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The Structural Transformation of Contemporary American Politics and Its Policy Implications–Between Ideological Polarization and Bipartisanship

Overview

Leader Fumiaki Kubo (Professor, Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, the University of Tokyo)
Researcher Jun Furuya(The University of Tokyo), Sadafumi Kawato(The University of Tokyo), Matsumoto Reiji (Waseda University), Aiji Tanaka (Waseda University), Yasushi Watanabe (Keio University), Hiroshi Okayama (Keio University) , Clyde Wilcox(Georgetown University), Michael Mastanduno (Dartmouth University), Rogers Smith(Pennsylvania University) , Tomoyuki Miyata (Senior Researcher, Embassy of Japan Washington D.C., doctoral student, Keio University), Rentaro Iida, Doctoral Student, Georgetown University and the University of Tokyo), Shoko Kohama (doctoral student, University of Virginia and the University of Tokyo), Ayako Hiramatsu(doctoral student, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Tokyo), Takeshi Umekawa(doctoral student, the University of Tokyo), Ryota Ishikawa(doctoral student, the University of Tokyo)
Term April 2009 - March 2010
Research Outline

 The ideological polarization is one of the most noteworthy features of contemporary American politics. Just under the Obama Administration, no Republican House member voted for the stimulus package bill passed in February in 2009, or no Republican Senator voted for the health care reform bill passed in December of the same year.
 At the same time, we should not ignore some of the sincere and earnest efforts to regain or pursue bipartisanship even in this hyper-partisan atmosphere, especially on such issues as foreign policy, fiscal policy, social security, or health care reform. Although there already exist plenty of studies that are critical of the polarized nature of American politics, we can find only a few researches on the measures, attempts or dialogues that try to overcome this tendency for ideological polarization or a possible political base that might sustain such efforts. Bridging the Foreign Policy Divide coedited by Derek Chollet, Tod Lindberg, and David Shorr is one of a few examples. Herein lie the significance and uniqueness of this project.
 Especially on foreign policy, this research project is important, because President Obama himself assembled a bipartisan foreign policy team which is virtually a coalition of moderate Democrats and moderate/realists Republicans. We should analyze how this effort unfolds in the next few years, for this will make a great case study for our project both in an academic and a policy relevant sense.
 Although this research project is primarily an attempt to understand the most essential driving force of contemporary U.S. politics, we will also look at the current U.S. policy toward Japan in the same framework of partisanship and bipartisanship. This policy area is surprisingly bipartisan in nature, given the overall partisan tone of foreign policy debate in the U.S. As is illustrated by the so-called Armitage-Nye Report, there is a firm bipartisan support for the alliance with Japan in Washington. To be sure, there used to be some partisan edge when trade issues were at the forefront of the U.S.-Japan bilateral relations in the 1980s and early 1990s.
 Today, there remain certain differences over how to cope with Japan under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama who is reluctant to accept the deal over the relocations of the Futanma Air Station completed between the US and LDP government, but they are not necessarily partisan any longer. Some insist that Japan just implement the deal, but others are willing to look at the issue from a longer term perspective as well as from a broader context, arguing that the US should not lose Japan on this particular issue. Some of them already criticized the Obama Administration for its unskillful treatment of Japan. There are foreign policy specialists that say the US should maintain an alliance with Japan at any cost in a world where China is becoming influential more than ever, but still others think that Japan’s relevance as an ally will decrease eventually.
 Partisanship could certainly play a role here, but there are many other factors influencing the way people view this issue. Wilsonians, realists, and isolationists would differ a lot on this. This research project will include the policy toward Japan as a part of the dynamics and reflections of ideology-ridden American politics.
 As to the methodology, Kawato and Tanaka will employ numerical analysis, while Furuya, Okayama, and Watanabe will conduct interviews as well as institutional and historical study. Matsumoto will carry out a comparative study with Europe and Japan. While overseeing the project, Kubo will also implement research on US-Japan relations.

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