GOP must contain splits over Trump

By Liu Weidong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/30 20:48:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Last week, the FBI "lost" about 50,000 text messages between two of its senior officials, one of whom was a member of the FBI team investigating former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's email server. The missing texts were recovered a few days later, yet still, the incident triggered widespread suspicion over anti-Donald Trump bias at the FBI, which may have led to favorable treatment in the investigation into Clinton's private email server, given that the two FBI agents are apparently not fans of Trump and once called him "idiot" and a "loathsome human" in their texts.

The missing texts should not have become a sensational news story, but it was so hyped up in the US, it once again mirrored the country's political infighting.

Trump's administration may want to keep hyping the email controversy to divert the public's attention from Russiagate. On the other hand, facing the approaching midterm elections, the Republican Party wishes to deliver a message to US voters - that Democrats are not trustworthy - they should just consider their former presidential nominee's email scandal.

These political struggles are inevitable. Yet this is not the whole picture of the US political landscape.

Political forces in the US are getting increasingly complicated. The fight between the establishment and the anti-establishment side within the GOP is fierce. The Democratic Party is also divided into traditional Democrats, represented by Clinton, and democratic socialists like Senator Bernie Sanders. In the meantime, Trump does not belong to any side in particular. Thus, there are five different political forces in total, which take distinct stances over various issues and make irregular alliances for utilitarian cooperation.

Republicans hold a majority in both chambers of the US Congress - the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is a huge advantage for Trump. As long as he and other Republicans can unite, breaking through the opposition of Democrats would not be hard and Trump can carry out his policies more smoothly.

However, since Trump assumed office, a series of his policies, such as repealing Obamacare and a new immigration plan have been rebuffed. Only his tax reform plan has been promoted relatively successfully. The fact that Trump has had to issue so many executive orders shows his uncomfortable relationship with Congress.

Due to Trump's strong anti-establishment stance, he met resistance from the mainstream establishment within the GOP as soon as he took office. His countermeasure is therefore to keep promoting his stance to maintain his popularity with his supporters. In the end, Trump's influence on his fans outweighs that of the Republican Party, so the GOP has to make compromises and collaborate with Trump on some issues.

This is what US political landscape looks like for the moment - Trump is holding the GOP hostage with his populism and the GOP is to some extent helpless. Meanwhile, the Democrats are looking for any chance to enhance their strength by utilizing the struggles within the GOP. This situation will likely continue throughout Trump's first term. 

Normally, presidential elections are often a catalyst to reveal social divergences and after the elections, US political forces and the public gradually move toward integration. But one year after Trump's inauguration, the nation is more divided than ever.

How long will Trump sit in the Oval Office? It is too early to tell. Yet given his staunch supporters, the recent economic growth, the completion of his cabinet with more professional politicians rather than his family members and his strong will to fulfill his campaign promises, he could still be re-elected. 

During former US president Barack Obama's term, conflicts between the GOP and the Democratic Party were noticeable, while splits within the parties were minor issues. But now, partisan fights, splits and polarization within the two mainstream US parties, especially the ruling party for now, are equally alarming. Democrats are no longer the only major challenge for the GOP. How to confront the challenges Trump brings is also crucial. 

The author is a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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