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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Can Democrats Be Republican Lite in 2020 and Win?

The Daily Escape:

Bowman Lake, Glacier NP – June 2019 photo by TheChariot77

We’re facing multiple crises over the next few years that require big policy fixes. Climate change is an existential threat, and the consequences of inaction far outweigh the risk of doing too much, too soon in trying to solve it. Education, healthcare, and housing costs are growing in unsustainable ways, and threaten to leave large swathes of Americans behind. The under-investment in our infrastructure is approaching a point of no return. The toxic combo of immigration, income inequality and political division could lead us into a second Civil War.

When we look at both Party’s candidates for 2020, do any of them have ideas that can solve these problems? Trump offers nothing to address them. A few of the Democrats running for the nomination have big ideas, and a few newbies in Congress have big ideas of their own.

The question is, will the Establishment Democrats prevent the candidates from offering big ideas to American voters?

In a prescient article in the WaPo, “Haunted by the Reagan era”, Ryan Grim made the point that older Democrats, like Pelosi, Schumer and Biden were scarred by past defeats, and subsequently, have attempted to placate their Republican opposition. From Grim:

“It’s hard to overstate how traumatizing that 1980 landslide was for Democrats. It came just two years after the rise of the New Right, the Class of ’78 led by firebrands like Newt Gingrich, and it felt like the country was repudiating everything the Democrats stood for. The party that had saved the world from the Nazis, built the modern welfare state, gone to the moon and overseen the longest stretch of economic prosperity in human history was routed by a C-list actor. Reagan won 44 states….”

It also happened in 1972, when Nixon swamped the liberal Democrat, George McGovern, 49 states to one. More from Grim: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“When these leaders plead for their party to stay in the middle, they’re crouching into the defensive posture they’ve been used to since November 1980, afraid that if they come across as harebrained liberals, voters will turn them out again.”

Maybe it’s political PTSD. For younger politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), this is a strategic error. For the young Democrats, Republicans shouldn’t be feared, they should be beaten.

But, Joe Biden is leading the polls for the Democratic nomination. He, like the other Establishment Dems, assume the voters won’t agree with them on fundamental change. They think that Democrats only get elected by avoiding riling up the conservative silent majority, or, at least, the majority of those who actually turn out to vote. From David Atkins:

“They hew to the late 20th century perspective that the wisest course lies in not making change too quickly, or giving any political party the power to make sweeping changes. This status-quo philosophy is part of why America hasn’t made any major changes to its economic or political structures since enacting Medicare in the 1960s.”

They believe this, no matter how much polling shows that voters increasingly reject conservative precepts. More from Atkins:

“Voters swept Barack Obama and the Democrats into unitary control of government in 2008, and got for their trouble a too-small stimulus and a relatively minor adjustment to the healthcare system. Voters… swept Donald Trump and Republicans into unitary control of government in 2016, and for their trouble got a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans….And when neither party has total control of government, practically nothing happens at all.”

So, should the Democrats run to the center in 2020? Hillary lost doing precisely that in 2016, but the Dems took back the House in 2018 mostly by winning centrist districts, including many that had voted for Trump in 2016. The Establishment Democrats want to hedge their bets, protecting a status quo that, in the medium-term, may prove very dangerous to the country.

The Dems won 2018 in part by promising to reign in Trump. Once in control, Pelosi took all substantive actions off the table, opting instead for a series of small, politically-irrelevant investigatory gestures.

Those who voted for them have to wonder: If this all that they’re going to do, why give them the power?

Sanders and Warren are old enough to be Establishment Dems, but they are true progressives. Neither Warren, nor Sanders is a once-in-a-generation superstar like Barack Obama. Assuming none of the current pack of nominees are like him, the question is whether the Dems on the extreme left, or the center-left, are more likely to turn out enough voters to carry Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and possibly, Florida.

