My Dissertation.

 

POLARISATION IN AMERICAN POLITICS AND SOCIETY.

 

Jonathan Anthony Myers.

 

The thesis is submitted to University College Dublin in part fulfilment of the

Requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in American Politics and Foreign Policy.

 

The Clinton Institute for American Studies.

 

August 2017.

 

ABSTRACT.

With the mobilisation of the far right in opposition of social liberalism, American society has become extremely polarised.  Economic liberalism has reigned supreme since the fall of the Soviet Union. It has created a global economy that is ever evolving. With this evolution comes collateral damage in the form of unemployment and an unskilled workforce as heavy industry jobs were shipped overseas for cheaper labour. This workforce have been marginalised and are now the voices in the wilderness. They found a voice in a most unusual leader. That unusual leader was Donald Trump, whom has used this unique position to centre himself as the savour of the working classes. With his use of social media and especially twitter, Trump delivered his divisive campaign directly to the public and bypassed traditional media outlets. The working classes banded around a Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election that saw Trump beat of Hilary Clinton to claim the presidency. Trumps success is owed to the risky busy of economic liberalism, which has created the environment to allow anger and disillusionment to grow. This anger festered in society and was used by the far right to further its agenda. The only way to quell this polarisation is by implementing a set of strict election rules that limit campaign donations by individuals and corporations. The media must play a larger role in elections by allowing all major candidates and parties to participate fully in the democratic process, which would see their full inclusion in all debates. The two main parties in the United States, the Democratic and The Republican Parties have hijacked the democratic process along with the far right. This must change.


Polarisation in American Politics and Society.

Across Western societies, we have seen a polarisation of politics in recent years, with the far right regaining credibility in democracies where such ideas and political programs had largely been marginalized since the end of the Second World War.

Following the election of Obama in the United States, with his administration’s strong liberal social agenda at home and a multi-lateral and free trade agenda abroad, for a while it seemed as if the Republican Party might be in terminal decline, such was its lack of cohesion and the inability of the Republican establishment to control the rise of movements like the Tea Party and other developments to the right of centre of the political spectrum.

Obama’s first presidential campaign made extensive and effective use of new social media, which bypassed main stream traditional news media outlets and communicated its message directly and unedited to an ever growing, personal media savvy electorate.

By the end of the eight years of the Obama presidency, the organised political far right, both within and at the margins of the Republican Party, had come to understand and make effective use of new social media in its political campaigning. It can be argued that the success of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign owed much to his exploitation of this form of direct communication with the electorate and doing exactly what Obama had done and bypass traditional news media outlets.

 

Trump understood and aligned himself to the voices in the wilderness, from a political establishment perspective, which was essentially anti liberal social agenda at home and the globalist economic agenda of the Obama administration. Trump had created a populist platform for himself.

Trump espoused an anti-gun control, anti-sexual equality rights, anti-prochoice on abortion, and anti-international trade agreement agenda, with the last of these being seen to have resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs in the heavy industry sector of the economy over the preceding decades and in particular since the realignment of global trade rules following the end of the Cold War in the 1990s.

Trump surprised and shocked the political and media establishment in the United States and internationally by successfully taking this route to the Republican Party nomination for the presidency, and by building from there to win the presidency itself with an unprecedentedly divisive campaign strategy.

Donald trump is now just six months in the White House, where his advisors and federal government appointees are largely drawn from the ranks of his campaign supporters. His inner circle includes individuals such as Steve Bannon, who was chief executive of Breitbart News LLC. Breitbart News is an online news organization that has advocated anti Muslim and anti-immigration policies. They have published articles denying the reality of global climate change and has given media time to conspiracy theorists such as Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Donald Trump himself.

When we analyse what has made politics in the United States so polarised, we must examine a number of factors to get the bigger picture. Factor one: We must first examine the rise of the far right into mainstream politics from the time of the Ku Klux Klan from the civil war. Factor Two: Examine the economic system in the United States and how it was liberalised. Creating a riskier financial system that is more susceptible to recession. This system has created a divide between the rich and poor. Factor Three is the creation of new media platforms and how easily accessible information and disinformation are and how they are shared. Factor Four: The political rise of real estate tycoon and reality TV celebrity Donald Trump and how he became the President of the United States.

In the United States today, both main political parties, The Democratic Party and The Republican Party find it difficult to compromise on most issues, if not because of political differences then in spite of the each other. The American people find their democratic institutions in gridlock for most of the time unless one party finds itself to be a cohesive majority. A majority that would allow that party to ram through legislation with little or no consultation from other representatives. However, not all majorities are cohesive as seen on the 28th of July 2017 with the slim health care policy[1]. When the Republicans failed, not for the first time to repeal and replace Obama’s health care known as the affordable care act[2].

In past elections, the main candidates would never steer too far from the centre ground. Previous candidates would advocate their policies, be them restrictions on abortion or gun control[3]. If a candidate were to run a campaign platform advocating an extreme policy shift, they would lose traction with the public, as in the 1990’s when most voters would be mixed between conservative and liberal views, depending on the topic but this statistic has shifted in the last number of decades.

There are a number of factors but one main factor is that the middle class in the United States was growing and the middle did not want that to change so they voted for low taxes and less spending by the government. They do not vote for extreme ideology, they did not like when politicians offer policies that could alter their growing middle class lifestyles. This would mean that politicians would be kept to the centre, no extreme ideas would be triumphant during an election, and candidates would keep their platform within some boundaries[4]. These limitations on policy extremes give a perception that candidates agree on some policies. This has served American politics well for a number of years[5].

When two candidates square off in a presidential election, whom do you pick when both have similar policies and the media fails to represent the other candidates outside of the Democratic and Republican parties? The American system is well known for its two party system but in reality, it has more than two. In the 2016 Presidential election, there were four main parties running candidates. The Republican and Democratic Parties were the two main establishment parties. On the outside, there was The Libertarian Party with Gary Johnson as its presidential candidate and The Green Party lead by candidate Jill Stein. The Libertarians and The Green party took in excess of 5 million votes. Jill Stein took over one million and Gary Johnson took over three million votes. Some of the reasons for the low vote share is down to poor media coverage of the third part candidates and their exclusion in the televised debates. In the United States as in most democracies, there is a rule that a candidate must have a certain percentage in the polls to be included in debates; in this case, Johnson and Stein required 15%[6].

