I’ll say it: We could afford to talk a little bit less about kitchen table issues.
Candidates love to point out President Trump’s shortcomings on issues like civil rights, inequality and the environment. If and when a Democratic wins the presidency in 2020, many of these issues can be remedied relatively quickly and easily.
Unpopular tax cuts for the rich can be rolled back. Inhumane immigration policies can be changed with the stroke of a pen. EPA regulations can be reinstated, and the U.S. can rejoin the Paris Accords.
For much of the United States, Jan. 20, 2021, will feel like waking up from a bad fever dream. But while our domestic policy can get back on track virtually overnight, it will take much more than a new face in the White House to reverse the damage President Trump has inflicted on the United States' image on the world stage.
Jonathan Tepperman of Foreign Policy magazine accurately portrays the extent of this damage. The President’s willingness to antagonize allies, embrace our adversaries and undermine international institutions has, as Tepperman said, “led to a growing consensus that the United States no longer cares about the world beyond its borders.”
So, how will the next president restore our image and prove to the world that the United States still cares?
Don’t expect many answers from the Democrats hoping to be that next president.
Sure, U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) are making issues of war and peace the center of their campaigns. But with both candidates struggling to exceed 1% in national polls, it’s difficult to imagine either claiming victory next November.
A few of the front-runners have alluded to their previous foreign policy experience as evidence of their ability to lead the United States in global affairs.
Former Vice President Joe Biden served 36 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) currently serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) sits on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee.
In the last year, Warren and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have described their vision for the United States in world affairs. Warren’s piece in Foreign Affairs focuses on promoting peace by strengthening the world’s democracies. In an essay published by The Guardian, Sanders calls for an “international progressive front” to fight authoritarianism around the globe.
These candidates are well-qualified and well-spoken on national security and foreign policy issues. Just don’t expect to hear them talk about it during a CNN town hall.
Of course, these issues aren’t exactly stump speech material. But a 2018 Gallup poll showed that 69% of Democratic voters and 68% of all voters consider foreign affairs to be a very or extremely important issue.
These voters understand that issues abroad, if gone unchecked, will eventually make their way inside our borders. Who doesn’t care about preventing terrorism or preserving U.S. jobs?
After all, Trump ran on a platform largely focused on U.S. relationships with other countries. Democrats would be smart to do the same in 2020.
If Democratic candidates want to earn the trust of the U.S. electorate in 2020 and re-assert the United States' status as a global leader, they need to prove they’re commander-in-chief material.
Nick Hinman is a Junior from Olathe majoring in political science and philosophy