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Interviews with experts and opinion leaders from our research network
President Barack Obama, who rose spectacularly to the office of President of the United States as the first African-American President, is now in the seventh year of his administration, and already candidates for the primary election of the next presidential election are being announced one after another. As the United States contends with a range of problems both at home and abroad, one wonders in what direction the country is headed. On this occasion we invited Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama, Professor of American politics and foreign policy at Keio University, to examine the achievements of the Obama administration and answer our questions about America’s changing American society.
Professor, Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University Adjunct Fellow,
The Japan Institute of International Affairs
1967 Born in Tokyo
1993 Special Correspondent for the Washington Post at the Far Eastern Bureau
1996 Special Assistant at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations in New York
1998 Research Fellow, The Japan Institute of International Affairs
2004 Senior Research Fellow, The Japan Institute of International Affairs
2005 CNAPS Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution
2006 Associate Professor, Department of International and Cultural Studies, Tsuda College
2010 Professor, Faculty of International Politics and Economics, Aoyama Gakuin University
2014 Professor, Faculty of Policy Management, Keio University
Publications: American Ideology (Keiso Shobo, 2013), Kainyusuru America – Rinen Kokka no Sekaikan [American Intervention] (Keiso Shobo, 2013), etc., co-editor, co-author, author of numerous
Shirai ： In January 2009, Barack Obama took office as president of the United States with enormous support from the American people. As he was the first African-American President, the inauguration speech and parade that were
presented in a spectacular manner and the image of the jubilant American people on the day of the inauguration left a vivid, lasting impression on me. I would like to start by first asking you what you think the American public was
expecting of President Obama.
Nakayama ：At the time he won the election, at least from the very day of the presidential election until the inauguration ceremony, the fact that Obama was an African American was no longer a central issue. This may be the reason he was able to win. While it is a fact that he became the first African-American President, President Obama, as we all know, is a person with diverse roots. It can be said that the American public selected for their President a person who happens to be of African origin but who has a persona that goes beyond race.
Politics in the Unites States is often described as a polarization between conservatives and liberals, but prior to the election, public opinion was split in two over views concerning the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and its counterterrorism measures. The American public was looking for a leader to bridge the gap. Had the American public solely wanted the realization of the individual policies of a candidate, in terms of experience, Hilary Clinton would have been the most likely candidate to have won the nomination. However, people wanted a shakeup in American politics, which they believe had moved in the wrong direction during the Bush administration. This is what I believe the American public at the time had hoped for in President Obama.
Shirai ： Recently whenever I meet Americans, I pose the question, “If you were to evaluate Obama’s eight years in the White House in five or 10 years from now, how would you assess them?” Since his administration is still in its seventh year, there is still some time left in his term of office and it may be somewhat premature to pass judgment, but what are your thoughts on the achievements of the Obama administration, Dr. Nakayama?
Nakayama ：On the whole, I believe people are some what critical in their evaluation of the Obama administration at this stage. In the areas of foreign policy and security in particular, Obama has tried to move away from the excessive intervention of the Bush administration, and restore the country’s position to a more desirable equilibrium in what could be called a “re-balance policy.” Nevertheless, the lack of active intervention on the part of the United States against, for example, the extremist organization of the Islamic State (IS), which is spreading its influence in Syria and Iraq, or against Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine resulted in the weakening of the framework of international order led by the United States. Since its establishment, the Obama administration has made the Asia-Pacific region the focus of its foreign policy.
While this decision in itself may be relevent, some in the Asia-Pacific region have expressed doubts regarding the “seriousness” of the Obama administration. Earlier I mentioned that the American people had hoped Obama would unite the country as one. The fact is, however, during the Obama administration polarization betweenconservatives and liberals has escalated. The cracks that had been widening during both the Clinton and Bush administrations have widened further during the Obama administration, completing what could be called a pure form of polarization.More objectively, however, it is possible to evaluate President Obama as having achieved certain results. For example, suppose the United States had intervened against IS or Russia’s military activity in the Crimea. If we consider what the United States could actually have achieved, I do not believe there were any other options. Rather than opting for intervention driven by impulse, Obama can be seen as having acted wisely after carefully weighing up what could and what could not be achieved by taking action.
In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to recognize same-sex marriage in all states. President Obama was the first U.S. president to support same-sex marriage and push forward the formation of public opinion in that regard. In the future, this decision of the Supreme Court will be regarded and remembered as a major step forward for civil rights under the Obama administration. In 10 to 20 years, even if he is not considered the No. 1 president of the postwar era, I believe President Obama will be highly regarded by most people.