There are times of bipartisan politics. This occurs when there has been a national tragedy like the tragedy that occurred on September the 11th. This was the date that commercial airlines were used to attack the United States. Two planes hit the World Trade Centres in Manhattan, New York. Another plan hit the Pentagon and the fourth planes crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Following these attacks, 98 senators and 420 house representatives voted in favour of joint resolution 64. Joint resolution gave the President of the United States, authorisation to use military force against any nation, organisation or person that planned or aided in the attacks on September the 11th. In total, 13 officials, 2 senators (2 not voting) and 11 representatives (1 nay and 10 not voting) did not vote for it[7]. When it comes to divisive policies on health care, gun control or the Supreme Court nominee, you will see a partisan congress (reference).

Politics in the US has become polarised because of varied influences. This influence has come in the form of media bias. This research will aim to demonstrate why American politics has become so dysfunctional, drawing on the rise of the far right into mainstream politics, the liberalisation of the American economy since Reagan in the 1980’s, the advent of new media and technology, the rise of Donald Trump and the extreme shift in the Republican Party.

My main sources will be from the media as my research is very contemporary and developing. Scholarly research, economic data for the economy and other relevant data for detailing the growth of the far right and how the media has grown and is utilised in today’s modern society.


 

  1. Chapter 1. The Rise of the Far right from the American Civil War.

Right wing politics and political polarisation is nothing new to American society. America itself was thrust into a civil war because of political differences. These differences varied from the institution of slavery, the sovereignty of the states and the power of the federal government. James McPherson in his book The Mighty Scourge said that there are a number of reason to why America went to war with itself. These reasons range from opposing the emancipation of slaves, which would result in the gutting of free and cheap labour in the southern economy. The view in the Southern States at the time of secession, they would tell you that it was because of the federal government interfering in the sovereignty of the States[8]. The view in the industrial north, they would suggest that it was about slavery and abolishing it from the territories of the United States.

As free black slaves began to express their new freedoms and rights, they were met with opposing forces. The forces would become known as the Ku Klux Klan and would dominate the far right movement for the next century and a half. The far right are an array of groups that range from the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalist and the alt-right. The Ku Klux Klan can be traced back to post-civil war America during its reconstruction period. Time when likeminded people came together to oppose and stop freed black slaves from exercising their newfound rights. The government of the day brought in new acts to stop the violence on black people. These acts would remain throughout the continuation of the reconstruction period[9]. The acts known as the Enforcement Acts were first introduced in 1870[10], the Second Enforcement Act, introduced in February 1871[11] and the Third Enforcement Act was introduced in April 1871. These acts stopped people from gathering on public highways, other premises and wearing disguises in public. Today these acts would be seen as regressive in terms of civil liberties but necessary at the time to stifle the growth of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan rose once again in the 1920’s and 1930’s to not only oppress and violently attack black people but to attack Catholics, Jews, non-whites and immigrants. This was an expansion on their previous stance during the civil war reconstruction period.

The Ku Klux Klan grew hugely during these periods to have millions of members across the United States[12]. In the book, The Concise Untold History of the United States, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick mention that the Klan grew three to six million members between 1920 and 1925. People from working class and middle class backgrounds would have been members of Klan lodges and would have participated in local events and festivals.

The Klan, like many extremist groups around the world, opposed social liberalism and held religious devotion at the centre of its organisation. The Klan like most of the far right have this belief that non-whites and other religious groups were less and therefore will never be the dominant group in American society.

As is the case with most extreme organisations that are born out of fear, they subside after a period. The Klan that had seen significant growth in the 1920s based on the premise that foreign ideologies and people would enter the United States and the White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) would become the minority. When this fear was not realised the popularity and the membership of the Klan began to subside. Along with this unrealised fear, the American economy began to boom after a prolonged recession that followed the end of the First World War. With the economy booming, people began to go back towards the political centre and leave the extreme margins of the far right for a more comfortable position closer to the centre.

The Klan would continue to exist but mostly in southern and rural areas of the United States. The fall in the membership of the Klan was compounded by the great depression of the 1930’s and the Second World War. In the 1960s, the Klan found a reason to publicly rear its head and grow its membership. It was in opposition to the civil rights movement, which was mobilising black Americans around the country to take a stand and fight for their rights and desegregation. The Klan became extremely violent again and many murders, lynching and bombings of churches and homes occurred all across the Deep South. The black community was victorious in securing the civil rights act under Lyndon B Johnson, although developed initially with the John F Kennedy administration. This made desegregation illegal and yet the struggle continues today in practice (fix).

  • The Alternative Right

The far right today, consisting of the alternative right for short known as the alt-right. The alt-right is a diverse group of people whom oppose social liberalism and traditional conservatism. They represent what the Klan represented, white nationalism or rather, American nationalism. As I mentioned above, the far right now want the United States to have a smaller presence around the wold in terms of foreign policy, they oppose trade deals, open immigration, climate change policies to curb CO2 in the atmosphere and political correctness. They also have a hatred for the federal government and authorities’ associated with the federal government.

This group of people have been on the margins of American society with very little mainstream coverage. They have come to prominence in the last 10 years following the recession in 2008 that saw the global economy collapse with millions of people in the United States losing their jobs and their homes. This event stirred up a lot of anger towards the establishment and polices of the establishment. As with past events of a similar nature, extreme right and extreme left wing ideologies gain significant momentum in such circumstances.

The alt right have been a quiet and small group in the United States. They are founded on European nationalism and white supremacy. Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is ‘make America great again’ eluding that the America’s best days are in the past. The Alt-Right are against political correctness, which is seen a force in American culture today. Going against political correctness is one reason why young right wing individuals support the Alt-Right and why they are so prominent online.

The events that would take place between 2008 and 2016 would be unpredictable and shocking. High unemployment around the world, large cuts in public services like health care, unemployment benefit, millions of home repossessions, a significant increase in the number of suicides and depression. These financial crises tear apart the fabric of society. From a necessary element, jobs and educational needs are provided to maintain a cohesive and stable social society.

