What changes to expect from US new presidency

By Phuong Vu   June 15, 2024 | 03:00 pm PT
Daniel Twining, President of the International Republican Institute, talked to VnExpress about how U.S.'s policies towards China, Ukraine and other matters might be shaped with Biden or Trump as next president.
Tổng thống Mỹ Joe Biden (trái) và cựu tổng thống Donald Trump. Ảnh: AP

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and former president Donald Trump. Photos by AP

The U.S. policy towards China has always been a hot topic in the elections. What are the current stances of American politicians and the two candidates towards China?

Democrats and Republicans agree on China quite strongly. If you look at public opinion polling, most Americans agree that China is a competitor of the United States, maybe an adversary of the United States. There's quite a lot of bipartisan consensus on China in the House of Representatives. Democrats and Republicans created a special committee on China, and Republicans and Democrats were very aligned in this committee. China is a source of bipartisan cooperation, which I think reflects a failure of Chinese diplomacy. I think whoever wins, President Biden or President Trump, you will see quite a lot of continuity in U.S. policy in the Indo Pacific. President Trump put in place tough tariffs and technology sanctions on China, President Biden continued those and strengthen them. He didn't remove them. Actually, he made them tougher, especially when it comes to technology, trade, semiconductor supply lines, that sort of thing. So I think you can expect some continuity in how the next president will think about China and America's central role in Asia, because Republicans and Democrats also agreed that this is the most important region of the world for the future of American security and American prosperity. The U.S. is even more committed to the Indo Pacific I think, than we've been in the past. That's true of Republicans. It's true of Democrats.

Which issue will American voters be most concerned about in this year election: the economy, inflation, cost of living or foreign policy?

The economy has been very strong under President Biden. It was also very strong under President Trump. In fact, the U.S. with the exception of a short period during the pandemic, has had a very strong economic run. The U.S. share of the world economy has grown over the last 10 years, the U.S. economy has gotten bigger relative to other countries. It's been growing very fast. It's the fastest growing developed economy. So does that help President Biden or does it help President Trump? The problem for President Biden is inflation has been quite high. And that's partly because of so much government spending during and after the pandemic, including on a big infrastructure bill, semiconductor Bill Green energy bill. The American economy is growing very strongly, but many Americans do not feel it because of inflation. In most countries, the economy is the number one issue right? India just had their election and autonomy was such a big issue and it's the number one issue in most countries.

Immigration and border security are a very big issue this year, bigger than usual. President Biden just today has announced some measures on more immigration controls, more border controls. But this is an issue that many Americans think is a leading issue. Foreign policy is usually not such a big issue in an American election. Even though the whole world is following the American election, many Americans are not necessarily thinking about the whole world when they think about who to vote for. But there is a sense that the world is becoming more dangerous, and in some ways that probably does not help President Biden even though you know Hamas' attack on Israel is not President Biden's fault, Russia's attack on Ukraine is not President Biden's fault. But the sense that the world is becoming more dangerous for American interests is going to be a factor in this election. So those are some of the big issues.

In the scenario of Mr. Trump returning to the White House, will he be able to quickly end the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Gaza conflict as he promised?

He's quite a strong negotiator. The Abraham accords that normalized Arab countries relations with many Israelis, were something that the U.S. accomplished in his administration, and so many experts said no, it will never work, but it worked. He even negotiated with Kim Jong Un for North Korea, in Hanoi. Everyone said, Oh, that's impossible. And then he did it. It didn't succeed, but maybe it was good to try. So my understanding from President Trump's advisors is they want the war in Ukraine to end and that means convincing not only Ukraine, but also Russia to stop fighting, and that will require more leverage and more sanctions on Russia. Even more than the Biden administration has been able to deploy. President Trump's vision, as I understand it, is not to let Russia have Ukraine at all. Actually, it's to put maximum pressure on Russia to enter into a negotiation to end the war in the Middle East. President Trump was one of Israel's strongest supporters of any American president. So hopefully the war will be over in the Middle East by the time January comes and we either have President Trump or President Biden in his second term. But I think for Republicans supporting Israel is very, very important. Israel was attacked. Israelis were living normal lives going about their daily life. And Hamas this terrorist organization funded and supported by Iran, came in and killed over 1,000 civilians so Israel cannot be safe until Hamas is destroyed. And I think that's what President Trump would bring. President Biden has been very strong as a supporter of Israel as well. Structured there's more bipartisan agreement on both the war in Europe and the war in Israel. I mean, American Congress voted overwhelmingly to provide more assistance to Israel and Ukraine. This is one thing that broadly Americans agree on. And obviously people would like the war to end but not for aggression to succeed.

