During the 2016 Democratic primary, it was hard to take the foreign policy pronouncements of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all that seriously. He was good at railing against an overly militaristic foreign policy. In his debates with Hillary Clinton, however, he always sounded out of his depth on these issues. During the campaign he talked a lot about the ravages of economic globalization. The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts paid close attention to those pronouncements. While Sanders spoke about foreign economic policy with more conviction, his analyses ranged from protectionist to really protectionist to really really protectionist.
In some ways, this lack of depth was a shame. Sanders represents the left wing of the party, and his candidacy offered up an opportunity for that wing to articulate a new foreign policy vision. As Zack Beauchamp pointed out at Vox this month, compared to domestic policy, “on international affairs, Democrats have far fewer exciting ideas to offer.” I suspect that rank-and-file Democrats are as split on foreign policy as Republicans, but there has not been a foreign policy standard-bearer on the left who takes the issue seriously beyond “no more wars.” If you believe in the “Overton Window” of policy articulation, the failure of the progressive wing to talk about foreign affairs has circumscribed the range of acceptable policy options.
So it is interesting to note that last week Sanders gave a foreign policy speech that was far more substantive than anything he said during the 2016 campaign. Vox has reprinted the entire speech, and it is well worth reading.
Two key elements stand out: Sanders’s more capacious definition of foreign policy as including things beyond the use of military force, and its anchor in American values:
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