It was curious to observe how much of Jeremy Corbyn’s successful campaign to rebuild the Labour Party was about foreign policy. Wars, he said, make us less safe, not more. Agreeing with him were: the obvious facts of the matter, voters in opinion polls, and apparently voters in their votes.
Also largely agreeing, dragged along by Corbyn’s leadership, was the Labour Party, whose new platform — despite many serious flaws — says:
“We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour believes Britain’s foreign policy should be guided by the values of peace, universal rights and international law. . . . The lessons of the past, including those from the Chilcot Inquiry, show why our response to these challenges must be different. . . . From the Middle East to Africa, in recent years millions of people have been killed, injured or displaced through wars, terrorism and military intervention. . . . We will review all training and equipment contracts with repressive regimes, to ensure that Britain never colludes in the mistreatment of civilians. . . . supporting the right of the Chagos islanders to return to their homelands.”
I can’t find those statements in the platform of the Democratic Party, though it does admit the existence of foreign policy.
That last one may seem an odd point to make note of. Currently 54% of the money Congress deals out goes to war and war preparations. Under Trump’s budget, militarism would rise to 59% of discretionary spending. How could someone run for Congress and not take a position on war or peace or foreign policy of any sort? Well, I’m not sure how, but it happens all the time . . . with Democrats.
Rob Quist, losing Democratic candidate for Congress in Montana in March, included a section called “National Security” on his website. Of the four sentences there, one was about using militarism to produce jobs, two were about veterans, and one was about privacy rights. Another section titled “Veterans” had two more sentences. Which wars would Quist have tried to end, continue, escalate, or start? Who knows!
James Thompson, losing Democratic candidate for Congress in Kansas in April, made “fighting for” and praising and thanking “our veterans” a prominent issue on his website. But did he want to produce more veterans or fewer or none? Did he want to buy more missiles and jets and foreign bases? Did he respect international law? Did he want to convert to peaceful industries? Did he want to bomb villages? Who knows!
Jon Ossoff, losing Democratic candidate for Congress in Georgia in June, included only two policy topics on his entire website: cutting government spending, and running the government more like a corporation. Historically, approximately 98% of politicians who have spoken loudly about cutting government spending have favored increasing government spending on militarism. Did Ossoff? Who knows!
Randy Bryce, Democratic candidate for Congress in Wisconsin next year, is a darling of progressive election aficionados. His website thus far includes no positions on anything at all. His video, which has generated the support for him, does not acknowledge the existence of 96% of humanity, foreign policy, war, peace, militarism, or 54% of the budget that Bryce wants to be in charge of. He does, however, claim to have won a medal “serving” in the U.S. Army in Honduras, a country that — largely thanks to U.S. efforts — has become one of the worst places on earth, not coincidentally sending many refugees north.
Are you spotting any sort of pattern?
Fans of Bryce’s video, judging by my twitter feed, are not finding themselves in great agreement with what he would try to do for the world or for the United States or for Wisconsin. In fact, they don’t seem to much know or care. Rather, they find themselves convinced that his is a campaign that will win over other people, people easily manipulated by a television ad. And, I guess, he’s got the good party label on him instead of the bad one.
Of course, there is a bit of content in Bryce’s video. But the closest it comes to a policy position is Bryce’s discovery that healthcare in the United States really sucks. What would he do about it? Who knows! But at least he knows it’s a topic. Does he want even more of our wealth drained off into wars and weapons? Probably, but who can say? Does he want to bomb every country on earth or just those favored by Democratic Party leaders? How can we tell?
The pretense that the main thing the government does is of no import when campaigning to be elected to the government is not working out very well. Like wars, it loses again and again and again, but just keeps trying.
And, even as the Democrats ape their Republican opponents on many issues, their silence on foreign policy is their own creation for which they deserve the credit. The three Republicans who defeated Quist, Thompson, and Ossoff, all had fear-mongering, pro-war, pro-military, anti-immigrant, and (in two cases) pro-Israel propaganda on their websites. Bryce is running against (or parallel to) an incumbent, so of course his opponent (should he choose to actually oppose him) has an established record of warmongering.
In a country with two pro-war parties, the party that admits what it is out-loud is always going to have an advantage. If you can’t imagine a way out of that, ask Jeremy Corbyn for advice.
Addendum: I was previously unaware of a fourth Democrat who ran for Congress already this year. He also had zero foreign policy and lost.