D-Day for life and times of Trump

Editorial | Mary Ma 7 Nov 2018

The US mid-term elections are more than halfway through by this morning Hong Kong time.

In a few more hours, Americans - and the world - will have a better idea whether the Republican Party will retain control of Congress and elevate Donald Trump's presidency to a new high.

Or if it will be the opposite, making Trump a lame-duck president for the remainder of his term.

It could be neither. Those are only two of the probable scenarios the vote could lead to.

At stake are all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate. Pre-election polls indicate that while the Grand Old Party would continue to dominate the Senate, the Democrats would control the House.

That's the consensus among the pollsters. However, in light of the 2016 humiliation that predicted an easy victory for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over Trump, people have learned not to take poll findings seriously - since the 2016 outcome was so stunning that the shock still lingers.

So, will pollsters earn the US public's confidence this time? Stay tuned for the mid-term results.

More significantly, the vote is a referendum on Trump's presidency. If it yields a total victory for the Republicans, it would embolden Trump further. As one American commentator has pointed out, the president whom North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un once labeled the "mentally deranged US dotard" would show "what a presidency unfettered by fears of congressional oversight really looks like."

Because of that, this mid-term exercise is the only election that the entire world - especially China - has been monitoring with the keenest possible interest.

As far as those outside the United States are concerned, a total Republican victory would never be the best-case scenario. While a GOP defeat in both the House and Senate may be the case to dream for, this would be too unrealistic in view of the support Trump has been able to maintain among white voters.

If the outcome turns out to be one exactly as predicted by the pollsters - thus Democrats controlling the House and Republicans retaining the Senate - Trump won't be crippled, as the power closely associated with his administration is in the Senate, which is responsible for confirming top officials and Supreme Court judges.

However, in such a scenario of Democrats sharing part of the congressional power, Trump would at least be subject to a limited degree of checks and balances from the House, which will make it difficult for the Republicans to force passage of radical laws as they did in the past two years.

But the result will have little impact on the Sino-US trade war, as the Democrats are also scornful of Beijing.

The telephone conversation between President Xi Jinping and Trump, during which they agreed to meet at the G20 summit in Argentina this month, may be read as a preparation by both sides for talks after the mid-term elections.

After all, they know the trade war has to be resolved - one way or another.

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