Shirai ： So, I believe what you’re saying is that while there have been many problems along the way, when we analyze the Obama administration from a rational perspective, it has achieved certain positive outcomes. At any rate, when any government receives enthusiastic support, not just in the United States, it is bound to decline at some stage. Ultimately, then, in what ways has President Obama been able to meet the expectations of the American people, and in what ways has he been unable to?
Nakayama ：In the early days of his administration, I believe that liberals had high expectations of President Obama. If we look back at the beginning of the 1980s when the Reagan administration began, the political playing field was one where the conservatives basically worked out an agenda and the liberals reacted to it. Gradually, the word “liberal” in the American context started sound like “left-wing” in Japanese, and a political environment developed where the liberals were unable to talk about themselves as being “liberal.” In this respect, the liberals had hoped that President Obama might recalibrate the governance philosophy in the United States, to restore the original meaning of “liberal.” However, President Obama did not turn out to be that kind of leader.
He is basically a person with a sense of balance, who veers neither to the right nor to the left. I believe the President himself believed that he would be able to act as a bridge and mediate between the polarized factions from a middle ground. From the perspective of the liberals, therefore, President Obama has never been the typical liberal that they had imagined. During his campaign, Obama’s words resonated strongly with the consciousness of the American people at the time and created a powerful rapport with them, leading him to perhaps believe that he would be able to solve the serious differences one by one, while reeling in the Republican Party moderates.
In reality, however, he met with more resistance from the Republican Party than he had anticipated. In short, President Obama fell into a situation where he alone occupied the middle ground. In this sense, perhaps, he found he was unable to achieve what he himself had planned to do. Although he implemented a number of major policies, I believe his biggest ambition was to restore the political culture in the United States. In reality, however, as I noted before, the division between conservatives and the liberals further deepened during the Obama administration, and it can perhaps be said that Obama’s greatest ambition of bridging the two factions was derailed.
Shirai ： Since the economic downturn precipitated by the Lehman Brothers’ insolvency occurred just before the Obama administration was sworn in, the first challenge the administration faced was to bring the economy out of a crisis situation. In 2010, financial regulatory reforms prohibiting high-risk business by banks and protecting consumers were effected under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act). In January 2015, however, the Republican Party, the majority party in Congress, passed a bill to partially relax rules in the lower house. How do you believe American political and financial circles saw the economic crisis at the time? And how did they think the problem should be addressed?
Nakayama ： “Unregulated capitalism” caused the global financial crisis and wreaked havoc on the lives of countless people. Therefore, the Obama administration took aggressive action through various measures including economic stimulus packages, the Dodd-Frank Act, and corporate bailouts through the injection of public funds. However, it can be said that Obama was unable to adequately reflect in these measures his views on the need to review the role of government. On the other hand, I believe the Obama administration’s economic management can be evaluated positively.
In response to the distrust of the conservatives’ “big government” that had been expanding since the 1980s, Obama offered “smart government” and has implemented economic measures amounting to $787 billion since the start of his administration. These measures have produced clear results: the U.S. economy is currently doing fairly well and unemployment is steadily falling. However, the successful aversion of another Great Depression resulted in some elements in Congress becoming eager to water down the Dodd-Frank Act, rather than reflect on how to interpret the potentially devastating damage precipitated by a situation like that of the Lehman Brothers’ insolvency in order to work out future policy. Consequently, I personally have my doubts as to how much Congress under the Republican Party has learned from this past financial crisis.
Shirai ： The issue of disparities in American society also surfaced. A social movement that arose from people’s discontent over the government being unable to work out effective measures started with Occupy Wall Street in September 2011. Young people unable to find work called for action to end the country’s economic disparities and to increase taxes on the wealthy. They sent out a clear message that was heard around the world: We are the 99% of the population who are victims of the richest 1%. While this can be seen as an event symbolizing the distortion of capitalism, what do you think this protest movement tells us about American society today?
Nakayama ： Traditionally, the United States has been a society that accepts disparities to some extent, so disparities have rarely come to the fore as a significant issue until now. This is because people in general have always seemed tobelieve that while disparities might be an issue in their own generation, the generation after them would overcome these disparities to “come through on the other side.” This hope and dream of “getting to the other side” has been one of the dynamics that have propped up American economy and society. Therefore, if these disparities come to be seen as inescapable, this would mean a self-denial of the energy that has passionately motivated the people of the United States until now.
