President Obama conducts an online Q&A with his domestic constituency on Twitter. Image via the Obama White House Archives.
Those who conduct foreign policy must appease two diverging constituencies: their voters back home, and the international arena. Usually, their interests don't align. But what happens when their communication channels do?
Conducting successful foreign policy is notorious among politicians and legislators for being one of the most difficult tasks faced on a daily basis. International conflict is complicated, an effect only worsened by the sheer number of parties involved. Unlike domestic conflicts, which usually take place between two opposing political groups, legislators must appease two constituencies when conducting foreign policy: their domestic following and the international community.
These diverging constituencies have become known as the two stages of foreign policy. On one stage, legislators find their districts, political allies, and party back home. On the other, legislators find the international community, often consisting of dozens—if not hundreds, in the case of the United Nations—of nations. And legislators must strive to appeal to them both.
In the past, these two audiences were isolated from one another. The United Nations did not interfere with a politician's activity in their home district, and the home district—with a few exceptions—did not emphasize foreign policy in electoral decisions. Instead, elections revolved around domestic issues (which were seen as more direct to the voters): health care, infrastructure, and "jobs jobs jobs."
The communication channels were separated as well. A politician's communication mediums with their domestic constituency—mailing lists, email newsletters, flyers, and, notoriously, Twitter—had no interaction with or consideration by the international constituency. A politician wouldn't use Twitter—a tool to reach their domestic constituency—to communicate with a foreign government.
Donald doesn't seem to understand this divide. And it's unraveling in both constituencies.
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