Looking at the figures in news, there is much to suggest that the 2020 presidential and congressional elections will have wider implications for the US and transatlantic relations than other elections in the recent past. The foreign and domestic political positions of the two candidates are very far apart. We also observed strong contrasts between the candidates in other elections, for example the duel between Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008.
But at that time there was a basic consensus on all differences in foreign policy positions. At the time, for example, none of the candidates questioned the international alliances of the USA.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, threatens to slaughter the sacred cows of US foreign policy. He questions the basic foreign policy consensus and with it the American guarantee of alliance, the 4besnews US claim to leadership in the world and even the attitude that democracies are better allies than autocracies.
According to the news, in the national polls, Joe Baden is ahead of Donald Trump by securing 51% and Donald Trump has 42% polls in national debate. The news further states that Biden is a democrat and Trump is a republican. So, Biden is around 10 points ahead of Trump in local and national debates and polls.
Do you expect extreme changes in US foreign policy with a US President Trump?
The US constitutional principle of “checks and balances” usually prevents certain excesses; even a President Trump could not decide everything alone. The new US president will also be surrounded by new foreign policy advisors. With Hillary Clinton it is now much clearer to see who these advisors will be.
Does the partner Germany threaten to lose importance for the USA?
We shouldn’t judge too quickly. For a long time, Barack Obama was considered the “Pacific President”, and his administration had to recognize that specific developments quickly overtook specific developments in terms of programmatic and geographic priorities – such as the Russian annexation of Crimea, the civil war in Ukraine and the extensive destabilization of the near and far Middle East. Hillary Clinton would certainly be the more reliable partner for Germany. Her positions represent core elements of American foreign policy that have underpinned transatlantic relations since the end of World War II. But we shouldn’t see things in black and white: Hillary Clinton, for example, has moved away from her originally very positive stance on free trade under the pressure of her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders – and Donald Trump’s positions do not simply stand for an erratic foreign policy.
You have also worked out that regardless of the outcome of the respective election, a stronger domestic orientation of US politics is conceivable. What are the reasons for that?
The US is experiencing far-reaching social and economic changes. Examples include demographic change, but also the increasing politicization of minorities and growing social inequality. As a result, any administration the US will lead after the November elections will focus more on domestic politics. If America were to become less involved in foreign policy, then Europe would have to take on more responsibility in the world.
Yes, it does – and an important reason for this is Germany’s leading role in the European Union. As President, Hillary Clinton would probably advocate greater transatlantic burden-sharing and more partnership-based dialogue, be it in the area of security policy or in the global economy. In doing so, it relies on a strong European Union and sees Germany as an important partner – like large parts of the US foreign policy establishment.
Is the US President’s influence overestimated?
Certainly Congress and American courts can ultimately prevent some extreme decisions. However, a lot depends on the particular situation and what circulates around through news. In crisis situations in particular, the US President has greater room for maneuver: After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush massively strengthened the American security apparatus and largely disempowered Congress in security policy. And in view of the numerous political and military crises of the present, we should not rely on the system of checks and balances. At the same time, it is important not to create unnecessary horror scenarios even with a Trump election winner. The world would not collapse and the US would not leave NATO either. A considerable amount of uncertainty among the American allies can be expected: In contrast to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump shows little interest in international cooperation – and that in a wide range from security to economic policy to climate and environmental policy.