Underlying the issue of disparities that attracted political attention and gave rise to the Occupy Wall Street movement was the recognition that mobility in economic status had its limits. In other words, there was a spreading anxiety among people that their children’s and grandchildren’s generations would be in even more dire circumstances than they were. However, it is a fact that some activists used the internet to exaggerate the impact of this protest movement beyond what it really was, and I do not believe that it had sustainable political impact. Therefore, one needs to be level-headed in judging the extent of the impact of this movement. We are currently hearing the announcement of presidential candidates one after another for the 2016 primaries of the presidential election.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has overwhelming influence in the Democratic Party but at the same time Senator Bernie Sanders, a selfdescribed democratic socialist, is also receiving support in states like New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton is perceived as a candidate who is close to Wall Street, in other words, on the side of “the winners,” which is making it difficult for her to gain support among some liberals. Nevertheless, it is hard to say whether Senator Sanders will survive until the end. My view is that the climate that supported the Occupy Wall Street movement has maintained energy as a kind of backlash vote and its potential to create some kind of dynamism is increasing. In fact, what might be a more serious problem on a different level from disparities in society is the reality that the economic foundations of middle class America have weakened significantly. If you follow the campaign program and watch the videos of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the clear message that comes across constantly is, “We must strengthen the middle class.” In the United States today, the middle class has lost its confidence, and perhaps is unable to maintain hope for the future.
Shirai ： On the other hand, the Tea Party, a grass roots movement of a conservative faction of the Republican Party, has caused a considerable sensation. Calling for “small government” without tax increases, it has criticized intervention by the federal government and opposed economic stimulus measures implemented immediately after the economic downturn precipitated by the Lehman Brothers’ insolvency. Likewise, it opposes relief for big corporations through injections of public funds and other measures like Obama Care. What is your perception of this Tea Party movement?
Nakayama ： I believe the Tea Party movement is clearly tinted with an anti-Obama hue. At the same time, it also has issues with the Bush administration. The Bush administration, which came to power in 2001, arrived at the White House as an administration that people expected would implement conservative values. But a look back at Bush’s eight years in office shows that government grew bigger for various reasons, including the war on terrorism and more domestic surveillance. The concept of “small government” is at the core of conservatism in the United States. The underlying belief is that the smaller the government the better and, where possible, matters should be left to state governments rather than the federal government. Therefore, many conservatives were under the strong impression that they had been betrayed by the Bush administration.
Government had grown too large, and the Obama administration came into power just at the time when the conservatives had concluded that President Bush was in fact not a conservative. Measures previously mentioned such as economic stimulus packages, relief of corporations through injection of public funds, and Obama Care represented threats for the conservatives, who saw them as a clear break from the conservative traditions cultivated over many years since the time of the Reagan administration. The Tea Party’s activities aim to bring the Republican Party back into line with its original conservatism and at the same time are anti-Obama. The Tea Party has increased its influence as the reform movement of the Republican Party, but it can also be described as an anti-Bush movement. This grass roots movement, which has never been fully incorporated into the political circuit, has redoubled its energy through social media and drifted excessively to the right.
This excessive swing to the right has also inflicted damage on the Republican Party. In the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party selected Mitt Romney, a moderate conservative, as its candidate. However, it was unable to adjust the orbit of the party’s excessive swing to the right during the main election, which enabled the re-election of President Obama. At present, the Tea Party is an ambiguous presence within the Republican Party. While the Republican Party seeks to absorb the Tea Party’s energy, it seems to have learned the lesson of not allowing itself to be thrown off course.
Shirai ： The United States is currently beset by a number of issues including growing disparities, Obama Care, immigration policy, and racial discrimination. The 2016 presidential campaign is about to begin in earnest. Which issues do you think will attract attention and which will dominate the campaign?
Nakayama ： I believe the playing field of the upcoming presidential election is slightly different from what we saw in the previous election. Until now the pattern has been one where the Republican Party always had a leading candidate,while lesser candidates flocked around the main candidate and thoroughly contested the nomination within the party. In the end, however, the leading candidate remained the winner. On the other hand, the Democratic Party has demonstrated on a number of occasions a pattern where candidates who suddenly appeared like comets went on to win the presidency. This was the case with former Presidents Carter and Clinton and the current President Obama. This time, however, the playing field has been reversed. In the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton currently stands as the leading candidate, while the state of affairs in the Republican Party at present does not lend itself to prediction of any sort. Jeb Bush, brother of former President Bush, is showing some influence but his support base is too weak for him to be described as the leading candidate.
