From The Abe Agenda: Japan on the World Stage , organized by the Council on Foreign Relations.
MANYIN: Emily, do we have time for one more? One more question.
QUESTIONER: Ayako Doi, Japan Digest publications.
Last November, after the election here, you could almost hear the gasp of horror among the Japanese business and government establishment when the Democrats took both houses of the Congress. Japanese, as far as we can remember in the last few decades, have always been more comfortable with a Republican administration, Republican policies, partly because the Democrats have focused on the conflicting economic interests. And then, you know, they still remember that. Assuming that -- well, possibly the Democrat administration will come in this Capitol in two years or even if it doesn't, Republicans probably won't have as free hand as it has had in terms of foreign policymaking. Do you see the rise of the Democrats -- the rise and vigor of the Democrats -- in the foreign policy arena affecting U.S.-Japan relationship in the medium term future?
GREEN: You know, I can't prove this, but you know, if you look back 100 years to Teddy Roosevelt, one gets a sense that Republican administrations tend to be a little more sympathetic to Japan. It's not consistently the case, but it goes even before the trade issues. The thing I would say, though, to reassure Japanese friends is if you look at the Armitage-Nye report -- people always forget Joe Nye, but it was co-chaired by Rich Armitage and Joe Nye, and the people who signed on were from both sides of the aisle -- I think there is bipartisan support for a strong alliance. And you know, McCain and Hillary Clinton are both surrounding themselves with people who are pushing that line I think. So, even within this early stage, you see people associating with candidates who are, you know, solid on Japan no matter who wins.
I think the affect on trade is pretty serious and significant, and it's going to be -- we'll know in the next month whether or not people like Charlie Rangel have gotten their caucus under control, and free trade will continue to be on the agenda. And so, it has an effect there. But you know, the reaffirmation and redefinition of the U.S.-Japan alliance -- the famous '96 Nye Initiative -- that was all under President Clinton. The Bush approach was, in many ways, the exact continuation of that. So I think the people are there on both sides to keep this going.
MANYIN: Do you want the last word?
CALDER: I think one has to remember that there have been many positive interactions between the Democrat Party and Japan. Having worked once upon a time with Edwin Reischauer academically and then, of course, thinking about his ambassadorship, I think the Reischauer years, the Kennedy years are one of the real high points. Cultural communication -- this has been something Democrats have always been concerned about. Environment, pluralism and an understanding and a respect for that, the role of Japan in the world, broadly speaking -- many Democratic presidents and supporters have strongly seconded that. And it was really at the Kennedy years that Japan joined the OECD, and Japan's role was broadened. Democrats have supported normalization in Japan's relations with Asia. The Korea-Japan normalization, for example. So, sometimes when -- I would echo what Mike said. Certainly, on both sides, U.S.-Japan relations has been appreciated by both parties. There have been difficulties, I think it's fair to say, on the trade side. Things often have been a little rockier in Democrat administrations. But we can't lose sight of the fact that U.S.-Japan relations is fundamentally a vital interest that's been appreciated by both parties.
MANYIN: And I would add that two of the Japan-specific hearings that have been held in the last couple of years -- on trade a couple of years ago and then the "comfort women" hearing just last month -- were dominated by Republican criticisms of Japan. So, when there are these overarching issues, it can get bipartisan -- bipartisanship alive and well and criticizing Japan as well.
Well, that brings our session to a close. Thank you very much for coming. Let's have a big hand for our panelists. (Applause.)
Democrats have lingering trust issues with the Japanese government. They arise out of the structure and habits of the Democratic Party itself.
As any glance at a gathering of Democrats makes clear, the Democratic Party is a rainbow coalition of interests with a divided and boisterous leadership. In order to make sense of their diversity and find a common ground between them all, Democrats tend to stress the primacy of logic, law, science and compassion. They find unity in the abstract world of reasoned argument.
It should not be surprising that Democrats extend this "reasoned argument" model outward from their dealings with each other to their dealings with people coming from other countries. Since reasoned argument allows Democrats to bridge their own differences, Democrats deep down believe reasoned argument will bridge international differences as well.
That Japanese do not respond Democratic overtures fills Democrats with almost homicidal frustration. Under Clinton "Japan bashing" evolved into "Japan passing" and finally into "Japan nothing" largely on the impression that Democrats had that Japanese interlocutors were impervious to reasoned argument, even as their national economy and politics fell into stagnation.
By contrast, the Republican Party since Reagan is a largely monochrome, ideological movement where loyalty to the leader and the cause are paramount. Republican unity comes in the abstract form in faith and patriotism--and in the concrete form in a general physical similarity of members to one another. Republicans tend to admire stubbornness, while Democrats tend to see it as a form of mental illness.
It is not hard for Republicans to feel a certain kinship with the Japanese, particularly Japanese elites. The stubbornness, the deference to authority, the hardened patriotism, the appeal to ethic and religious homogeneity are very familiar. Perhaps as a consequence, Republicans tend to be more appreciative and more grateful when their Japanese counterparts bend.
These differences in frames of reference have practical consequences.
In terms of World War II issues Democrats tend to want these issues resolved, with the emphasis on putting the past behind you through a regulated, legal process. Democrats are willing to go through this process even at the cost of friendship or personal profit.
For Republicans, the boundaries of what constitutes an acceptable solution are much fuzzier, with latitude being made for personal interest, a history of loyalty from the other party and even insincere expressions of shared cultural or political values. They are also in not as much of a hurry as Democrats, preferring to let cussedness live on well passed its shōmikigen.