To summarise, the rise of the far right can be traced back to the civil. Their ideology has remained very much the same since then. Some elements oppose the federal government, most are racist and religion plays a big part in their groups. These groups find popularity during periods of crisis and instability. They found that following the 2008 recession and they found it again during the 2016 presidential election.

 

 

  1. Chapter 2. Reaganomics and the Creation of Division in American Society.

Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 and set out to liberalise the American economy. His form of economic policy can otherwise be known as a neoliberalism drummed up by Washington based organisations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. A market based idea to free up the government from social expenditure and allow a bigger input by the private sector in a less regulated and a more liberalised economy. This was the start of a policy that allowed money to move through a less regulated economic system.

As these new policies created a new middle class, Americans were happy to support this new liberalised low tax economy. The United States was entering a new period of economic liberalism. This was the beginning of a labour shift, away from heavy industry toward an economy were you could make money from money[13]. This is known as creative destruction, a way one mode of production replaces another mode of production, a phrase coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter[14]. This saw the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs for working class people whom were making a good income at the time.

As Americans adopted to a new kind of wealth, the Democrats began to move to the centre from the left and the Republicans began to move from the right to the centre. When it came to elections, politicians began to have similarities and not much separated them except for the usual issues; the Democrats favoured big government: a strong federal government. The Republicans favoured a small federal government with more powers to the States. Other contested issues centred around spending on social programmes and higher taxes under a Democrat administration as oppose to lower taxes and spending cuts under a Republican administration. One thing they all supported was a neoliberal agenda[15].

Two-term president Bill Clinton in the 1990s lead the Democrats to the centre of the political divide and was very cautious in policy, not to alienate the more conservative wing on the Democrats Party and to appeal to Republicans. Bill Clinton had a relatively balanced approached. He increased taxes on those with incomes over $115,000[16]. He also cut spending on welfare and the length of time a person can collect welfare[17]. This cut lowered the number of welfare recipients from 12.2 million in 1994 to 4.5 million in 2004[18]. This to me suggests an approach of a centrist politician: increase your taxes but balance that with a decrease in social program spending to keep the conservatives happy. Bill Clinton reduced financial regulation to allow money to move round. He also repealed Glass-Steagall, an act that kept separate commercial and investments banks following the great depression.

Clinton introduced the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed banks, insurance companies and investments banks to merge[19]. Raegan, Bush senior and Bush junior would be advocating for these policies, but for a Democrat to do so represented a big step into the center of the political divide. This change in the Glass-Steagall act would play a major part how banks and investments banks operated in the 2008 financial crash that would not only shake the foundation of the Washington consensus but also put a lot of strain on the European Union project.

Following the 2008 financial crash, far right and far left parties gained significant ground. In Greece, far left party SYRIZA came to power in 2015. In Spain the political party Podemos, founded in 2014, in response to mass protests against inequality and corruption[20]. Other major developments would be the rise of the far right nationalist party in France under Marian La Pen who now led the National Front. The main issues facing the European Union was the possible break up and separation of states. In terms of the Greek debt crisis that rumbled on for years without resolution, Greece has remained a member of the European Union for now.

In 2015, in a general election in the United Kingdom, the leader of the Conservative Party David Cameroon offered the electorate a promise. If the electorate voted for the Conservative Party, he would hold a referendum asking whether the United Kingdom should remain as a member of the European Union or leave.

In June 2016, the British public went to vote in a referendum that would determine the future if the U.K. The results were, 51.9% to leave the European Union and 48.1% to stay[21].The main issue throughout the referendum campaign was how politicians, especially those on the right, stoked the fear of the public with inaccurate facts[22]. This was not only a shock for Europe but also for the Washington consensus, it relied on free trade and partnership between governments to allow the flow of trade and services. These events would continue as antiestablishment sentiment swept across North America and Europe.

The economic system has played a central role in the rise of extreme elements. With unfettered capitalism, the risk of an economic down turn is very likely. This increased risk brings the possibility of instability to our societies and creates the crisis and instability that allow extreme ideology to take root and grow.

  1. Chapter 3. The Media and New Technologies.

Over the past century, technology has revolutionised communications. We have progressed so far from the days of the telegram in the 1800’s. The first two way phone communication by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. We had the first radio audio broadcast in 1906, the first public television transmission in 1928, electronic mail (e-mail) in 1971 and then came the big bang in communication; this was the creation of the World Wide Web in 1990.

The next big change in communication would come in the form of Facebook and similar social interaction web sites and smart devices. Smart devices are portable personal devices, a mix between a laptop and a cellular phone. These technologies can get instant alerts about breaking news, the weather and blogs posts. Individuals can do this while on the move and even broadcast their own thoughts about any subject and at any time. With the creation of these new technologies came a lot of positives and negatives. One positive is that people can now communicate instantaneously with one another regardless of where they are in the world.

Although we can now share all kinds of information between one another, inaccurate information can also be shared just as easily. By having billions of people connected, allows for easy sharing of these types of inaccurate information to go viral. A viral post is when a person posts a typed message, image or video publicly to a large audience and they forward that post themselves so even more people see it. This process continues and suddenly millions people have now seen what once began as a video seen by a small number of people. After this has happened, the post would be deemed viral.

Over the past number of years, the number of false and misleading stories that were shared online or digitally has exponentially increased. The Oxford Internet Institute demonstrates an example of this during the 2016 presidential election in the United States. The Oxford Internet Institute collected data between November 1st and November the 11th. The data was narrowed by attracting data that used political hash tags (example: #Clinton, #Trump). The Oxford Internet Institute collected 22 million tweets that were reduced down to 138,686 tweets from users who had put Michigan as their home state or city[23]. The report concludes that 46.5% of the news stories shared from November 1st-11th can be classed as propaganda based on its use of language[24]. Although the report avoids describing the news items as fake news, they do confirm that they are untrustworthy and unverified. To note, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton were neck and neck in the polls up until the votes were counted. Trump was confirmed the winner in the State of Michigan with 47.3% of the vote beating Clinton’s 47% by just over 10,000 votes[25].

The numbers provided by the Oxford Internet Institute showed that Donald Trump had a more prominent presence online; I witnessed his presence on these online platforms far more than that of Hilary Clinton. The Oxford Internet Institute mentions that hashtags used In support of Donald Trump outperformed hashtags in support of Hilary Clinton by a ratio of 2:1 and that junk news, fake news, sensational and conspiratorial news were shared more than professionally researched political news and research[26]. This is not only due to the advancement of media and new technologies but extreme ideological ideas whose insemination has been enhanced by the development of new media platforms and a loss of trust in traditional institutions such as the media and the government.

