Japan Must Keep a Careful Eye on America’s Three-front War

Seiji Fuji

Trump’s bedrock supporters could bring him victory in 2024

 On November 6, The Nikkei newspaper’s front page included an article from its series about the 2024 American presidential election. It was titled, “Trump Leads Republican Candidates: 30% Support May Help Re-election.” It read:

“Just one year remains until the American presidential election on November 5, 2024. It is certain that Joe Biden, the current president, will be named the Democratic Party candidate. In his bid to win re-election, former President Donald Trump is taking the lead in the Republican candidate race. Who will gain control of this superpower?” “Hundreds of Republican supporters gathered at an outdoor venue on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona on the evening of October 10. Their enthusiasm hit a peak not when the Republican contenders for the 2024 Senate election – the main stars of the event – took the stage, but rather when Trump appeared on the huge screen.” “Trump stated, ‘The four years of my administration brought historic peace and prosperity to the United States. The following three years under Biden have forced our nation into a tragedy.’ ‘I will win in 2024 to turn this tide of decay and carry out America First policy.’” “Trump’s America First message makes a big impression on his supporters.” “On October 11, eight male and female supporters (including white citizens) gathered at a restaurant in a town west of Phoenix. As residents of this area near the border with Mexico to the south, they criticized the Biden administration’s tolerant immigrant policy.” “They said, ‘The president should protect our borders and citizens,’ and, ‘Terrorists are coming across the border.’ They believe a surge of illegal immigration is making America less safe, and continue cheering on Trump, who still claims he will build his controversial border wall.” “Things got more heated when the discussion turned to aid for Ukraine. They said, ‘I don’t want to get drawn into a war we have nothing to do with,’ and, ‘We’ve done all we can.’” “Their lack of concern for international order goes along with Trump’s negative perception of continued aid to Ukraine. Ron Schlegel, a former police officer in his 60s, stated, ‘If Trump doesn’t win, this country is done for.’” “It is said that Caucasian blue-collar workers make up Trump’s most powerful base of support. Based on data from the American Pew Research Center, we can calculate that white voters without college degrees comprised 27% of Trump’s votes in 2020. They are referred to as the ‘bedrock 30%.’ Many of these voters are actually female; the 30% is divided by roughly half among men and women.” “Trump still enjoys overwhelming popularity among his Republican base, even after a succession of indictments. According to RealClearPolitics, his approval rating is 59%, more than 40 points higher than the second-ranked candidate.” “Some are actively depending on Trump to regain the government. Kip Kempton, who has voted Republican for nearly 40 years, said, “I like his policies, but I dislike his methods. Although I’d prefer another Republican candidate, I’ll vote for Trump if the choices are him and Biden.’” “Trump seems to have a solid chance, but candidates he supports were defeated across the board in battleground states during the 2022 midterm elections. More people are saying that, even if he gets the Republican nomination, he will have a difficult time winning over unaffiliated voters in the actual election against the Democrat candidate.” “According to Karlyn Bowman, distinguished senior fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute, it seems Trump is still not highly motivated to win over moderate Republicans and swing voters, and that he will likely focus on gaining more votes from non-university graduates.” “A search is underway for third-party candidates, who have previously taken votes away from the two main parties. Trump is also involved in legal trials at the same time as his campaign. However, it is clear he will be a central figure in this election that involves so many variables.”

Biden is rapidly losing supporters due to immigration and inflation

 Support for Trump is steadily increasing. However, this is overshadowed in Japan by major international news about the Ukraine war and Israel-Hamas conflict. The Mainichi Shimbun posted an article on November 6, “One Year Until American Presidential Election: Trump Leads Biden in Battleground States.” It described a survey conducted by the New York Times from October to November, showing that Trump had a higher approval rating than Biden in five of the six key swing states.
 According to a November 8 article from Reuters, Biden’s approval rating was 42% in September, 40% in October, and 39% in November (approaching his lowest rating of 36%). As discussed in The Nikkei, one factor for this is Biden’s tolerant immigration policy. Many people are crossing the border from nearby countries. Some cities are overflowing with immigrants, and Republican governors from Texas and Arizona are sending buses full of immigrants to cities like New York that are more welcoming. Although Biden promised not to build any more of Trump’s wall, construction resumed in October because money had already been appropriated for this purpose. I think he is losing supporters due to this aberrant behavior. With one year remaining until the election, the likelihood of a Trump win seems to be growing day by day.
 Yale Emeritus Professor Koichi Hamada – the brain behind the Shinzo Abe government’s economic policy – wrote an article for the November 2023 issue of PRESIDENT magazine. It was titled, “Trump Victory Likely in Next Year’s Election…The Real Feelings of Americans That are Unknown in Japan.” Hamada analyzes the reasons for Trump’s popularity and Biden’s declining support as follows:

