Pope Francis was recently reminded that Americans react very negatively to perceived foreign interference in their political system when Presidential Candidate Donald Trump lashed out at the religious leader for making a statement that appeared to suggest he was not a Christian for his immigration stance.
To non-US citizens, this reaction appears to be very hypocritical given how much influence the United States enjoys over other governments due to its hegemonic role in the International Community. Foreigners may not have a right to interfere in US politics, but they have every reason to be concerned about the outcome of US elections, especially in 2016.
With the change of leadership in Washington, US foreign policy always changes, even if that change is not always significant. After all, Americans find it easier to agree on policies that affect others more than those policies that directly affect us while we too often ignore what is happening outside of our own country. It is also important to recognize that new leadership does not equate to new government as career technocrats, advisers, and consultants are often held over.
When critical events that interest Americans are happening, however, Americans become more interested in foreign policy and divisions become far more apparent.
Today, the America political system is more divided than ever, so this creates a great amount of divergence on all issues. Couple with numerous crises around the world, including the threat of the Islamic State, the Ukraine Crisis, and the South China Sea Crisis, this means US foreign policy is likely to see major shifts under the next US President.
As primary election victories accumulate and voters cement their support for their preferred candidates, it is becoming more apparent that the Republican Party nominee will be Donald Trump and the Democratic Party nominee will be Hillary Clinton. Trump’s provocative stances on issues like immigration reform and the Syrian Refugee Crisis probably leave foreigners feeling very uncomfortable with the volatile Washington outsider.
Considering Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama and her husband Bill Clinton’s constructive role in the International Community, she is more likely to be the candidate of choice for foreigners.
In general, American foreign policy oscillates between engagement and disengagement. If those is in power consider an issue a top priority, they will choose engagement; if not, they will choose disengagement.
In dealing with Russia, Turkey China, or Israel, for example, relations are likely to improve should a President Trump feels political nonsense is fueling division, yet relations are likely to become extremely hostile should Trump feel Russian or Israeli representatives are trying to manipulate him.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is more likely to follow a “standard script” and attempt to maintain the status quo if she becomes President. In a time of uncertainty with rapid changes, however, that script is changing with events as is evident by Clinton’s sharp departure from her husband’s policies. That said, her policies would be fairly predictable, whether they serve the interests of the American People or not.
Furthermore, understanding why Trump or Clinton might be elected President helps paint a picture of their potential impact on US foreign policy.
Sparking one controversy after another, Trump’s inability to be politically correct leaves voters feeling as though they can trust what the billionaire developer says, even if they do not agree with his statements or policies. This is what makes Donald Trump the anti-establishment candidate.
Anyone who has ever listened to a Trump interview or read one of his books knows the man actually has a great deal to offer the American people. Whether you like him or not, there is a reason Donald Trump is a billionaire. He understands business on a national and international level. He also understands how public policy can affect business. That makes him a potentially constructive force in public policy debates that focus on balancing the interests of the American people with those of business.
In the book “Why We Want You to Be Rich,” co-written by Donald Trump and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki, the authors discuss the hazards of failing to grow one’s income above the inflation rate. Trump has his shortcomings, but he does understand the problems facing the American People and he does care about the welfare of people.
The problem with Trump is that he always pushes things one-step too far. Instead of showing some grace and humility, he has to be right at all costs, even when he is wrong. Because politics has grown increasingly negative, filled with intensifying personal attacks, and defined by blatant generalities intended to unite supporters at the expense of others, Trump appears to feel compelled to be the best at being the worst of the worst.
Instead, he needs to show he is truly a leader worthy enough to be U.S. President by learning when to shut his mouth, apologize, and focus on economic policy. In other words, he must provide what the American People need. He must learn to be a public servant.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, could not be any more of a Washington insider. She is so deeply entrenched in the political establishment that the political world long believed she was fated to become the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee. Political elites seem to believe Hillary Clinton is the one candidate most deserving to be the president. From the perspective of voters, this translates into an apparent sense of entitlement.
It is, however, important to recognize the political establishment does not choose who becomes President. Where Hillary is embroiled in a mountain of controversies thanks to her tenure in the Obama Administration and time as First Lady of the Clinton Administration, she does enjoy diehard supporters who will show up to vote for her without question while she has a strong, well-developed voter base in general.
Election Day 2016 will come down to who shows up to vote. If Trump’s public policy views become far outlandish and devoid of realistic expectations when he is pressed for details, he is likely to discourage his voters and energize Clinton supporters. Unless Hillary can shake off her infamous past, however, this alone could mean a Trump victory. If Trump can offer a reasonable, inclusive set of public policy priorities and project a Presidential aura, his voters will be energized and he may well win.
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