In the days of Franklin D Roosevelt and his fireside talks, the nation would gather in their living rooms and listen to what he had to say on the radio. This was known as a shared experience. He spoke to them as if he were in the room with them. As an article in The Atlantic tells us, “when the world of Walter Cronkite gives way to the world of Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann—political leadership loses a consensus-building partner”[27].

The reason the nation loses that partner is because, rather than be critical and offer a number of perspectives on an issue; Glenn Beck and his likes would rather reinforce people’s predispositions. He would offer support for one side while demonising the other. He offers opinions on important issues that only compounds extreme ideology. Media bias in the United States is now a local issue. Fox News has local affiliate stations with local shows that are tailored to suit that local audience. David McKay notes in his book American Politics and Society, conservatives believed there was liberal bias in the networks created by big city intellectuals and snobs[28]. Ann Coulter in her book Slander created the argument that liberals lie about the American Right but Joe Conason refuted this in his book Big Lies: The Right Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth[29] and takes apart the argument.

The world has entered the age of tailored news. Shared experiences have become less of a norm. On Facebook and twitter, users can subscribe to follow people they like and ignore people they dislike. That means, a right wing or left wing individual can follow other similar minded right and left wing people and far right nationalists can follow other far right nationalists and never shall the two opposites meet online.

This is supported by research compiled by the Phew Research Centre. Their research demonstrates that in the United States consistent liberals and mostly liberal people would get their news from news organisations such as The Economist, BBC, ABC, NPR, CNN and more. As for Consistent Conservatives and Mostly Conservative would get their news from Fox News and local radio and TV shows[30]. By only reading and following similar minded people, an understanding of the opposition and the possibility for consensus is lost.

Fox News presenter Glenn Beck not only has the power of TV and Radio but he also has the power of social network, as did Donald Trump in Michigan. Glenn beck and others can send a tweet, free, to millions of people around the world. These people can read that tweet and believe it for what it says without the tweet being fact checked for its accuracy. Simple tweets now have as much of an impact on people as does TV and radio.

The positive side of platforms like twitter means, everyone can have a voice online and the audience has a choice of what people they wish to receive updates from. Sometimes, giving everyone a bullhorn results in many loud noises and no one is heard, truth and consensus are lost.

When we consider the advent of social media, twitter, the rise of polarising shows and their hosts, we can began to understand why America has become such a polarised society. When a small number large media corporations in the United States controlled most of the media and were the custodians of news and formers of opinion, the vast majority of the country would have read the same news, the same opinion and would have come to a similar perspective. According to a Business Insider article, six media corporations’ control 90% of what Americans read, listen to and watch[31]. These few media corporations own hundreds of local TV stations, radios stations, print companies and online news web sites. Although they control it, as they did in the past, they now have hundreds of local outlets like radio, t.v and print. A single individual now has the choice to choose from thousands of sources, local and national, conservative and liberal, trusted and untrusted and arrive at a perspective completely different form one another.

When we speak about the media, fake news and tailored news, we must discuss the bool Manufacturing Consent. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman outlined in this book, that there are five filters which news goes through before the mass public get to see it.

  1. Media ownership: how the ownership of the media will bend the news to

support their own interest.

  1. Sources: The media rely on credible sources to produce their news and by relying on these sources; the media can be easily influenced by them.
  2. Funding – The mechanism for which the media makes its profits from is advertisement. Advertisement is key to the survival of the media. With such reliance on advertisement, this puts the advertisers in a strong position with a lot of influence.
  3. Flack is negative feedback. This feedback come in the form of complaints. This feedback affects the media if it comes from high-level people or organisations such as the government, advertiser and organised groups. This tends to further consolidate the power of these dominant sources[32].
  4. A common enemy is used to unite the citizens against that enemy. The September 11th attacks and the passage of joint resolution 64[33] is an exmaply of that. Since 2001 anti-terrorism has been public enemy number one but in the past year with Donald Trump’s election campaign and presidency, Russia has once again taken the top spot for the media, rightly or wrongly.

New technology and new forms of media has liberalised what news is shared, how it is shared and who sees it. Gone are the days of the shared experience listening to the same source and arriving at a similar perspective. There have been many positives with the advancement in technology but there has also been many negatives. We can communicate easier than ever today but fake news can be shared just as easily and is unfiltered and not checked for its accuracy. Thanks to research about media trends and their impact, there is now an active attempt to minimise the number of fake news stories on social media sites like Facebook[34]. This is an important step by Facebook, which now has over 2 billion active users[35].

  1. Chapter 4. The 2016 Presidential Election: The Rise of Donald Trump.

            By 2008, the Global economy was on the brink of collapse. The American government had just approved an emergency bailout. The bailout covered major American Banks such as Goldman Sacks and real estate giants Fanny May and Freddie Mac. These companies had accumulated major losses due to a turn down in the housing market, which became inflated due to risky lending and over leveraged banks (glass-Steagall reference). The ordinary American citizen lost so much during this recession. Millions of people became unemployed, many homes repossessed and poverty levels had risen.

Between 2006 and 2007, the estimated poverty level was at 12%. By 2010, poverty levels had risen to 15%[36]. With such a large proportion of society affected, an anti-establishment perspective increased in the United States. Over the next number of years, the political class, the media and classical liberalism would come under extreme scrutiny, the people would lose faith in well-established institutions, and they would lose faith in globalism. During that period people who would have described himself or herself as both conservative and liberal were angered by globalism and the sort of global economy and society it has created that everyone wanted some kind of change that Obama was offering.

According to the World Bank, the economy of the United States retracted by -0.292% in 2008 a further -2.776% in 2009 and only began to grow again in 2010 when the economy grew by over 2.5%[37]. In January 2007, the unemployment rate stood at 4.6%, by October 2009 it had peaked at 10%[38]. This only added to the woes of classical economic Liberalism.

