A Party Without a Cause

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While I was watching one of the early Democratic debates, I noticed a worrying sign in the foreign policy embraced onstage. The Democratic Party has moved more and more to the right on foreign policy over time, which has led to several wars for America, and will lead to more if nothing changes. It’s important to note this wasn’t always the case. In the 1960s and 1970s most prominent liberal politicians, like George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, and Robert F. Kennedy, were antiwar.

Then, everything changed. After the landslide defeats of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis in the 1980s, most of the Democratic party decided to embrace a new ideology: The Third Way, also known as Neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a center-left political philosophy that emphasizes bipartisanship and compromise, leaving the previous anti-war foreign policy position in limbo. This was not an isolated incident. In many nations in the 1990s centrist parties became the new dominant parties.

After 9/11, the Democratic Party turned fully away from being anti-war to join with the GOP on a new, Neoconservatism platform, which is the idea that the U.S. should be a world leader through force. This increased our involvement in foreign conflicts, including in the Iraq War, which had bipartisan support, and would have been impossible a generation ago. Since then, both parties have gone further to the Neocon side. Under Obama, the U.S. was involved in conflict in seven countries. And, while Donald Trump criticized war on the campaign trail, the U.S. is involved now in eight different countries under the Trump administration.

Today, not only is this the dominant ideology in both major parties, but the degree it has been taken to dwarfs anything before. In the first debate, Amy Klobuchar basically advocated military action in Iran, and Tim Ryan advocated for more involvement in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. In Debate three, John Hickenlooper argued that the U.S. should remain in Afghanistan indefinitely. These are, at the very least, very hawkish policies.

Many of the top contenders support these policies too. Beto O’Rourke, while not as relevant as he was six months ago, is still somewhat significant, and he stated he would take an entire term to withdraw from Afghanistan. Finally, Joe Biden, the current frontrunner, has indicated he would continue the Obama administration’s foreign policy, which means the War in Afghanistan still has no end in sight under a Biden presidency.

This rift was exemplified by the spat between Representatives Tim Ryan and Tulsi Gabbard over the Afghanistan war, where Ryan confused Al-Qaeda with the Taliban. What that mistake communicated is that to a lot of the party, conflict in the Middle East can be summed up by “Them bad, Us good”.

And that’s only one example of the smaller and smaller disparity between the two parties.. Overall, it’s easy to see both the Democrats and the GOP are drifting to the right. What makes this small difference all the more ironic is the claims by both parties that the other is radically different. Look at the beliefs of most of each party, it’s hard to see much difference. Both parties supported the Iraq War, both parties supported the Patriot Act. The Wall Street deregulation that led to the 2008 recession passed with bipartisan support.

There’s a famous speech by President Eisenhower known as the Cross of Iron speech. In it, Eisenhower warned against using too much military force and spoke out against the growing Military Industrial Complex. Now when the threat is greater than ever before, and the nation has both major parties supporting these policies. Indeed, most problems with these policies come from the mistaken view that all bipartisanship is good.

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