In terms of points at issue, from a macro perspective of the economy, the budget deficit can be considered a problem, but relatively favorable figures are being achieved. Moreover, unemployment also improved in the second term of the Obama administration. In my opinion, it is also unlikely that even the abortion issue and the legalization of same-sex marriage, which always become points of contention during a presidential election, will be hotly contested, because the influence of the religious right pressure group within the Republican Party has waned. Obama Care would also be a difficult issue to contest, since the Supreme Court has already ruled it as constitutional. The immigration issue is still being hotly debated, but within the Republican Party it seems to be serving more as a platform for vying candidates than as an issue in its own right. Therefore, for the reasons I just noted, key points at issue are extremely difficult to identify, but foreign policy could perhaps be one of them. At least, I believe the Republican Party will thoroughly castigate the weak attitude demonstrated by the Obama administration in its foreign policy. That said, none of those who have announced their candidacy at present have sufficient experience in foreign and security policies.
Even if they are capable of making statements on issues, not one Republican hopeful has the capacity to draft a concrete policy and debate it. When it comes to foreign and security policies, Hillary Clinton has experience as Secretary of State and is far more knowledgeable. Nevertheless, she cannot detach herself from Obama’s foreign policy because she herself served as Secretary of State under the Obama administration. What stance she will take is still uncertain, but at the moment it looks as if she will adopt a more hawkish stance than President Obama. In the upcoming presidential campaign, there is likely to be a strong focus on personality. Rather than focusing on choosing a policy, the election may boil down to the question: What kind of person do we want to entrust the presidency to?
Shirai ： If people are going to make choices in that way, then we may very well see the first woman president selected to follow on from the first black American president.
Nakayama ： In the 2008 presidential election, Hillary Clinton did not draw attention to the fact that she was a woman but instead emphasized the fact that she had ample ability to be the supreme commander and extensive experience as a senator serving as a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. In this election campaign, however, she is clearly articulating in every aspect her platform as the first woman president. In one campaign speech, she commented, “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.” Women’s rights are also the most important issue for the liberals and the Clinton camp must want to win the election campaign by leveraging this aspect in every way possible.
Shirai ： One matter in foreign policy that could become a contentious issue in the presidential election is the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq during the Obama administration. There is criticism that the reduced presence of the United States following the withdrawal of U.S. forces has upset the world order and exposed the world to new destabilization. However, the United States cannot shoulder the world order single-handedly. What developments do you see occurring in U.S. foreign policy going forward?
Nakayama ： I believe the policy of focusing on the Asia-Pacific region that Obama adopted, using words suchas “rebalance” and “pivot,” may continue. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001 while Bush was still president, his administration viewed foreign policy not as an area for expanding the possibilites of the United States but as an area that should eliminate threats against the United States. With the end of the Cold War, the polar bear was gone but venomous snakes still wriggled at the feet of the United States. Therefore, Bush’s policy focused on eliminating the threat of these venomous snakes. In contrast, the Obama administration focused on the Asia-Pacific region with a view to absorbing its economic vitality. It can be seen as the optimal region for expanding the potential of the United States in the future.
Of course, other regions such as Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which are achieving economic growth, will also be important in the future but for the moment, the Obama administration is positioning the United States as a member of Asia, the leader of the world economy. I do not envisage this policy changing, irrespective of whether the Democratic Party or the Republican Party takes the reins of government. When all is said and done, Asia is the region where China is located, the only country with the potential to challenge the supremacy of the United States. Therefore, the United States wants to carefully control the situation. Since the United States is part of the Asia-Pacific in both a functional and practical sense, I believe that continuation of this foreign policy constitutes one axis of U.S. foreign policy. On the other hand, while order in the Middle East is collapsing, irrespective of which party is in power, the United States will certainly keep a watchful eye on the presence of violent extremism.
Even if the Republicans take power, realistically, it will be difficult for them to implement immediate military intervention. While there may be differences in approaches to intervention, such as stepping up the level of air strikes, I do not believe that the party that comes to power will fundamentally change the course of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. In this day and age, the scope of intervention by which the United States can exercise control or provide solutions in areas such as terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics or even space has diminished from what it was in the past.