The 2008 Presidential campaign between Barak Obama for the Democratic Party and John McCain for the Republican Party was a hotly contested election. Barack Obama and his Vice Presidential Nominee Joe Biden would be victorious in the November election. Obama’s campaign, centred on the premise of change. Change was needed in the United States as the economy had taken a fall; millions of jobs were about to be lost and massive bailouts were requested by huge financial institutions but Obama took over a country that was now in crisis. The people were demanding change and activists and activism were starting to take root in American towns and cities. Classical liberalism, used as a way to tie people together to bring about peace through common interests was now tearing society apart.

Based on an article in The Guardian, there has been a hallowing out of the middle classes in American cities. In the article, they represent this hallowing out of the middle class with animated graphs. The graphs are of 20 major Cities in the United States and they show that, since 1970 up to 2015, wealth has moved away from the Middle classes and into the upper 20% percent of the population[39]. This meant that wealth had gone up and those previously in the middle were now moving toward the lower tiers of the working class brackets[40]. A they and we society was increasing in American society. That sentiment of them and us would carry forward to the 2016 presidential election.

The presidential election of 2016 and the anger from the disillusioned and disenfranchised citizens would rock the entire political establishment. For the Democratic Party, socialist candidate Senator Bernie Sanders was making waves while running a campaign that fought back against classical liberalism and offered a new way forward through socialism. He was campaigning against political heavyweight Hilary Clinton.

At the very beginning of the Democratic primaries, a few gave Bernie Sanders a fair shot and assumed Hilary Clinton had the nomination all but guaranteed. Senator Sanders not only ran a platform that many millennials agreed with but a platform that garnered a lot of support from a large section of the political left, the middle class and the working class. These voters gave Sanders not only the perception of becoming President but also the donations needed and the votes required.

All of Sanders fundraised money came from Individual donations. These donations gave the perception of the man of the people and raised his profile as a candidate who is not in the pocket of large corporations. Bernie Sanders would go on to win 23 of the 57 contests in the Democratic primaries, pulling in over 13 million votes compared to Hilary’s 16 million votes and 34 contest wins. Bernie Sanders had rocked the Democratic process by opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), he favoured Main Street over Wall Street, universal health care and many more changes. Hilary Clinton favoured everything that represented classical liberalism. As I mentioned above, people were angry about liberalism. That is why Bernie garnered so much traction in his opposition to it.

As with the old left resurrection in the Democratic Party under Bernie Sanders, the Republicans had begun a move to the far right many years earlier. It has been reported that the Republican Party is to blame for many of the problems in congress. In an article in the Washington Post, the authors note that the Republican Party has moved so far from the centre it makes it difficult for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges[41].

John McCain in a speech on the 25th of July 2017 during a health care debate said, “Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy…” This is precisely what the Republicans wanted. Large elements are will to drag The Republican Party to the far right to achieve this. They want to create an identity far removed from the centre and from The Democratic Party.

When winning an election, be it presidential, congressional or otherwise, the Republican Party have become the main opposition to well established political norms such as, affordable health care, equal rights and immigration. Although they still support capitalism, they now stand opposed to classical liberalism. A backlog in congressional hearings and nominations during the Obama administration was a tactic of opposition for the Republicans. An annual battle over the debt ceiling, a health system that is frequently used as a political football. Constant arguments and protests about the role of the federal government in society, abortion rights, same sex marriage, civil rights and voting rights have become so divisive that compromise is unlikely.

The aim for the Republican Party is to be perceived as a party that has something new to offer to the American people. Donald Trump’s election win was a game changer, not only because he beat Hilary Clinton, a former first lady and recent Secretary of State but also because he opposed everything Obama had stood to represent. He went further and stood in opposition to some of the policies that his fellow Republican candidates represented.

  • The Trump Campaign.

Trump was battling against all odds when he began his campaign in 2015. What he represented was an extreme version of the Republican Party. This extreme version of conservatism was welcomed by a broad church of people. It ranged from traditional republicans and extended to the far right. Those who have a liking for and would be considered members of the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists, white supremacists, religious extremists and those who have been left behind by liberal economic policies.

Donald Trump’s campaign needed the backing and skills of some long time campaign organiser roger Stone. Roger Stone is a well-known political trickster and has worked as far back as the Nixon Campaign. Roger Stone is a unique individual. Stone has over four decades of political experience behind him. He has worked for many candidates, either running for Mayor or the White House. Stone, known widely for his political tricks, otherwise known as lies and disinformation.

Notable tricks include the use of the pseudonym Jason Rainier, who donated money to the Pete McCloskey campaign as the Young Socialist Alliance, and then sent the receipt of that contribution to the Manchester Union Leader to prove that Pete was a left-wing stooge[42]. Stone is a political operative, as much as he has a conservative ideology and libertarian leanings, his role in American politics has been about winning and to do so he has undermined political tradition and has used disinformation to undermine an oppositions campaign. These kind of political tactics create division and disconnect between the public and the democratic political system.

Stone has created his own rules, known as Stones Rules they are “Attack, attack, attack. Never defend,” “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack” and “Nothing is on the level”[43] It is these rules that have created a divisive political landscape. Playing by these rules mean candidates avoid questions, issues become second to political and personal spats and the entire process is turned into somewhat a reality TV experience. The American people miss truth and the integrity of the democratic process is called into questions.

The crisis in the economy in 2008 and the aftermath gave way to extreme elements in society but also gave many Republican a reason to mobilise and to stand in opposition to a President who was advancing a liberal agenda.

The conservative elements of society felt they were the voices in the wilderness and mobilised in 2016 in support of a president who opposed social liberalism but also insisted he was against economic liberalism abroad. Donald Trump was a populist president and offered up campaign slogans to an electorate that was listening. His main one line was American First and his main slogan was Make America Great Again. This gave Donald Trump a base to work form and advancement his agenda.

With the support of some conservative campaigners, a very divisive campaign emerged, with the support of conservative and far right Americans. This campaign propel led Donald Trump to the general election of November 2016.


 

  1. Chapter 5. Cause of disagreement. The Supreme Court.

In 2016, Antonin Scalia a revered, conservative member of the Supreme Court died. His death would catapult the Supreme Court back into the centre of politics. This was not some ordinary time in American politics; it was campaign season for the presidential election with an outgoing two term Democrat.

