Good news arrived from the United States: the Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives. That is a defeat for President Donald Trump for a variety of reasons.
First, it is literally the first electoral failure for the president of our northern neighbor. Despite the polls’ predictions and bets that Trump would never become the Republican presidential candidate, the tycoon had surprised everyone by capturing the nomination. Then, despite the fact that the polls and bets again predicted he would never win the presidency of the United States, he defeated Hillary Clinton. Another great victory.
During the most recent election cycle, again, polls and bets indicated that the Democrats would snatch the majority of the House of Representatives from the Republicans. Trump made this election into a plebiscite on him, and threw himself into campaigning. But this time the polls and bets got it right. The president’s party will no longer have the majority in the lower House, the first defeat for Trump at the ballot box.
Second, thanks to the Democratic victory in the House of Representatives, we once again have checks and balances in the United States’ political system, and the narrative has changed.
Let us imagine the counter-factual scenario: if the Republicans had retained power in both chambers of Congress, what would we be talking about now? Once again, the discussion would be about how Trump, against all odds, is invincible. We would be talking about how politics has become a reflection of the president, and how the right wing, populist movement has arrived to stay for a long time. Fortunately, that did not occur. That is not to suggest that Trump has already lost reelection in 2020. What I do assert is that we have now seen that he is vulnerable.
It is also a defeat for the nativist, racist and xenophobic rhetoric that so pleases Trump’s political base. The taste for that kind of speech will not change. What changed was the voting choices of some of the moderate voters who voted in Trump’s favor two years ago. Last Tuesday, they supported the Democrats. The change in white women's voting behavior was especially critical, as their votes allowed more women and more candidates with diverse sociodemographic backgrounds to enter Congress. It stands out that, for the first time in the history of the United States, there will be two Muslim women in the House of Representatives. That is a punch in the gut for Trump’s electoral base: white, middle-aged men who feel threatened by the increasing diversity of American society. For all those reasons, I believe that what happened on Tuesday was in fact a defeat for Trump. But it is also true that it complicates Mexico’s bilateral agenda with the United States.
The most worrisome issue has to do with the new free trade agreement, Treaty Mexico, the United States, and Canada (T-MEC). Both chambers of the United States Congress have to approve that treaty. With the White House’s support, it will not have a problem passing a Senate controlled by Republicans. The question is: what will the Democrats do in the House? I see two options.
The first is that the White House lobbies to find the necessary votes in Congress, but it will require a rupture in party discipline and for some Democrats to vote in favor of T-MEC. To achieve that, there will have to be an analysis of each one of the members of Congress to determine the probability that he or she will vote for it, and there will need to be a concerted lobbying effort directed at the members, using the familiar politics of quid-pro-quo that used to work in the United States’ system.
The second option is that the politics of polarization that Trump likes so much will prevail, and the Democrats will decide that no legislation endorsed by the White House will pass, including T-MEC. Further, Democratic leadership might freeze the proposal to the point that it never advances to the floor for a vote. If that occurs, while T-MEC lacks approval, the current North American Free Trade Agreement will continue in force. Trump may threaten to invoke Article 2205 of the current treaty to withdraw the U.S. from it.
That would be for the purpose of pressuring Congress to ratify the new T-MEC. Perhaps he will be successful, perhaps not, which leads to the conclusion that a new uncertainty has been created about the Mexican economy as an outcome of the results of the midterm elections in the United States.