The Straits Times says

US polls a sign for Asia to consolidate

It would take a determined optimist to spot it, but an opportunity for forging a new consensus on the world order has emerged after American voters delivered a message of caution to President Donald Trump in last week's midterm elections. After two years of unfettered ability to create a foreign policy where he led by instinct and navigated by a belief that US strategic interests were best served by keeping adversaries and allies off balance, Mr Trump has arrived at a juncture where he must pause to consider opinions at variance with his own. From January, when the new Congress convenes, Democrats in the House of Representatives will have oversight of his administration's Budget and a say in his diplomacy and security policies. The expanded Republican majority in the Senate will ensure that Mr Trump still gets his way in key appointments - for instance, in finding a replacement for United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. Even the most loyal aide, however, will now have to submit to Congress.

Predictions abound that Mr Trump may turn more unpredictable as he comes under pressure. Instead of seeking a solution to the trade war with China, for instance, he might escalate it to excite his voter base. But such projections underestimate the President's interest in securing his agenda and winning a second term. As an incentive to the Democrats to shun any thoughts of impeaching him or stalling his government, he sprung the promise of "beautiful bipartisanship" hours after the election. It is usual for presidents to redefine themselves after a defeat. Upon losing the House in a bruising 2010 midterm election, Mr Barack Obama strove to work with the Republicans. Mr Bill Clinton moved to the centre after losing both chambers in 1994. Mr Trump has not been as severely punished, but there was a definite sign that the electorate wants compromise and Mr Trump was quick to suggest he could make deals across the aisle on issues like infrastructure and trade.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2018, with the headline 'US polls a sign for Asia to consolidate'. Print Edition | Subscribe