As we hear in political commentary, there are two main strands when it comes to the Supreme Court. The first strand would be socially liberal and the second strand would be conservative. A liberal leaning justice would be expected to make decisions in favour of access to abortion and in favour of same sex marriage. As a conservative judge would be expected to lean against access to abortion and lean against same sex marriage. These two issues are among a dozen hotly contested legal battles that play out in the Supreme Court from time to time.

These decisions can be influenced by how a justice views the constitution. There is originalism and non-originalism in terms of interpreting the constitution. Antonin Scalia interpreted the constitution in its original form and would go against decisions that he would deem not covered under the thinking of the signatories to the constitution. Non-originalism would allow for progressive thinking, like same sex marriage and abortion that was not envisaged in 1778.

There are a number of ways to change the dimensions of the judiciary. One way is to flip the balance of decisions to a liberal or conservative view. Another way is to change the structural absence of diversity. As mentioned in a New Yorker article by Jeffrey Toobin: Obama was more interested in diversity and allowing the courts to represent people who he felt had been underrepresented. Obama appointed more openly gay judges, more women, black, Hispanic and Asian judges. Obama actually went for structural change in the courts in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation. We can assume they were rather liberal as Obama was a Democrat but these structural changes offered more than just diversity, they offered new relatable faces to the court for those who come before it. They were more representative of the diverse American society of the 21st century.

In 2014 and 2015, Congress had used a tactic not new to Washington and that was to slow down Obama’s nominations as the Democrats lost control of the Senate following congressional elections. This would only be the start of a battle between both main parties. A battle that was not new but could be a huge game changer for decades to come. As I mentioned above, Justice Antonin Scalia died in early 2016. Obama had one year left in office. He would attempt to fill his constitutional obligation by nominating a judge to fill the empty seat in the Court. He done this with the knowledge that the Republicans would not entertain any nomination he made.

Obama’s nomination was a judge from the appeals court in the District of Columbia. His name was Merrick Garland. The Republicans were of course not keen and did not want Obamas nominee to succeed. Remember, this was election season and in 10 months’ time, there could be a Republican President-Elect. That would mean if a Republican wins the November election, they would not only nominate someone to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat but possibly one or two more seats in their four year term, fundamentally tipping the balance of the court. Two current justices of the Supreme Court are in their 70s and one in their early 80s. This would give a huge advantage to whatever political leanings that president had.

As the months rolled on, it was clear that Garland would not be confirmed as the new justice of the Supreme Court. This was a disaster for the house Democrats and the President. All hope of a socially liberal judge leaned on the hope of a Democrat winning the presidential election.

Following the November election, Republican nominee Donald J Trump would be victorious and triumph over Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton. This left Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. Trump and his advisors chose conservative leaning Neil Gorsuch. The Democrats said they would filibuster the Gorsuch vote. Filibuster is a tactic of prolonging talk to hold the floor of the house to disrupt the progression of legislation or confirmations. In response to this, the Republicans said they would use the an option known as the nuclear option to assure Neil Gorsuch was confirmed.

There is a rule that nominees to the court require 60 of the 100 votes, or two-thirds majority to be confirmed and Republicans only had a slight majority of two representatives, 52 in total. This is why the nuclear option was essential, as they would not be able to get the required 60 votes. The nuclear option would change the procedural rules and only require 51 votes for the confirmation.

On April 7th 2017, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed with a vote of 54 to 45. This brought to an end a bitter battle concerning this nomination. There would likely be more Supreme Court nominations in the four-year term of President Donald Trump that will see battles that are more divisive. The main battle could occur if a liberal leaning judge steps down and a Republican President has the opportunity to nominate and confirm a conservative leaning justice that would dramatically shift the court to the right. This would allow for challenges on some many issues ranging from abortion to Trumps most recent travel ban.


 

  1. Chapter 6. The Trump Administration and the Media.

            Under the new Trump administration, the media have had a tough time. Throughout his campaign, Trump turned the crowd against the media. He constantly called them fake news. By doing this, Trump created a distrust in the big liberal media corporations. Since taking office he has continuously sent out tweets against CNN and calling other news items that are about him, his family and the administration all fake news.

A story emerged in July of a meeting that took place between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian Liar. Trump Jr released the email chain that related to this meeting. In support of his son, President Trump tweeted out “Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media? This is an attempt to undermine the reporting of Presidents Trumps administration.

Another example is this tweet which was sent out by Trump on July/12/2017 at 6:22am “Remember, when you hear the words “sources say” from the Fake Media, often times those sources are made up and do not exist”. These kind of tweets have been a weekly ritual of the President.

Trump has gone so far as to ban some media organisations from the White House press briefing room. The organisations banned were the ones that would offer up analysis and criticisms of the President, they included, The Guardian, the New York Times, Politico, CNN, BuzzFeed, the BBC and more. Those allowed entry to this gaggle event were conservative leaning organisations such as Breitbart, The Washington Times and more; Trump is trying to sideline and identify liberal media as fake and untrustworthy[44].

Since Trump has come to office, one of his main policy promises was to introduce a ban on immigrants entering the United States. Since January 2017, Trump introduced two executive orders to ban people from seven Muslim majority countries[45]. These countries were Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

To note, all of these countries have somehow fallen into the cross hairs of the United States. In Syria, the United States are involved in the civil war, backing opposing forces to President Assad. The US was and still is involved in Libya following the overthrow of Gaddafi and the no fly zone in 2011.  In Yemen, Saudi Arabia are involved in a war against Houthi government, in favour of the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The United States has carried out drone strikes and supplied resources to the Saudi effort. The US and Iran have a long-term feud. Donald Trump is asking for more sections is pushing this feud to old levels not seen for a number of years. This travel ban can be seen as a policy based on race but also an attempt to stop refugees seeking a safe haven in the United States, a country that has contributed hugely to the aftermath the refugees find themselves in.

The first travel ban, halted in part thanks to a case being ruled against by a federal court in Washington State, along with other cases around the nation[46]. The case put a temporary restraining order on major parts of the travel ban. This was a major loss for Trump as a win for liberals. The second travel ban was very much based on the same idea with some language tidied up but that also was defeated in Hawaii and other appeals court[47].