This year election is unprecedented, with a candidate convicted in a criminal case. In your opinion, how will Donald Trump's legal troubles affect the election?

It's one of the dynamics that will affect the election, but it's not the only one. Many Americans are concerned about immigration and border control. Many Americans are concerned about the economy. Many Americans are concerned about inflation. Many Americans are concerned about a dangerous world war in Europe or in the Middle East where American allies are under attack. There are many issues, and so President Trump's conviction is one issue of many voters will be weighing when they consider who to vote for. It probably hurts him a bit. But President Biden has a mixed record. I think what friends in Vietnam need to understand is Americans are not voting for the leader of a church. They're voting for the leader of a country and they're thinking about how he can make their life better. And how the president can make America stronger. So they're not taking a vote based simply on personality or character.

Chuyên gia Daniel Twining, chủ tịch Viện Cộng hòa Quốc tế Mỹ, tại Đại sứ quán Mỹ ngày 5/6. Ảnh: Giang Huy

Daniel Twining, President of the International Republican Institute, at the American Center in Hanoi, June 5, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Which voter groups and which states will determine this year election?

In America, old people are much more likely to vote than young people. It's quite interesting. That's not true in every country, but it's true in many countries. Young people often feel like 'oh, my vote doesn't matter, oh, I don't have a voice.' So I really hope young people will vote because they have a generational perspective, that's different. You can expect more turnout on the side of older Americans. They're also just some very interesting dynamics at play. Democrats and Democratic politicians used to take for granted the fact that most black people would vote Democrat, most Latino Hispanic people would vote Democrat. It's not true anymore. Actually, President Trump has been performing very strongly, especially with Latino men, black men. President Trump is also much stronger with the working class. Working class used to be a Democratic Party constituency. This is partly why everyone expected Hillary Clinton to win in 2016. And President Trump won because working class voters, a lot of them, shifted to him. So the Republican Party has built quite a different political coalition under President Trump that's made it harder in some ways for the Democrats to compete. We're having a very close election and it still feels like both parties are trying to build out their coalitions.

There are these six or seven swing states that are quite decisive. I can tell you right now, you know, Texas will vote Republican, California will vote Democrat. You sort of know that just because of there are more Democrats in California and more Republicans in Texas. So the key swing states include Arizona and Nevada in the West, Michigan and Wisconsin in the Midwest, Pennsylvania in the East, North Carolina maybe also a swing state. Georgia used to be a Republican state, but has been electing Democratic senators lately. The election could come down to just a question of 1,000s of votes, separating the candidates in a few of these key swing states. So it's quite interesting to watch.

Can the Republican Party create a "red wave" to control both chambers of Congress? How does the frequent turnover of Speakers of the House affect this ambition?

Congress is actually more powerful than the president in America. This is another thing that I think friends in the world don't understand. Congress has so much power. And it really matters to the next president who controls Congress. If it's President Biden reelected, but with Republican congressional majority, that will constrain President Biden from doing some of the things he would like to do. If it's President Trump elected, but with Democratic Congress that will constrain President Trump from doing some of the things he would like to do. So control of Congress really matters right now. It's very close. Small Republican majority in the Senate in the house, small Democratic majority in the Senate, it could be the opposite. It could be Republicans winning everything. But it can also be small Democratic majority in the House, small Republican majority in the Senate. These margins are very small. For instance, with Speaker Johnson, he's had to navigate quite cautiously because he does not have an overwhelming majority. So let's see what happens. But it's going to very much impact the race if Republicans win the White House and the House and the Senate. That will create an amazing coalition for President Trump to accomplish things. Same for Democrats if Democrats control the House and Senate. Biden will have much more power and authority than he has now because now Republicans in the House can block some of his initiatives. So this matters very much. Last time, there was a prediction of a red wave and we did not get one. So I'm not going to make any predictions.

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