brakes on U.S. President Donald Trump’s self-oriented management of his administration. Assuming further turmoil will unfold in the U.S. political landscape, Japan should deal with such a development strategically.
In the U.S. midterm election, the Republican Party — which has been in control of both houses of Congress — maintained its majority in the Senate, while Democrats seized the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years.
As a result, a “twisted” legislature will be created, with different parties holding the majority in the Senate and the House.
Trump has withdrawn from one multilateral accord after another, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade accord, advocating “America First” policies.
From next January onward, when the term of office for newly elected members of Congress begins, it will be vital for him to gain cooperation from Democrats over the passage of budget bills and other legislation. It must be inevitable for “Trump’s style” to lose steam.
In connection with the “Russia scandal” — Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — Democrats are likely to intensify their questioning by subpoenaing administration officials to testify in the House. Depending on the circumstances, there is even a possibility of Democrats trying to impeach Trump, accusing him of a crime.
In the election, Democrats fielded a large number of female candidates, in a bid to raise the turnout rate among women and young voters. It can be said that the strategy of gathering voters critical of Trump has proved effective to some extent, by focusing on his controversial remarks that are perceived as expressing racism, nativism or contempt for women.
On the other hand, Democrats also now must face challenges such as maintaining the unity of their party, as its leftist character has increased.
Pursue win-win trade ties
By solidifying the support of conservative white voters who enthusiastically support Trump, Republicans have retained a dominant position in the Senate. Although the current business boom, thanks to Trump’s large-scale tax cuts, and his hard-line measures against immigrants have been rated highly by such voters, there is also growing concern among farming households and those in industrial sectors, who constitute the party’s support base, over adverse effects of U.S. trade friction with China.
The present state of the Republican Party, in which they are unable to put the brakes on extreme policies but instead rely on Trump’s popularity, will need to be reviewed. Can the party support, unconditionally, the strategies of Trump, who aims at being reelected in the 2020 presidential race?
The rift within the United States, which was exposed anew in the election, is extremely serious. Whether they be mending the division or implementing policies, it is essential for senior congressional members of both the Republican and Democratic parties to make concessions and urge Trump to compromise.
The problem is that, despite the harsh electoral verdict, Trump is highly likely to accelerate his extreme line.
Realizing his campaign promises by excessively issuing executive orders in disregard of Congress; escalating his hostility toward Democrats and the leading media, and increasing a widespread sense of helplessness; or making self-serving demands on other countries in trade talks, while pressing allies to assume more burdens. Precautions against such states of affairs are needed.
While paying close attention to what moves the Trump administration makes, Japan should strive to maintain the bilateral alliance and build trade relations that would be in the interests of both Japan and the United States.