History is full of presidents elected with less foreign policy experience than their rivals — including President Donald Trump’s defeat of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But 2020 might be different, according to Defense One.
Next year, all announced or expected Democrats in the White House race — except for one, possible contender Joe Biden — have little experience in shaping America’s place in the world. But Trump’s controversial “America First” non-interventionist foreign policy will likely make the issue a hot topic.
“I think it’ll come up during the primaries,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then Clinton during her 2016 bid. “I see some of these issues being raised in the early caucus states” — including the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and the question of Russian election interference.
“The issue will be whether some of these relatively unknown folks are going to pay a price for not having that kind of experience, or whether voters are going to give them a break.”
Mieke Eoyang, vice president for the national security program at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, told Defense One the real question is: “‘How much do you believe in America’s power to be a force for good in the world?’ “
“There’s a big divide in the party that is a generational divide. Older voters have more confidence in the U.S. ability to engage [abroad] in a constructive way — and younger voters, who came of age during the Iraq War, don’t believe that.”
But the broader concern for Eoyang and other centrists is that the insurgent progressive wing of the Democratic Party — championed by freshman lawmakers like Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Illhan Omar, D-Minn. — will pick a candidate who can’t beat Trump in the general election, on foreign policy or any other issue.
“The question for the primary voters is, do you want to win the war inside the party knowing that that view is not shared by the majority of Americans, [which] will make it harder to actually defeat Trump?” Eoyang told Defense One.
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