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What the Dem Debates Are Telling Us

The Daily Escape:

Yosemite Falls from floor of Yosemite Valley – June 2019 iPhone8 photo by Believeland313

Wrongo, Ms. Right and a few friends saw the play “Ink” on Broadway this week. It’s the story of Rupert Murdoch, and how he disrupted the newspaper business in England in the early 1970s. Everyone knows the story’s outline: A tradition-bound business is revolutionized by an outsider who uses tactics that the industry won’t consider using.

When the Newspaper old guard finally understand that failure is staring them in the face, they try half-heartedly to change, and fail.

Flash forward to America in 2019: The Murdoch-owned FOX network has disrupted our news organizations, assisted mightily by the internet and by little people like Wrongo. Trump disrupted our politics in 2016, and now it’s the Democrats’ time to decide to disrupt, or stay the course. Their Party is dominated by Biden, Schumer and Pelosi. Schumer is 68, while the others are in their 70s. All represent the old guard.

After two Democratic debates involving 20 would-be candidates, it’s clear that the Party is on the horns of a dilemma: Embrace disruption? Or, stay the course? One of the fringe candidates, Marianne Williamson said it’s not about policies, it’s about playing Donald Trump’s game and beating him.

The MSM says Dems should get down in the weeds, talk policies and how to pay for them. But we should really talk about the direction the country should be taking in a post-Trump America.

Democrats face a conundrum. The Democratic disruptors may be out in front of the public. Those candidates are Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, and a few others. Republicans will attack them as radical socialists, but their message, that the average person has gotten screwed for at least 40 years and only systemic change can solve that, resonates.

For the disruptors, Incremental change hasn’t worked. That’s something Trump realized, and these few Democrats have as well. You have to be playing the long game. It’s not about one debate. You stick to your message, and make sure it resonates.

Then there are the traditional politicians like Biden, Beto and Klobuchar who are playing the old style game. Biden in particular says, “look at what I’ve done in the past. Give me the reins again“.

But it’s unclear whether voters want to play it safe. Wrongo had a good conversation with his Trump-supporting friend Dave C., who says he’s fiscally conservative, but may be flexible on some social issues. He knows that Trump won’t fulfill all of his promises. And no one should think that Sanders, Warren or any Democrat will be able to fulfill theirs either.

DC doesn’t work that way. But many things count bigly, like the appointment of Supreme Court Justices.

And regarding the “socialism” epithet, Bernie had a piece this week in the WSJ entitled “Trump Is The Worst Kind of Socialist.” If you read it, you’ll be sold. Bernie is not just saying Trump must go, he’s going at the Right’s main attack on him, while doubling-down on his position.

Bernie may not be your cup of tea; he isn’t Wrongo’s. But, he delivers his position with passion. This isn’t Hillary taking a poll, and trying to cover all bases. Bernie’s willing to drop a few bombs, and then deal with the fallout.

Biden can only go downhill from here. He’s rusty. The Biden we saw may not be around for Iowa if he doesn’t sharpen his game. Here’s Wrongo’s view of Biden and Bernie: (hat tip: Sean O.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kamala Harris showed passion, and her prosecutorial skills to viewers. But will that convince voters? Particularly those in the suburbs? Warren won night one. Let’s see how she does when she’s on stage with night two’s survivors. She’s certainly got the vision thing down, but Kamala seems to have more fight.

Ultimately, the next 18 months are going to be about who can win the suburbs. In 2018, Dems reversed their 2016 losses in the ‘burbs, while again losing rural areas, just like in 2016. The difference was that in 2018, they won control of the House.

Trump’s 2016 formula worked. He traded suburban votes for small-town and rural votes and it got him an Electoral College win. Democrats can win in 2020 if they continue their 2018 success in the suburbs.

If the Democratic presidential candidate focuses exclusively on climate change, he/she will lose a lot of rural votes. A candidate who berates everyone who works in financial services will lose suburban support. But, a candidate that offers solutions on health costs, a fairer, less monopolized economy, more affordable education, a serious approach to the opioid crisis can probably win urban and suburban America.