In the latest development of the Trump travel ban, the Supreme Court partially allowed the ban to come into effect for the 90 days and said that it would review the case in the fall to make a decision on it. The court made an exception for persons with bona fida relationships in the United States. A federal judge in Hawaii challenged the definition of this and expanded it to include grandparents and other extended family members[48].

The courts have been a thorn in the side of the Trump administration and demonstrated why appointing judges who are politically aligned with you is of extreme importance. That is why Neil Gorsuch has been the only major win for Donald Trump since he had become President.

Other notable failures of Trumps populist platform was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obama care. This attempt has failed to reach the requisite votes in the Senate on a number of occasions.

In June of 2017, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement[49]. This was an attempt to please his voter base and to show that he was willing to restrict American Co2 emissions and would bring back heavy industry jobs to the United States as he had promised during his campaign.

  1. Chapter 7. Reform

Major reforms are required in the United States to decrease polarisation nationally. These reforms can be done by changing the rules to gerrymandering, campaign finance reform and media reform. Seth Masket, a professor at Denver University outlined a number of ways to alter political polarisation in the United States.

Here is a list of some ideas that Seth Masket considers for reform. He takes into consideration the merits, feasibility, and cost of each. He considers the possibility of reforming all of the following: Primary elections. Congressional redistricting and gerrymandering. Media coverage and analysis of congressional elections. Members’ social networks (meeting with colleagues from the other major party). Earmarks and awarding of federal spending outside normal budgeting processes. Barring fringe candidates. Ranked choice voting. Campaign finance[50].

Masket first defines that a party Is an assortment of people ranging from “…donors, interest groups, officeholders, candidates, even some media officials—working together to advance a set of policy goals by controlling party nominations and winning elections.”[51] This creates a bad perception of parties and those actors that are involved because there are some many interests being pursued.

One of the key factors that Seth Masket points to is the lack of a clear party leader. He explains how Rush Limbaugh holds as much influence over the Republican Party and whom it nominates even though he holds no position in government or in the Republican Party[52][53]. Rush Limbaugh is a Radio and TV host who has an estimated audience of 20 million people. It is this combination of firebrand commentary, conservatism and large audience that give Rush Limbaugh the influence he holds today.

  • Baring Fringe Candidates.

Another example of reform that Masket suggests is to raise the barriers that potential candidates must pass before registering. This could prevent fringe candidates from contesting in the election. He suggests the possibility of raising the fees candidates need to pay when registering or increasing the number of signatures required. As part of the required signatures, Masket also suggests a geographical component. Potential candidates would not only need a certain number of signatures but they need to be from all districts or zip codes. This could certainly help to eliminate fringe candidates.

  • Campaign Finance Reform

How do you counter political polarisation? What steps can be taken to try to find compromise or soften people’s extreme views? The best way to counter political polarisation is to reform the very systems that influence it and insist on discussion and debates between all parties involved.

These influences, as mentioned in previous chapters, come from the media and financial contributors. Following a ruling by the Supreme Court in favour of Citizens United in 2010, which allowed for independent political expenditure[54]. Independent political expenditure allows corporations to support a candidate in an election by funding advertisements and other means.

As candidates need to raise money to fund their campaign and party this puts them in a very vulnerable position. Party members who can raise a lot of money hold a lot of influence in their party. This means that those who make large donations in turn also hold a lot of influence and those who donate a lot of money can control the nominating process as mentioned above. That is why you see organisations or individuals donating vast sums of money toward a campaign or candidate. It is because a campaign or candidate supports a policy that benefits the contributor.

Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino tycoon has supported right wing conservatives for a long time. Between 2012 and 2016, Adelson donated over $93 million in soft money to super PAC’s[55]. This sort of financing is done indirectly of the candidate’s campaign and gives Adelson a lot of influence of which candidates can run and the resource they get. As for small contributors, like the average citizen, they can never have such influence on a policy, a candidate, the campaign or the party of affiliation. The reason this money matters is that to run an election in the United States it now costs billions of dollars. In the 2016 and in the 2012 presidential campaign, the combined spend for both elections supposed $4 billon. According to data presented by CNN and filled by the Federal Elections Commission, the total spend during the 2016 presidential campaign was over $2 billion. Of that, $1.4 billion was spent by Hillary Clinton and just under $1 billion for Donald Trump[56].

What is now required is reform. Reforming who can contribute and how much they can contribute. As with other countries in Europe as is in the Republic of Ireland, strict rules dictate campaign financing. To look at the financing of our own political elections here in Ireland, an article in the Irish Times details how Irish elections are financed. Donations to parties are limited, individual donations and corporate donations. The parties are funded through a mostly pubic system. Individuals can donate €2,500 per year no more[57]. If an individual donates more than €1,500, they must disclose it[58] if  the donation is less than €1,500 they do not need to disclose it. Corporations are limited to €200 per year[59]. A similar cap on donations should be introduced in the United States. Although a limitation on campaign funding will not stop polarisation as Seth Masket says, it could worsen polarisation, and although it may produce other positive results, it is fruitless[60].

  • Gerrymandering

Although it is not a main theme in this research, Gerrymandering has been a tool used, not only the United States but also around the world to redraw constituency lines to help a candidate win. Constituencies have been altered down party or ideological lines, guaranteeing an election win for candidates in that constituency and in turn, they do not need to compromise on their views to appeal to a broader electorate[61]. There needs to be strict rules on gerrymandering so politicians are required to take into account the views of a broader electorate.

Conclusion.                                                      

The rise of the far right and especially the Ku Klux Klan can be traced back to the American civil war and their opposition to freed black slaves. The Ku Klux Klan were a violent racist group formed from the days of the reconstruction period in hatred to black people. The Klan developed into a more broad church and began violently attacking people of other religions and affiliations.

Over the early decades of the 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan rose in membership. As they century wore on, the Klan declined and was survived in rural America. They rose again to prominence in the 1960s in opposition to the civil rights movement. Then came the 21st century and a new form of extreme right was emerging, known as the alternative right or Alt-Right. This group would play a major role in the nomination of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

Following the end of the Cold war, a void remained in the global economy. This void was filled by the Washington consensus, which had dominated American economic policy home and abroad. The Washington Consensus is a set of economic policies that liberalised the economy. The neoliberal policies that had taken off in the United States under Ronald Raegan in the 1980s and in the United Kingdom under Margret Thatcher were a new form of economic policies.