However, this does not necessarily signify a decline in U.S. capabilities. It is more an indication of change in the nature of problems in international politics. Even if the Republican Party wins the election and starts making assertive statements, the course of action the United States takes will be determined by putting these into practice within the realities of international politics. Japan too must change the image it has of U.S. leadership. It is perhaps time for the Japanese side to take a concrete initiative in strengthening the alliance with the United States.
Shirai ： On the subject of China, which came up earlier in our conversation, the Chinese government announced its “One Belt, One Road” initiative in March 2015. This is a plan for promoting large-scale infrastructure development from the overland Silk Road (One Belt) from China to Europe via Central Asia, and the maritime Silk Road (One Road) linking the Chinese coastal area to Europe via Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. From both diplomatic and economic perspectives, I believe this is a well-considered strategy.
Furthermore, in seeking routes to the sea, China is expending phenomenal amounts on developing its maritime potential, including the building of aircraft carriers. Some predict that by 2030 China will overtake the United States in terms of economic scale to become the world’s leading economic power. Given that China is poised to become the world’s largest economic superpower one day, and since it is becoming increasingly aggressive in expanding its maritime interests, what kind of economic and foreign policy strategy do you think the United States will adopt?
Nakayama ： China is the United States’ greatest challenger and at the same time it holds the greatest potential for the United States. In this regard, the dynamics between the two countries are decisively different from those witnessed in the Cold War era. As you know, the United States and the former Soviet Union had hardly any economic relationship between them and shared only an adversarial relationship over security issues. However, such a relationship is not possible with China. In economic terms in particular, both countries are mutually indispensable to each other.
After the Second World War, the United States established international order in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan achieved growth in that environment. However, both the United States and Japan have doubts as to whether China can be viewed as a partner that will mutually participate in maintaining and developing this international order as a free and open space in accordance with the rule of law. I do not see the expansion of China’s sphere of influence as an issue. What I do see at issue are its methods. The fundamental stance of the United States is to maintain in the future an international order that allows for the achievement of its own growth.
The approach to this may differ depending on the administration in power. As far as Japan is concerned, I believe the stance the United States adopts toward China will become very important. It remains to be seen whether the United States will try to deepen its relationship with China after confirming its relationship with Japan, a country that is both friend and ally, or whether it will try to first deepen its relationship with China, and tend to the Japan-US Alliance afterwards. Japan must accurately assess the degree of distance the United States will keep from China and at the same time calmly assess U.S. foreign policy without overreacting. Then, in light of its findings, it must determine ways of working smartly around these. It may also be necessary for Japan to make efforts to constantly demonstrate that it is an indispensable ally of the United States.
Shirai ： Before concluding this interview, I would like to ask you a few personal questions. In the course of your career you have held various positions including Far East correspondent at the Washington Post and Special Assistant at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations in New York, and you are currently Professor at Keio University and Researcher at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. Could you tell me how you first became interested in international politics and, in particular, American politics?
Nakayama ： When I was an undergraduate student, the structure of postwar society dominated by the Cold War was beginning to show signs of strain, and the system that I had learned about in school started disintegrating before my eyes. Watching international politics and international society change so suddenly and so drastically was exhilarating. I realized that it was people who moved international politics. I started to think, “Since this is something created by people, it must be possible to understand it,” and I chose a career path in political science.
The reason I elected to focus on the United States, rather than a purely academic interest, was more because I felt I had a first-hand understanding of that country in certain areas. My father was posted to New York in the 1970s, so I lived in the United States for a long period, as well as working at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations in New York. I also believe having experienced life in the United States for one year during a high school study abroad program had a significant impact on me. The host family I lived with in the 1980s during the Reagan administration was a typical American family. Although they were members of the Democratic Party, they were conservative by nature. The family took me hunting every week, and I experienced going to church on a regular basis. Because of these experiences, I was able to see Americans as ordinary people living their daily lives, which is rarely mentioned in Japan.
When conservatism in the United States was increasing in momentum, people in Japan automatically assumed conservatives in the United States meant Christian fundamentalists. At the same time, for example, the National Rifle Association has been described as being the epitome of anti-intellectualism in the United States. Certainly, that point of view exists but there are many people who are conservatives that live what we would consider ordinary daily lives. Bearing in mind these various views held by people, I felt that discussing American politics and foreign policy as well as the Japan-U.S. relationship was the area to which I could best apply my abilities.
