Trump overrides White House turmoil to cast early look at 2020 reelection bid

By Clifford A. Kiracofe Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/5 21:48:40

President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is off to an early start with Trumpism now dominating the conservative wing of the Republican Party.  With the Democratic party in serious disarray, Trump may be well positioned for victory in 2020 but that is a long way down the very winding road of American politics.

After an unusually turbulent and grueling first year in office, Trump is no longer a novice politician. He survived unprecedented attacks from the Democratic party, the "Never Trump" faction of the Republican party, and the Establishment mainstream media.

He won in 2016 owing to a number of factors in which the political elites of both parties were grossly out of touch with the average voter and common man. Trump, as an independent populist, exploited this cleavage to the maximum. He responded directly to citizen concerns and his mass base about the top issues: economy, border security and illegal immigration, and terrorism.

Between now and the 2020 election, of course, are the 2018 midterm elections in which all of the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate is up for re-election. The performance of the Republican party will be a significant factor for Trump's 2020 prospects.

Should Republicans keep their majority in both houses of Congress in 2018, Trump's path will be much smoother than a situation in which Democrats gain one or both. Right now US politics is so volatile that it is much too early to predict the upcoming midterm elections. By late summer the picture will be clearer.

Trump despite the political onslaught against him and despite turmoil in his own White House has moved forward on his campaign promises. Tough new law enforcement actions are cracking down on domestic and foreign based criminal organizations. Attention to border security and related illegal immigration is underway. Various economic measures such as deregulation and tax reduction are producing a positive effect on the economy.

From the standpoint of his supporters and concerned voters, Trump worked hard to fulfill campaign promises despite opposition from the Establishment wing of his own party. 

Within the Republican party, Trump has unified supporters from key conservative factions as the recent annual conference of the American Conservative Union clearly demonstrated. Still the hawkish Neoconservative faction remains a problem. 

The Neoconservatives support such anti-Trump Republican hawks as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. In 2016, Neoconservatives supported presidential candidate Mitt Romney, an arch rival of Trump. Neoconservatives are also aligned with Vice President Mike Pence and US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

Should Trump become politically swamped in scandal, for example, Pence and Romney could mount challenges in the Republican party nominating convention in 2020. Haley could be put forward as a vice presidential candidate. While there are some significant trade issues affecting US-China relations, the overall economic dimension of the relationship is a critical pillar of the  ties. Trump, during his campaign, indicated that while he wanted to address some US-China trade issues he also wanted to improve relations with major powers such as China and Russia.

A combination of Neoconservatives and Cold War hawks oppose the concept of a new type of major power relations. Unfortunately, Trump's lack of Washington insider political savvy allowed the Neoconservatives to penetrate his new administration. Combined with the present military junta of generals Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John F. Kelly a Cold War style national security policy is presently in place negatively affecting relations with China and North Korea.

In the 2020 election campaign, Trump will be able to claim that he has been tough on the issues of trade and national security. However, success in working diplomatically with China and Russia on the North Korean issue, for example, could also give his image a boost in front of voters for effective statesmanlike behavior and averting crisis. Trump is presently in a strong position for 2020 but there are always surprises in US politics.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

blog comments powered by Disqus