The US Election: A New Risk in Extremist Trends

During this year’s U.S. presidential election, in a white-hot battle within the GOP, Mitt Romney, a Republican who once ran against President Obama and lost, delivered a full-scale attack on Donald Trump in early March asking Republicans to reject Trump, who is far ahead of the other Republican candidates. This death match could cause a division in the GOP, and even change the way that Democrats and Republicans have operated for the past century, making for an unimaginable future.

Trump, outspoken as he is, looks nothing like the leader of a nation. Yet he puts up a fierce fight. Since announcing his presidential candidacy last June 16, he has completely overturned the GOP, leading the polls within less than a year. The Republican primaries, from World War II until today, have operated under the rule that a candidate must win more than half of all delegates. March was the peak month of the primaries; candidates scrambled for delegate votes (this year, the required number is 1,237), those who fell behind resigned immediately, and everyone’s attention shifted to those in the lead. As of March 8, Trump led with 458 delegates, which will very likely be a winning advantage in April.

Trump changing his political identity to rapidly increase his appeal was no accident. He is certainly skilled at working with the media, playing his political game like a fish that has found water. However, his ability to accumulate power from the shouts of the crowd is not at all by chance. Trump is very calculating, having exploited the GOP’s fear of the future. Not only does he appeal to the low and middle classes, he more genuinely reaches out to the desires of GOP members and workers in every state. This is the source of power that helps him display such formidable force.

Trump’s radical language has stunned political observers around the world. Trump’s first political statement on March 3 was enough to make everyone break into cold sweats, let alone his incomparably absurd election promises, such as suggesting a U.S.-Mexico border wall and banning Muslim travel to the United States. On his first day in office, he will declare that China is a “currency manipulator,” that American manufacturing needs to be revitalized, that China needs to end its illegal export subsidies, and that strict environmental protection regulations and labor laws need to be implemented. Before this, Trump has stated that Apple must move all its computer and iPhone manufacturing from China back to America. Also, in terms of military affairs, Trump advocates a robust militarism, such as the conspicuous display of U.S. military power in the East and South China Seas and the Middle East, even without the coordinated actions of NATO and South Korea.

Trump’s election language and political views are clear manifestations of anti-establishment extremism. In the past, political parties would only use this forceful wordplay as a way of demanding a ransom, but in the GOP primaries it has become a mainstream strategy. Looking closer, it is not only Trump who uses this strategy, but also the other GOP candidates at the table. Ted Cruz, 46, and Marco Rubio, 44, have also relied on extreme, violent and right-wing language to elevate themselves in a short time. The only one who maintains the Republican tradition of rational political discussion is Ohio Governor John Kasich, yet he cannot be nominated either.

That is to say, even if people like Romney try their best to destroy Trump, Cruz and Rubio are extremist politicians themselves. Rubio advocates for a plan in which the U.S. would display its military strength in the South China Sea, as well as provide assistance to the Philippines. In the year when mainland China announced its air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, Rubio immediately launched a criticism. Last November, after the Ma-Xi meeting, Rubio urged the U.S. to push for Taiwan’s eventual inclusion in international organizations and trade agreements. Meanwhile, Cruz, who rose thanks to the tea party movement, has taken radical and un-Republican measures to steal approval in the caucuses regarding the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” and the congressional budget plan. If Cruz replaces Trump and takes away his approval, it would be no surprise.

Extremism is spreading across political fields all around the world. Alexis Tsipras, who rose to power as prime minister of Greece two years ago, used left-wing populist strategies to reform his original government. The only difference is that Tsipras is left-wing, whereas Trump and other Republican candidates are right-wing. Taiwan’s legislative elections last year, which brought a new energy for this generation, now come under the shadow of Tsipras and other new European governments.

The newest example is Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, who is challenging British Prime Minister David Cameron. The old friends now clash at every corner, and Johnson uses vulgar language to criticize Britain’s Labour Party. The difference between this and Trump’s calls across the sea is that Johnson has already been mayor for seven years, marking memorable political achievements. He helped London to proudly host the Olympics, and promoted a bike rental system. Johnson is also a favorite target of the media; the media may attack lots of traditional politicians, but when he gets attacked he turns bad luck into good, and more frequently than not sets a new record in his political life. At the end of February, Johnson announced his decision to go against Cameron and support Britain’s departure from the European Union, giving him the leadership status of “isolationist,” or “dis-unionist.” A string of criticisms directed toward Europe may satisfy voters of the British Labour Party, but they also sow discord.

Looking at the main countries of the world, besides Germany’s Angela Merkel, who upholds traditional political paths of regional cooperation and globalization, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Japan’s Shinzo Abe now stand on the side of extremism and isolationist policy, while in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey lean even further toward the side of extremism. Both Trump’s and Johnson’s rise to power represent a strong warning that the two oldest democracies of the advanced countries are leaning toward extremism. Even Democrat Hillary Clinton’s positions on trade, the military and geopolitics are far stronger than those of Obama. Meanwhile, in mainland China, Chairman Xi Jinping has taken the “hawk” path of totalitarianism and international military expansion, charging boldly into the face of conflict. Large and small countries of the world are already joining the mainstream trend of extremism — potentially igniting a troubling crisis.

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