Looking through my morning Washington Post Opinion email, I noticed many of the Op-Ed articles were authored by people once known to be right of center. Max Boot, Joe Scarborough, and George Will were once Republicans but now compete to show how much they loath President Trump. They are joined by a legion of other writers once on the right at the Post and other opinion outlets. In the Sunday New York Times, Frank Bruni crowed the Lincoln Project made up the last Bush administration staffers had raised $18 million to run anti-Trump ads. Apparently, the online journal “the Dispatch” raised its capital to criticize the President. All seem poised to cast their vote for Democrat Joe Biden.
As readers of this blog know, I’m no great fan of our present President. I didn’t vote for him in ’16. Faced with the choice between Trump and Clinton, I opted for the Libertarian Ticket. By voting for two successful governors and a chance to expand our options, this was the best I could do. With Justin Amash’s failure to launch, this time, there is no reasonable alternative to the two major-party candidates. It looks like I’ll have to choose between Biden and Trump. (Still time for Michelle)
To come to a decision, a look at how each stands on the significant issues foreign and domestic is mandatory. Neither is going to fully satisfy me, but on balance, which in my opinion would be better. Let’s look at how each candidate might approach Foreign and domestic issues.
First, let’s look at Foreign Policy. As I have said, we’re in a new cold war whether we want to admit it or not. China has shown it has only an interest in pursuing actions that enhance its ruling party. There can be no room for a rogue nation in a shrinking world that will stop at nothing. From unleashing a pandemic on the planet to threatening its neighbors, China has shown you it trust it at your peril.
The Obama Administration, towards the end of its eight years, finally made an effort to isolate China via the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). With a good trade pact with China’s neighbors, the hope was to put China at a trade disadvantage. It would encourage China to act in a civilized manner. Failing that, it would ring that nation with potential adversaries. A containment policy much like we did with the old Soviet Union. Unfortunately, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump dumped the pact. Trump has used tariffs against China to little avail. Would Biden now join TPP? If not, how will he handle China? Secretary of State Pompeo recently spelled out recognition of the new cold war. The Trump administration, at least, acknowledges the problem. Biden has yet to give us his policy towards China.
Taking strong stances wasn’t a hallmark of the Obama administration. Drawing a line in the sand over Assad’s use of chemical weapons morphed into an invitation to the Russians to handle things in Syria. That weak response encouraged Putin to attack Ukraine. The Obama-Biden administration applied some sanctions but tellingly withheld lethal weapons from the beleaguered Ukrainians. Putin still has his gains. The one aggressive move they made was to assist ousting the Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi. That country is still in a bloody civil war. With many nations backing opposite factions, the destruction goes on. No gold star there.
It may be unfair to hang Obama’s softness on Biden. Still, the vice president advised against killing Osama Bin Laden. A man who spent decades in government with no convictions that couldn’t be abandoned whenever the political winds changed, has never been confused with Ronald Reagan.
At times, Trump appeared to be a bull in a china shop in the conduct of foreign affairs. Slapping on tariffs and demanding more from our allies hasn’t endeared him to many overseas. Saying some beautiful things about dictators while fighting with the heads of friendly countries has sent mixed messages. No doubt, he has made rallying the free world harder.
However, Trump has become much more focused on China’s danger. Previously he sent lethal weapons to Ukraine. This has stabilized the situation there. Who can those sharing our values rely on to keep the dictators a bay?
Conservatives in the past were known for standing up for the free world. Human rights and free peoples were what we promoted. We held this would make a safer, more prosperous world. Trump may not have any commitment to these values. However, as a champion of American interests, he at least realizes the need for measures now to push back at the totalitarians. Obama-Biden was long on words but short on actions.
Classical liberals believed, Free Trade would contribute to the goal of a better world. This has proven to work. Unfortunately, neither Trump nor Biden have any enthusiasm for this pillar of capitalism. Both expose economic systems that failed miserably in the past. Trump has resurrected the mercantilism of the French Bourbons, while Biden thinks Soviet Union style government’s economic direction is the way to go.
Over the last twelve years, under Obama and Trump, autocrats have extended their reach while freedom has retreated. Trump now seems to ready to take some actions to push back. With the present composition of the Democrats, it is hard to see Biden leading bringing meaningful measures.
So how do the conservative refugees justify moving to the Biden camp? Trump’s foreign policy seems marginally more in line with their values. I would have to lean towards Trump, simply because I can’t see him drawing lines in the sand and then walking away. His ego would never allow it. If not for Obama-Biden foreign policy positions, Republican outcasts reasoning must lie with Biden’s domestic views. I’ll take those up in the next Post.