Shirai ： International politics is very complicated and predicting the future is no easy task. What aspects do you bear in mind as you probe the essential nature of and what is at the core of changes in international politics?
Nakayama ： Although I often feel somewhat uneasy as to whether I have successfully arrived at the heart of the matter, I write and comment on issues as best I can. We live in an era where it is impossible to process the overwhelmingamount of information available, so when I make predictions as I follow daily events, I try not to worry too much about whether my predictions are right or wrong. My fundamental stance is to grasp major events and movements from a historical viewpoint without being overwhelmed by information and to work out the long-term trends.
The United States is a kind of doctrine-based nation. One might even call it an ideologically-based nation. The country itself is an embodiment of ideology and at the same time it is a country shared by multiple ethnicities and races. Because of this, it tends to project the image that it is a country driven by abstract ideas including people’s hopes and ideas for the future. Japan, on the other hand, does not require such a consciousness for its establishment as a country and a communal society. In the United States, ideas and principles concerning the direction of the country are always being discussed somewhere. Although it is a very abstract process, it seems that Americans try to determine the direction in which their country is headed in a sensory manner by always reacting to and absorbing such discourse.
Shirai ： What about your interests and what you like to do in your free time? Do you have any particular ways of re-energizing yourself as you go about your day-to-day activities?
Nakayama ： I’ve always liked novels and movies. Even now I enjoy these pastimes whenever I have some free time. As a student in high school and university, there were times when I would watch as many as four movies in an evening. Quantification and digitalization are becoming increasingly commonplace in political science. However, when I look at political phenomena, underlying my perception of human beings are impressions I have accumulated through novels and movies, and I believe these affect my thinking in some form. This may be a distinctive feature of my understanding of the United States.
Shirai ： I see that understanding people forms the basis of your study of political science and election predictions.
Nakayama ： In fact, there is hardly any scientific rationale in my prediction of elections. I try to grasp the atmosphere of American society of the moment from the pronouncements and writings of various people. I do not have a clear methodology. Therefore, I can only explain it as the product of techniques for understanding people acquired from novels and movies I liked. One of my teachers, whom I consider my mentor, was also the type of person who did not have a methodology in a strict sense. The first writing that teacher mentioned in a seminar was Darakuron [Discourse on Decadence] by Ango Sakaguchi. Because I liked this essay and had read it previously, I took pride in submitting a report on it. However, because my interpretation was completely different from the teacher’s, he did not appreciate what I had written at all. His manner of thinking was to approach the essence of problems in a very sensory manner, and I continued to worry about how I could get on the same wavelength throughout my graduate school years.
Shirai ： It must be interesting to work in a world like political science where Darakuron holds currency. As a leading authority on U.S. politics, foreign policy, and political ideologies, you are actively involved in many areas including teaching at university. What are your dreams or goals for the future?
Nakayama ： At present, I am considering revising and publishing as a book my doctoral thesis, which is a study of the American Communist Party that I wrote when I was younger. The question of why a vibrant communist movement did not exist in the United States is a very important question to ask, I believe, to understand the essence of American society. The assertion that the Communist Party does not exist in the United States is in fact not self-explanatory, and within American ideals are certain aspects that have been absorbed into society, which other countries might view as “communist.” My work at the moment is focused on chasing after the daily phenomena of the presidential campaign, foreign policy and security policy as well as the Japan-U.S. relationship. Ultimately, as a researcher, I hope to go back and review the essence of American society and analyze it in a systematic manner. I would personally like to be remembered more as a researcher of the Communist Party in America than a specialist in forecasting the U.S. presidential elections.
Shirai ： So, I understand that you believe that researching the Communist Party in America is an important path for homing in on the essence of American society. Thank you so much for your time today.
Dr . Nakayama is an enthusiastic researcher into American politics. He has lived in the United States for extended periods of time as a researcher, in addition to participating in a homestay study program during his high school years. He produces persuasive analyses of political ideas based on an approach of including the perspective of Americans as ordinary people living their daily lives. As academic study becomes more and more sophisticated, theory and statistics have a tendency to generate their own momentum even in the field of political science. However, Dr. Nakayama, who once considered going on to study literature, says he aims to go back to the original and fundamental questions of political science: what makes us human and what kind of politics do human beings create? We look forward to his future work in this field.