Foreign policy in campaigns

My friend and colleague Michael Signer had a great WaPo op-ed this weekend, fresh off a ten month stint as a senior foreign policy advisor to the Edwards campaign, about the dearth of media coverage on foreign affairs in the primaries. Signer rightly notes that the meaty foreign policy discussions are far more often carried out on blogs than in newspapers, and with a few notable exceptions, foreign policy issues have never really gained traction in either primary. This is especially weird considering the president has far more unilateral power on foreign policy than domestic issues, which are hugely shaped by Congress. It’s partly due to general intra-party agreement on foreign policy — obviously the general will feature much stronger disagreement about, say, Iraq — but also partly because of media failures.

It’s also, though, partly the fault of campaigns, or at least some Democratic foreign policy professionals who continue to see politics as icky or beneath them. Matt Stoller elaborates:

Look, if you want foreign policy to become a political issue, you have to make it a political issue. That’s an organizing problem. I didn’t see any attacks from any Democratic candidates against each other on North Korea or Russia, any attempts to draw distinctions, though I saw a lot of high-minded ‘major serious policy addresses’. Of course those are going to be discussed on elite foreign policy focused blogs and nowhere else. If you want to get into the fray, you have to get in the fray.

And it’s true: my favorite way to talk about foreign policy is to chat in a wonky way with other wonks. But I do things like write for this blog and write a book and attend YearlyKos because there’s huge value in making these issues accessible and, dare I say, interesting to people who aren’t professionals. So Signer rightly elaborates on the media aspect of the problem, and the best way to influence that — rather than simply hoping the media does a better job all on its own — is to connect the policy with the political. It’s an effort that is, I should say, *vastly* improved from two or four years ago, with excellent groups popping up to do it, but there’s always more room for us to get better, and it’s vital that we do.

Share This Post

© 2018 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS