Throughout our history, some have wondered if the United States is immune to the political troubles common in much of the developing world. In other countries, where a relatively small group with huge wealth and power gain outsized influence, tensions between the majority and the so-called elite have set off a chain reaction of damaging politics and perhaps even violence. Today, we see analogous dynamics here, including increasingly dangerous partisanship. Although the current wave of political tribalism is arguably more intense in the United States than ever before, the process is at least partly predictable and remediable. We can also use lessons learned from around the world in hopes of combating it.
On March 12, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings hosted a discussion on the book “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations” (Penguin Press, 2018) in the context of current global political upheaval. The event featured Amy Chua, professor of Law at Yale University and author of “Political Tribes.” Chua is also the author of “World on Fire,” which contained some of the foundational ideas built upon in this new book, as well as her best-selling “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Chua was joined by Robert Kagan, senior fellow at Brookings, columnist with the Washington Post, and renowned author of numerous books on American power. Brookings Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon moderated the discussion, while adding his own perspective.
Following their conversation, panelists took audience questions. Copies of Chua’s book were available for purchase.
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Falling apart? The politics of New START and strategic modernization
Sentiment inside the Beltway has turned sharply against China. There are many issues where the two parties sound more or less the same. Trump and others in the administration seem heavily invested in a ‘get very tough with China’ stance. It’s possible that some Democrats might argue that a decoupling strategy borders on lunacy. But if Trump believes this will play well with his core constituencies as his reelection campaign moves into high gear, he will probably decide to stick with it, if the costs and the collateral damage seem manageable. But that’s a very big if, especially if the downsides of a protracted trade war for both American consumers and for American firms become increasingly apparent.
Over the arc of his presidency, Trump has shed himself of cabinet secretaries he doesn’t trust and surrounded himself with loyalists. That will continue and escalate. But the big problem is, he doesn’t know where he’s going.