Time is running out on Trump
Updated 16:56, 31-Jul-2019
Huang Jiyuan

Editor's note: Huang Jiyuan is an opinion editor with CGTN Digital. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Well, here we go again. On Tuesday, with a series of tweets about trade negotiations with China, U.S. President Donald Trump has sent every news outlet into breaking-news-mode and caused the market to tumble. Though at this point in his presidency and with his known habit of sending inflammatory tweets at crucial junctures no one should be really surprised by it, the world is still, again, captured by a discussion of whether this is an imprudent outburst or a calculated negotiation tactic.

However, the truth might be much simpler. Because of the international flavor of this event, one would naturally look to international factors for an explanation. But, what President Trump is truly facing is much more at home than abroad. He is looking at the next year's presidential election, and he is scared.

Things haven't been looking good for him personally. The U.S. House of Representatives voted on July 16 to condemn his remarks on four congresswomen as racist. Never in its 200 years of history has the House ever condemned a president's remarks. Robert Mueller's testimony on the Hill didn't help him either. What came out of it was a firm "no" to the question of whether the Mueller Report exonerated the president. In the span of several days, the president has become a racist and a potential suspect for criminal investigation.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on July 24, 2019. /VCG Photo

Former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress on July 24, 2019. /VCG Photo

He has been taking professional hits, too. Ever since the Democrats took over the House, his legislative agenda has been put on hold. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement he negotiated in 2018 still hasn't been sent to Congress for approval. The only major domestic achievement he boasts about – the economy – is getting checked by the Chairman of Federal Reserve who wants a  moderate cut on the interest rate instead of a large one insisted by the president.

And what's more, his political opponent in the 2020 election is taking shape. Trump has long viewed California Senator Kamala Harris as a serious threat. And after a shining first-debate performance and a climb in the polls, as New York Times has reported, Trump and his orbit are now seriously considering how to prepare for a potential Trump-Harris showdown. What makes things worse is that, despite the soaring economy, Trump's approval rating has never pierced the 50 percent threshold on major national polls.

So personally, professionally, and politically, Trump has been under siege. And things are only going getting worse. As election season continues, he will find less and less partners on Capitol Hill. Part of his strategy in keeping Republicans united was to put conservative judges on the federal courts. However, according to an article from Politico, seven Democratic senators who are currently running for president, and who supported half of President Trump's judicial nominees before, are now objecting to them nearly 100 percent of the time. 

Senator Kamala Harris doing interview after part two of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami, Florida, on June 27, 2019. /VCG Photo

Senator Kamala Harris doing interview after part two of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami, Florida, on June 27, 2019. /VCG Photo

So, what's left? The trade deal with China. This is currently the only major political chess piece he can grab onto. His political base – the farmers and factory workers – will gain an enormous economic boon if he was to force the soybeans and other farm products onto China. However, China has proven to be a tough opponent who stands firm of its positions and wouldn't crumble like other countries did under his threats. It is more than capable of biding its time to negotiate a fair and good deal for itself. And, more importantly, China's retaliatory tariffs are hurting Trump's political base and its support for him. An opponent who stands firm and fights back effectively is something of news to Trump's world of politics.

Trump needs a win as he heads into the election season. As of today, bungling the China deal would not just be a blow to his legacy, but throwing away a major achievement and putting his entire electoral prospect in danger. And the prospect of losing the election is a nightmare for him. So, he has to push for the deal to be made right now, if he wants to keep his power for another four years.

He is not wrong to push so eagerly for a deal. China has the time and the choice. He doesn't.

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