It’s a long slog from here. And the winning candidate’s job is to keep voters engaged about how important 2020 will be to our kids and grandkids.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 16, 2019

Some harsh news from California for Kamala Harris this week. The LA Times quotes findings from a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, commissioned by The Times. It has bad news for some Democratic presidential contenders, starting with Sen. Harris.

The poll shows Biden leading the race. He has support from 22% of likely Democratic primary voters. That is well below his average in most national surveys. Warren and Sanders followed close behind, with 18% and 17% respectively.

Harris is in fourth place at 13%, and Pete Buttigieg is fifth at 10%. No other candidate topped 3%, and many received less than half a point of support.

This is important because California is Harris’s home state. Candidates in California’s primary can only gain delegates by winning at least 15% of the vote. California also has the largest haul of delegates in the Democratic nomination fight, and they’ve moved their contest from the end, to the beginning of the primary season, making it truly important for the first time.

Harris is counting on a California win to propel her into the top tier. On the other hand, not a lot separates the top five, so it is possible that she can still get back into the mix. On to cartoons.

GOP’s two-part voting strategy:

For DT, the FBI’s evidence IS his plan:

Accountability works only one way:

Sanders steps (way) down, but does hell have a bottom?

He might as well wave toilet paper at this point:

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Saturday Soother – June 15, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Emerald Lake, Yoho NP British Columbia – photo by newenglandmtbr

The basketball season ended on Thursday night, but the DNC gave us a new made-for-TV sport, the two-day Democratic presidential primary debates. If you are thinking Wrongo shouldn’t be using sports analogies for something of consequence, consider that the NYT called them “match ups” in their announcement. A sporting contest is how the media sees the Democratic primary race.

The fact that the future of the country rides on how these “match-ups” play out in November 2020 doesn’t seem to faze the media. Here is the line-up for June 26th:

Booker Inslee
Castro Klobuchar
De Blasio O’Rourke
Delaney Ryan
Gabbard Warren

It appears that Warren is the star of Wednesday night. She’ll try to knock off Booker, and audition O’Rourke for VP. FWIW, O’Rourke has the ability to knock off Warren, but he’s nowhere near as experienced. The rest will audition for VP.

This isn’t a debate. It’s a two-hour effort by each candidate to break through into the consciousness of viewers and the media. That 120 minute time slot will be reduced by at least 20 minutes of commercials. Ten candidates will then split 100 minutes, or about 10 minutes each, unless someone is a hog. A few of these candidates have a very hard time putting complex ideas into short sentences, so the role  of the moderators will be crucial.

Here’s the Thursday, June 27th line-up:

Biden Hickenlooper
Bennet Sanders
Buttigieg Swalwell
Gillibrand Williamson
Harris Yang

On Night Two, it seems certain that Sanders and Harris will try to poke Biden, another person who has difficulty with short sentences. Buttigieg will be trying to break through. Gillibrand looks to be auditioning for VP. Who is Swalwell?

We’ll get through this June circus, and then see another at the end of July. But for the third round in September, the qualifying thresholds jump significantly:

“The DNC’s outline for its September debate — the third of at least a dozen promised matchups during the 2020 nominating fight — decrees that candidates can participate only by reaching 2% in four approved polls released between June 28 and Aug. 28 while also collecting contributions from a minimum of 130,000 unique donors before Aug. 28. That donor list must include a minimum of 400 individuals in at least 20 states.”

That could cull half or more of the herd. Given today’s polling averages at Real Clear Politics, that could leave: Biden, Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete, Kamala Harris, and possibly, Beto in the top tier.

It is also possible that one or two other candidates could break through in the initial debates and get their numbers up significantly by September. But, we can count on it being a much smaller stage after Labor Day.

But you’ve had enough for this week!

Iran may have blown up a tanker or two, or it may be a false flag operation. Sarah Sanders leaving the White House confirms that it’s difficult to spend more than two years working for Trump. Trump said he’d cheat again, if a foreign country gave him another chance.

