Shortly after the elections in November, 2016, Little Laos on the Prairie responded with an article assessing possible implications for the Lao community in the coming years ahead. On January 30th, 2018, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address following a year that was filled with many challenges from all fronts.
Expectations are understandably high, because 2018 is also the year for US midterm elections, which will be hotly contested. On the line are 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of 100 seats in the United States Senate, in addition to 39 governorships among other key positions. Under a normal presidency, the President’s party, historically, loses majority control of Congress. This is not necessarily a given in 2018, but current polling suggests that Democrats may be on track to significant victories across the country in November. CNN has called Minnesota ground zero for the midterms, saying “The governor’s office, as many as five House seats and not one but two Senate seats are up for grabs.” And yet, with all this focus on the Republicans, it may still come down to 5 blue states that Clinton won. Is it a coincidence that Lao Americans have our first candidate running for office in Ohio?
How much sway can the president’s opinion have on the elections this early in the year? A recent Gallup Poll suggests that Trump is the least popular president in modern history, with an approval rating of 37% at the beginning of January. This is a significant drop from his 45% approval rating when he took office in 2017. It’s likely any short-term spikes in his popularity following this speech will be quickly undone by another political gaffe within days. The Hill believes the White House needs to achieve 5 goals with the 2018 State of the Union Speech, including pressuring Congress on immigration, and laying out an infrastructure development plan.
Can the Republicans win over Lao Americans in 2018? Many were used to voting Republican in the 1980s because of their strong anti-Communist positions, and a presumed support of small businesses and tough positions on crime and family values. Today, however, Asian American enthusiasm for Republican policies has become lukewarm if not diametrically opposed. It’s likely that for the majority of Lao Americans today, the Republican party would have to do almost a complete 180 degree pivot on many of their positions of the last year; from the contentious tax reform bill to health care, education, environmental, and immigration reform.
The White House approach to foreign policy has been a scattershot mess, with heightened tensions between North Korea and China a strong concern. This creates a trickle down effect to Laos, and damages any diplomatic pivot to the Southeast Asian region, as a whole. Trump’s treatment of the Cambodian community, both domestically and abroad, is a strong signal for many Lao, which is currently being threatened with an MOU with Laos in exchange for the Department of Homeland Security’s second installment of its $90M package to the UXO sector. In recent weeks, many Lao took strong issue with Trump’s reported remarks disparaging refugees from “shithole” countries.
When asked what’s been most disappointing about 2017 in politics, there’s no shortage of issues that have been mentioned: Many hate the assaults on Obamacare and deregulation, Efforts to end opportunities for families to reunite through immigration by painting it as chain migration created a new negative narrative to contend with and process, progress on the War on Terrorism has failed to address the rise of White Supremacy, gun violence in the US has continued unimpeded with mass shootings, and even, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership was a failure which could’ve proven to impact Laos and other ASEAN countries positively. Now we’re seeing a divisive and money-fueled movement of Chinese Americans trying to kill the data disaggregation progress that would affect not only Southeast Asians but all communities of color who hold complex and diverse identities.
What are your reactions to the State of the Union speech? What directions do you want to see this administration and America and its people go in 2018? How will you be involved in the political process as Americans? Chime in below!
-Editorial Board, firstname.lastname@example.org