“Why is Trump so popular? It seems that his supporters are drawn to his type of leadership. He epitomizes the idea of a spoiled brat and is boldly decisive. Some still see him as a rich, handsome prince.” “Trump’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) calls for a return to the good, old-fashioned America of the past. For white Americans, this calls up an image of the time when a middle-class lifestyle was promised to all those born in the U.S. Looking back at American history, white Europeans who initially immigrated to the U.S. were supported by immigrant workers of other races who labored for low wages. These contradictions – which have been an inseparable part of America’s multiracial society since the nation was established – have been gradually resolved through the civil rights movement and other changes. Today, non-white citizens have adequate rights and economic power. I first lived in the U.S. during the early 1960s as an international student, and I have seen how women gained greater rights and the economy developed based on respect for diversity.” “However, it is certainly true that middle-class whites are dissatisfied by the changing American industrial structure, and that some wish to restore the discriminatory society of the past for their own benefit. This is inflamed by the clearly discriminatory stances of Trump and the aforementioned Ron DeSantis.” “In contrast, Biden directly confronts issues and continually talks to the people while striving to win re-election. Perhaps his earnest way of speaking is one reason why he lacks the charisma to win over people, resulting in his lackluster popularity. No captivating politicians have appeared from the Democratic Party government, either.” “We should praise Biden for his daring fiscal stimulus, including two trillion dollars of infrastructure investment, to overcome the COVID-19 crisis that Trump failed to deal with. However, citizens are paying more attention to subsequent price increases. The post-COVID economy is solid and the inflation rate has gradually stabilized. As of early October, the price of milk has increased by 29% and the price of gasoline by 46% compared to 2019 before the pandemic. The inflation rate is not what affects the standard of living – it is the price of goods, which remains high even after the inflation rate has declined. Although average wages are rising, people are unquestionably suffering because commodities and services cost more than before the pandemic.”

 Hamada takes a negative tone on Trump’s possible re-election, saying this would be an issue “related to the very foundation of constitutional government” while Trump is being indicted for his involvement in the 2021 attack on the Capitol. Despite this, I do believe Americans are experiencing difficulties, and that they may choose Trump for his America First stance.

Zelenskyy invited Trump to Ukraine

 What changes would we see if Trump became president for a second time? American support for Ukraine is the matter of greatest concern. Reuters published an article on November 6, titled, “President Zelenskyy Requests More American Aid for Ukraine.” It read:

“During his November 6 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press TV program, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested more funding from the U.S. to help his country fight the Russian military.” “Republicans have a majority in the American House of Representatives. Last week, they passed a draft budget including 14.3 billion dollars for Israel, but no additional funding for Ukraine.” “Trump, the most likely Republican candidate in next year’s presidential election, has relentlessly criticized American aid to Ukraine and declared that he could end the war within 24 hours of his victory in 2024.” “During his interview, Zelenskyy responded by inviting Trump to Ukraine to see the scale of the military conflict for himself.”

 According to the article, if Trump accepted this invitation, Zelenskyy said he would need just 24 minutes to explain to Trump that he can’t end the war, and that Trump can’t bring peace because of Vladimir Putin.
 To Zelenskyy, it seems that Western countries are prioritizing the Israel-Hamas conflict and feeling weary of providing aid for the Ukraine war. Ukraine was not sufficiently successful in this summer’s counteroffensive, and it desperately needs Western aid to continue this war it must fight. Views about this aid are divided in the Republican Party. Zelenskyy would not welcome a win by Trump, who is the most unmotivated of all to support Ukraine. I imagine he invited Trump to Ukraine because he felt the need to get Trump involved if his victory is unavoidable.

Japan should play a more important role in a network of American allies

 The Biden administration has not changed its stance on aid to Ukraine and Israel, and remains in confrontation with China. The Asahi Shimbun Digital posted an article on October 20, titled, “America’s Three-front War With China, Russia, and the Middle East: Promoting a Multinational Net Encircling China.” While America’s “hub-and-spoke” policy previously placed importance on bilateral alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, the Biden administration has worked to build a network-type encirclement around China through multilateral collaboration. This involves strengthening ties between Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines, as well as between Japan, the U.S., and South Korea. However, “More Americans want a hard line against China, and there is also talk of a Taiwan crisis. Looking across the world, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has become a prolonged war. In the Middle East, Israel is engaged in a fierce fight with the Hamas Islamic group in Gaza, a Palestinian territory. The U.S. is forced into a three-front war with China, Russia, and the Middle East.” Asahi takes the tone that Japan will play a more important role for this reason, but some political scientists have pointed out that America might not be able to withstand a war on three fronts, and that it might join hands with China and abandon Japan.
 We are moving towards the conclusion of the peaceful era that has lasted since the end of the Cold War. I believe Japan should more attentively analyze what is happening across the world, then respond promptly to ensure its continued prosperity and safety in any situation. I am keeping a careful eye on the American presidential election and the circumstances in Ukraine and the Middle East.

November 15 (Wednesday), 5:00 p.m.