With all of this, it’s time for a Saturday Soother.

Start by brewing up a cup of Rocketeer Blend ($14.00/12 oz.) coffee from Massachusetts’s Atomic Roastery. They say you will taste chocolate, nutty tones and sweet spices.

Now settle back at listen to “Adagietto” (movement 4) from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, conducted by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. The Adagietto is the most frequently performed of Mahler’s works. This leads to two stories.

Mahler was in love with Alma Schindler, the woman who became his wife. She was considered the most beautiful woman in Vienna. He didn’t declare his love, but instead, composed this piece and sent it to her without a note. She played the music, and said to Mahler, “Now you should come here.”

Story two: Their marriage struggled, and she had an affair with Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School of architecture. After Mahler died, Alma married Gropius. During her marriage to Gropius, Alma had an affair with Franz Werfel, an Austrian novelist and playwright. Alma and Werfel were eventually married after Alma separated from Gropius. They fled to the US when the Nazis took over Austria, and settled in Los Angeles. Alma died in 1964.

The Adagietto was chosen for the 1971 film “Death In Venice”. A member of the film crew was impressed with the music, and asked who wrote it. He was told “Gustav Mahler”. The guy replied “Can we hire him”? Mahler died in 1911.

Here is the beautiful Adagietto:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Cartoon Blogging – June 10, 2019

We’re back from the beach to review the week that was! Trump toured Buckingham Palace. The world observed the 75th anniversary of D-day, and the 30th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square. Some are saying that the vicious attack by security forces on protesters in Sudan is Africa’s first Tiananmen Square-type event. At home, Joe Biden renounced the Hyde Amendment that barred public financing for abortions, a position he held for nearly 40 years. Republicans pounced, framing Biden’s change in position as a gaffe. You might say he was for it before he was against it. On to cartoons.

Biden has another bi-partisan moment with GOP:

 

Trumpy oh Trumpy, where have you been? I’ve been to London to visit the Queen:

What D-Day shows us about today:

Mueller’s subliminal messages:

GOP ponders raising voting age:

Trump has genuine concerns about voting:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 2, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Everest traffic jam – May 2019 photo by Nirmal Nims Purja

People look at this photo of bumper-to-bumper climbers on Everest and think that it proves there is too much money in the world. Enough, that people can chase experiences that were unattainable even ten years ago. Wrongo sees this photo as a metaphor for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination. Too many climbers reaching for the summit of American politics. Some will fall by the wayside, and with such a crowd, it isn’t clear if the best climbers will reach the top.

The point of the climb is to whittle the number of candidates down to the few who have a chance to win in 2020. The DNC just announced that its September 2019 rules will be much stricter than the current requirements to make it into the June debates. The third debate will require both 130,000 donors and achieving 2% in four polls. Some campaigns are already complaining. Isn’t complaining just telling on yourself?

Wrongo is fine with a progressively more challenging requirement for candidates to appear at the debates.

On to cartoons. Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally spoke. That led to a flowering of Mueller cartoons this week. Mueller didn’t want to speak beyond Thursday’s quickie press conference, so the cartoonists spoke for him.

Trump decides to stay seated:

Mueller makes his point:

Parsing of Mueller Report continues:

Mueller speaks. Pelosi has difficulty hearing:

Highlights by Barr and Mueller are vastly different:

You can lead a horse to water, but maybe not a donkey:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 26, 2019

In another “elections have consequences” story, The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), has a new report about how states can blunt the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis. In that case, the court ruled that employers can use forced arbitration clauses to strip workers of their right to join together in court to fight wage theft, discrimination, or harassment. The EPI forecasts that by 2024, more than 80% of private-sector, nonunion workers will be covered by forced arbitration clauses.

They argue that, given the current very conservative Supreme Court, it will be up to individual states to pass “whistleblower enforcement” laws like those introduced in Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, to empower workers who need to sue law-breaking employers, including those covered by arbitration clauses.