Europe was a capitalist society but after the end of the Second World War. Europe became a region that believed in providing the basic needs of those who are unable to provide for themselves to aid in the recovery. It was capitalism with a social security net. As neoliberalism took hold around the world, trade deals between countries and between regions were being signed. Liberalising the economy, altering working conditions and dismantling the power of trade unions.

Manufacturing and heavy industry jobs left the United States through the 1980s and the 1990s, leaving many people unemployed and unprepared for the new modern economy. As those in Washington were pushing these neoliberal policies, the American people were being marginalised and angered. Not only those on the far left opposing this sort of economic liberalisation, but also those on the right. They were directly affected, they were the workers who were employed in the heavy industry and whose jobs were shipped overseas.

Throughout the last 10 years, the far right and conservatives have been mobilising in opposition to social liberalism. Exacerbated by the extreme wing of The Republican Party and extreme elements of the media, including but not limited to Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and Glen Beck. With the predispositions of these citizens, compounded by local news shows added with new technology and new forms of media platforms, polarisation has increased in part because of tailored news and the vast array of choice. People can now choose where they can source their news.

Steve Bannon and Alex Jones, to name two, are right wing extremists who have their own form of media outlet. Bannon as a former head of Breitbart News and Jones who hosts a show called Info Wars. Bannon now occupies a role in the Trump administration bridging the extreme right to the most powerful office in the world. Alex Jones sits in front of a camera shouting about politicians and the policies they represent. Enraging the left and moderate while his kind of show only adds to the problem of polarisation.

This research attempted to explain and demonstrate why American politics and American society has become so polarised. In the previous chapters, I explained the short history of the far right and how the new Alt-Right has become popular. This was matched with the liberalisation of news and media through the advancement in technology. I demonstrated how this media is used to communicate directly with voters and how it was utilised in the 2016 presidential election. This direct communication has side-lined and undermined traditional news outlets. While at the same time, the liberalisation of the economy and the set of economic policies that has made the economy more vulnerable allowed extreme ideologies to grow in the midst of crisis. The result is a more divided and polarised society.

 

Major reforms are needed in the economic system. The idea that no other system other than unfettered capitalism can thrive is a narrow way of thinking and will only exacerbate polarisation in the decades to come. Politicians need to be more open minded and progressive, not only in social liberalism but also in terms of economic thinking.

Media reform for me is a major candidate for reform. If elections were covered fairly and in a balanced way, then the voters could be better informed about all parties, polices and the candidates who are running in the elections. When ideologues tune into their local or national news broadcaster, they will see a mix of shows but they will go to the show that agrees with their beliefs and political ideology. This will only reinforce their one sided thinking.

One national broadcaster could televise all the debates and offer a more balanced coverage on the election, the candidates and their parties. Bringing back the shared experience that has been lost. Third and fourth party candidates find it difficult to reach the required 15% polling numbers to be included in debates; this number should be lowered to cater for that fact. Another way to include candidates in the election debates is to implement an automatic inclusion clause if the candidates are registered in all states or be registered in enough states to win the Electoral College majority[62]. This means, those candidates who have the means to run an election and register should have just as much inclusion as those candidates running for the two major parties.

To bring to a close my research, polarisation in the United States has been exacerbated by the media, technology, campaign financing, and self-interest and outside influence. Media personalities play a major role in polarisation. They no longer require the need of large corporations for airtime thanks to the creation of new media and technologies that have liberalised and individualised the entire sector. The only way to reduce polarisation is to impose reform on the media and the political process. An examination must take place on all parts and how they interact with one another in the political economy and the reforms that Seth Masket outlined in his paper need to be considered.

In Seth Masket’s paper, he finishes off my telling us that, although some of the reforms he mentions may bring about moderate change in terms of decreasing polarisation but that the problem with polarisation runs deep in American society. Reforms and restrictions are the only way to begin to change this deep issue.  A moderate decline in polarisation is still a decline.

Masket finishes the paper by saying “…we might do well to remember that polarized parties serve a valuable function in a democracy, offering stark policy choices, providing critiques of ruling administrations, and imbuing elections with meaning”[63].

Although this paper is focused on political polarisation, it is also worth remembering that the other extreme of polarising politics is parties that are too similar to one another. A strong democracy requires a strong opposition party or parties. Just as The Democrats and The Republicans had moved closer to the centre throughout the 1990s and mid 2000’s, they ignored those voices in the wilderness that clambered for an alternative and were ignored. Now the United States finds itself with a polarised political landscape and a divided society.

A strong democracy can only thrive when everyone participates in the political process and is invested. This can only occur so long as the system itself is clear of outside influences with strict restrictions on lobbying and full transparency on election financing.

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China and it’s Hemisphere of Influence.

In the age of global superpowers or even hemispheric powers, China is not on the same level as the United States (US) or even Russia. The United States has enjoyed unparalleled power and influence in the western hemisphere since the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.

Since American expansion and the spread of liberalism following the end of World War two and the Cold War, the United States has gone unmatched in terms of influence, not only in their own hemisphere but around the world.

China has serious military and monetary power. It had begun to spread it’s influence, most notably in Africa while struggling to command similar influence in it’s own hemisphere. The subject of hemispheric influence or lack thereof has come to light in recent months. Following the election of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States, the US has taken a more aggressive foreign policy toward Pyongyang. Trump had asserted that North Korea is “behaving very bad” and “China has done very little to help” in a tweet sent out in March.

As tensions have risen between the United States and North Korea, China is being dragged into the role of mediator as the Unites States threatens unilateral action against Pyongyang. During a meeting between both Presidents of China and the United States, President Xi Jinping informed President Trump that China does not have as much influence over North Korea as is assumed.

What does this mean? well, if China lacks influence over Pyongyang that means the Americans will step in with military action. With possible support from China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. The consequences of such action would be an unimaginable death toll. For China to show it is a superpower and has hemispheric influence, they would need to act. Be it diplomatically or militarily. If they wish to reduce the influence of the US in the region.

Now is the time for China to step up and on the other hand, now is the time for the Us to grow its influence to greater levels.

I’ll finish with this: How would China feel about a divided North Korea or a Korea occupied by American forces? that would US forces on the door to China and on the border of Russia.

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