The Democrats' Foreign Policy in the Shadow of Trump
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Despite the broad success of Barack Obama’s presidency, America’s Democratic Party finds itself debating the political path back to power amid the chaos of the Donald Trump administration, which has jumbled expectations for what a Republican foreign policy looks like. This paper examines where the Democrats might be headed on foreign policy — in opposition, for the coming 2020 presidential campaign, and for their eventual return to the White House in 2021 or later — focusing on the arguments of Congressional Democrats who might have a future in national politics.
Foreign policy did not play a major role in the 2016 primary campaign between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and the de facto Democratic foreign policy may be a continuation of Obama’s championing of the liberal international order mixed with pragmatic strategic restraint. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has articulated this “progressive foreign policy” direction most vocally. This Obamanian path competes with a somewhat more interventionist liberal hawk camp, including Clinton and her running mate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, and a more critical left, which claimed victory over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement during the primary and which includes Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a sharp critic of regime-change military interventions.
Congress is also playing an important role on foreign policy in the Trump era and Democrats must work with their colleagues across the aisle to mitigate Trump’s damage.
With Democrats more committed to multilateralism and diplomacy, particularly compared with Trump, America’s liberal democratic allies and partners will welcome the return of the party to the White House, but the post-Trump clean-up job will be Herculean and will require the rebuilding of Washington’s diplomatic apparatus itself. Congress is also playing an important role on foreign policy in the Trump era and Democrats must work with their colleagues across the aisle to mitigate Trump’s damage. Democrats should sharpen their foreign policy skills and debates in search of solutions to prevent catastrophic wars and ameliorate international problems. This includes finding a proactive and sensible policy toward Russia, despite the politicization of all things Russian in the aftermath of the 2016 election. A GMF policy paper on the Republicans’ foreign policy is forthcoming.