On to cartoons. Here’s a look at abortion from the GOP white male perspective:

Trump won’t (can’t?) deal:

GOP’s accomplishments are transparent, even if they are not:

The Parties see things differently:

Summer replacement series doesn’t get raves:

Graduation speakers aren’t created equal:

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Is It Time to Cull The List of Democratic Nominees?

The Daily Escape:

Yellowstone Falls – 2011 photo by Wrongo

With so many candidates, Axios reports that there is a real chance for a brokered Democratic convention. Letting the corrupt DNC’s Super delegates choose the nominee sounds terrible to Wrongo. The main reason is that the Democratic Party’s rules impose a 15% electoral threshold, which means that to win delegates in a state primary, a candidate has to win at least 15% of the vote.

This matters, because there are so many candidates, and most of them aren’t polling very well. A Quinnipiac poll this week shows the difficult road ahead for the Democratic candidates. The chart below shows that only six of the candidates are known well enough that at least half of respondents have an opinion about them. For 17 of the candidates, at least half of respondents said they didn’t know them well enough to say whether they viewed the contender favorably:

Buttigieg is just outside the six, polling at 5% while O’Rourke, who is better known, polls at just 2%. Quinnipiac also looked at the candidates’ net unfavorability among Democrats. The net rating is determined by subtracting the favorable ratings from the unfavorable:

Just three candidates have net unfavorable ratings among Democrats: Tulsi Gabbard, Seth Moulton and Bill de Blasio. OTOH, only eight candidates have truly interesting favorability ratings: Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, Booker, Buttigieg, O’Rourke and Castro. Clearly, the bottom three have no hope at all in the 2020 Democratic nomination race, but the same most likely applies to the next eleven.

Finally, let’s look at how Quinnipiac says the candidates have performed over the last few months:

It’s early days, but Warren jumped over Harris, Buttigieg and O’Rourke in the past two months. Sanders’s biggest problem in the short run isn’t Biden, but Warren, who is just behind him in the Quinnipiac poll. If she in fact passes him, it’s not clear how Sanders would strike back. Sanders’s support seems to have moved with Buttigieg: When Mayor Pete gained ground, Sanders fell. With Buttigieg’s support dropping back down, Sanders’s has gone back up.

Also notable is the fall of Beto. He benefits from being well-known, but not well-liked as a presidential candidate. There have been calls for him to drop out and run for the other Texas Senate seat, held by John Cornyn, who has a campaign war chest of $7.5 million. But, there is already an announced Democratic candidate, MJ Hegar, who lost a close race for a seat in Congress in 2018. So look for Beto to keep running. Also, four million people in Texas voted for Beto in 2018, while just 11,000 elected Mayor Pete last time, so Beto has shown the ability to raise money and win votes.

While polling isn’t voting, these numbers suggest that some winnowing of the field would help focus primary voters on the future of the Party, and on the election. Overall, Quinnipiac shows that 18 candidates are polling at 3% or less (and many of them not registering even 1%), so they face an uphill task to achieve relevancy.

Should the DNC raise the threshold for admission into the debates from 1% to 2%, the debate field would shrink to only eight. Is it too soon to call for 10-14 Democrats to drop out of the running?

Turning to Trump, Quinnipiac says he has a huge problem with women. While 60% will definitely not vote for him, just 28% would definitely vote for him. Among white women (a group he won in 2016), he has a 20-point gap between those who will definitely not consider him and those who definitely will vote for him (55/35%). The GOP’s ongoing war on Roe v. Wade is truly bad for a candidate that faces the wall of female opposition Trump is facing.

Let’s close with a quote from Quinnipiac in 2015: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Leading the pack with 10 percent each are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker…Trump tops the “no way” list as 21 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him. Bush is next with 17 percent, with Christie at 15 percent. “

This proves once again that polling isn’t voting. Democrats must choose wisely, or the GOP could be back in 2024, likely with someone at least as bad as Trump, but who is much more sophisticated, say Tom Cotton.

