Trump cards failing to pay off for polls

The latest round of Sino-US trade talks concluded precisely as empty-handed as predicted.

Mary Ma

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The latest round of Sino-US trade talks concluded precisely as empty-handed as predicted. Although both sides have committed to keeping the dialogue open, China apparently isn't in the mood to end the impasse quickly.

Beijing is trying to be sticky. By talking but not conceding, they can drain US President Donald Trump of some energy prior to the American mid-term elections in two months.

Allowing Trump to wind up the trade war soon would embolden hawks at the White House, and it isn't in Beijing's interest to see that happen, since the issues of Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region are also at stake.

Perhaps the best-case scenario would be to see the Democrats regain control of the US Congress, to restrain Trump as well as the elephant, so to speak, to let his rampage continue to ruin Washington's relationship with allies while being unable to inflict new harm elsewhere.

It may also be in the Democrats' selfish interest to leave Trump in the White House - even if they control Congress after the mid-term elections - as the collision course he has set will alarm Americans and inflict wounds on the Republicans prior to the 2020 presidential election.

Incidentally, impeachment is a politically risky course to take. If not properly handled, it can backfire on the opposition.

The elections will be held mostly on November 6. While nobody can say with confidence which side is leading in the race, there's no question the Democrats are catching up in some constituencies held by the Republicans.

According to The New York Times - a media organization Trump deplores - the Democrats are doing well in conservative districts like Kentucky's Sixth District, West Virginia's Third, North Carolina's Ninth, New York's 22nd, and Montana's at-large district. In 2016, Trump won all of them by 10 points or more.

Having learned from the past, Democrats have been campaigning on less liberal agendas to appeal to conservative voters in the Grand Old Party strongholds. If these voters stay away from the voting booths, that will increase the Democrats' chances.

The late Senator John McCain's ultimate snub of Trump may also make a difference. By shutting him out of his funeral, McCain not only deprived Trump of the honor to be present at the solemn event, but also emphasized to his supporters that Trump - instead of making America great again - made it weak.

That message wouldn't go down well with Trump's core base, but may appeal to moderates.

After successfully marking 2017 with massive tax cuts, Trump has tried to make 2018 his coup de grace to ensure his political survival - jetting out to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and starting trade wars with China and allies - in the hopes of producing momentous "achievements" to brag about in the key months up to November.

But, contrary to his wish, Kim hasn't cooperated to disarm his nuclear arsenal, and the trade war with China is becoming a sticky quagmire.

His warning of Democratic violence, acknowledging that his impeachment is a possibility, and threatening to quit the World Trade Organization show Trump is probably distracted. By playing on fears and doubling down on trade, he is feeling fear.