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 20, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Steps leading to Franciscan Sanctuary, La Verna, Tuscany, Italy – photo by Guiseppe Pepperoni

Over the weekend, Wrongo and Ms. Right, along with a few friends, saw “Hadestown” on Broadway. It is a theatrical home run that has received 14 Tony nominations. Describing the plot is difficult. Most reviews focus on the mythology at the heart of the play. The story is a re-imagination of Orpheus and Eurydice set in contemporary time.

The mythological story is that Orpheus is the world’s greatest poet, and Eurydice is his bride. It is intertwined with the love story of King Hades and his wife Persephone. During the play, we take an epic journey to the underworld and back.

In the myth, Eurydice is killed by a snake bite, and the mourning Orpheus travels to the underworld to beg Hades to return his wife to life. To make his case, Orpheus sings a song so beautiful that Persephone begs Hades to let Eurydice go.

That is loosely followed in the play, where these mythic characters are pawns in a central metaphor of capitalism as death. That seems so current in today’s predatory capitalism, and yet, the play is not a polemic. In the play, Eurydice isn’t bitten by a snake. Instead, she’s lured into Hadestown by Hades’s promise of work and food.

Hadestown is a factory town, and Hades is both the god of death and a merciless taskmaster, forcing his subjects to build an endless wall around Hadestown. In his April 15thMonday Wake Up Call”, Wrongo used Hades’s call and response song, “Why We Build the Wall”. The song seems right for 2019 because of our Orange Overlord, but in reality it was written in 2010.

Wrongo posts a sample lyric for you:

Who do we call the enemy? The enemy is poverty, And the wall keeps out the enemy, And we build the wall to keep us free. That’s why we build the wall;

We build the wall to keep us free.

The Wall makes us free. Arbiet macht frei. The few Trumpets in the audience demonstratively did not applaud the song, while the vast majority cheered. Partisanship is an always-on emotion.

Some call-outs to cast members: Patrick Page and Amber Gray are standouts, he as Hades, and she as Persephone. The legendary André De Shields, plays Hermes. He’s the show’s narrator. His cool swagger pulls the audience into the play from the opening curtain.

See it if you can.

During our pre-theater meal, we talked about the Democratic presidential candidates, a list that seems destined to continue growing. Our friends at dinner follow politics quite closely, and none are fully happy with any of the Democrats on offer.

Most defaulted to “electability”, espousing the view that it is “Do-or-Die” time in America, that we can’t take four more years of what we are experiencing now. That leads them to accept Joe Biden’s candidacy. Wrongo has a different view, as captured in this Vanity Fair article: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Since Vietnam, every time a Democrat has won the presidency, it’s because Democrats voted with their hearts in a primary and closed ranks around the candidate who inspired them, promising an obvious break from the past and an inspiring vision that blossomed in the general election. Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton. Barack Obama. All were young outsiders who tethered their message to the culture of the time. When Democrats have picked nominees cautiously and strategically—falling in line—the results have been devastating, as Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton made plain.”

So, what will happen this time? Those who believe in Biden’s electability should remember that there are 45 million Americans with student loans: 22% of those loans are in default, and 99% of them fail to qualify for loan forgiveness.

It was Biden’s decision to make student loans not dischargeable in bankruptcy. That’s going to be one large group of people who, when they learn who is behind their plight, probably will vote against him.

Biden has been on the job in Washington for around 50 years. Suddenly, according to Bloomberg, he wants to “Fix Things”?

Wake up Democrats! Find a candidate who inspires YOU. Work for that candidate in the primaries. Don’t buy the argument “but he/she isn’t electable” until that is proven by the results of the primaries.

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Dems Should Talk Foreign Policy

The Daily Escape:

Lumen Museum of Mountain Photography, Italy – 2018 photo by Marco Zanta. The glass-enclosed extension is a restaurant.

Every Democratic candidate for the 2020 nomination is discussing domestic policy: Medicare for All, Free College, and all of the other jump shifts in policy, but what about global politics?

Biden isn’t unique among candidates in saying the 2020 election is about a return to the way things were before Trump, the Economist reports:

“’This too shall pass,’ Joe Biden told America’s allies at the Munich Security Conference in February. ‘We will be back.’ The applause he received reflects a longing to return to a world order that existed before President Donald Trump started swinging his wrecking ball.”

It is problematic to rely on the ideas of a Clinton operative, but the Economist quotes Jake Sullivan, a 2016 Hillary advisor who says that the thrust of the Democrats’ foreign policy approach is simple: reverse much of what Trump has done. Sullivan talks of a “back to basics” approach: Value alliances, stress diplomacy:

“Compared with domestic policy….there is less focus on new ideas.”

All of the Democratic candidates would rejoin the Paris climate agreement. They would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, possibly with new pre-conditions for lifting sanctions. All would reassure NATO allies of their full commitment to the alliance.

Most Dems agree with Trump’s more confrontational approach to China. However, they would ask America’s allies to work with us on the outcomes.

Biden has a long foreign policy track record. He proposed cutting Iraq into three states for the Sunni, Shia and Kurds. He wanted to arm the Ukrainians against Russia. He opposed the surge in Afghanistan, and the intervention in Libya.

The other candidates have said less, and have no distinctive foreign policy positions.

It would be great if we actually talked about foreign policy in the 2020 primaries. Let’s take a step back and remember 1991. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the world’s other nuclear-armed superpower, we became the sole superpower. Until then, our strategy had been to contain the Soviet Union, but afterwards, lacking a global competitor, neither Party put forth a coherent global strategy.

We blundered into the Middle East with the Gulf War in 1991. After 9/11, we attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. We then hatched the war on terror, and subsequently expanded our globalized military across the world. And when the ledger finally closes on our expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost will approach $4 trillion.

Had we spent that amount on domestic priorities, we could have shored up Social Security and Medicare for a generation. We could have paid for the repair of our crumbling infrastructure. Instead, we’ve emerged from our Middle East blunder with two global competitors, China and Russia, along with a huge fiscal deficit. Neither had to happen.

America has failed to see the connections between our global strategy and domestic strategy. Providing incentives to our multinational corporations that enabled them to make goods abroad has marooned large swaths of our domestic workers.

A reasonable question to discuss is whether we can continue supporting globalization while building good jobs in the heartland of America.

And there should be a real debate regarding Trump’s foreign policy. He has sided more closely with Israel. He’s walked out of the Iran nuclear deal. He’s threatened Venezuela with possible “military options” that are being seriously discussed at the Pentagon.

Over the weekend, the Israelis told Bolton and Pompeo that the Iranians are preparing to attack the approximately 5000 US military personnel in Iraq. That may or may not be true, but it led to Pompeo visiting Baghdad.

Do American voters want another war in the Middle East? Trump is daring Iran to fully withdraw from the Nuclear Deal. Who will become the fall guy if there is an Iranian closing of the Straits of Hormuz? Trump, or Iran?

Trade talks with China seem stalled. North Korea’s recent missile tests press Trump’s bet on a deal with NK. Surely Kim is carefully watching Trump’s moves in the Middle East.

Then there is Russia. The Dems overreached with Russiagate, but the Russians are working with Syria to eliminate one of the last places in Syria (Idlib) where terrorists still hold sway. Neither Israel nor Bolton seem to want a stable Syria. Will they try to force Trump to obstruct this important operation?

Debate by Democrats may focus on military spending, with some wanting to cut it, and the mainstreamers being more cautious. A new policy towards the Middle East, and Israel in particular, should be discussed.

Regardless, Trump will surely attack Dems as “soft” on national defense.

But Democrats should thoughtfully challenge the Right-wing assumption that America must have a military-first strategy, rather than a diplomacy-first strategy.

We’re stretched thin trying to have a military presence everywhere in the world. It’s worth a real debate.

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