Competing Bipartisan Consensuses?

Feb 19, 2019

This article first appeared on the Ethics & International Affairs blog.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) tweets: "There is an emerging, left right coalition of common sense for a foreign policy of restraint." We certainly have seen some interesting challenges in the past several weeks to some of the established verities about the role the United States ought to be playing in the world. If nothing else, a greater diversity of backgrounds and experiences in the new Congress is bringing up challenges or critiques to the status quo.

Khanna's comment follows analysis that suggests that, in order to earn voters' support, U.S. involvement in the world should be connected to making Americans safer, more secure, and prosperous—and that this view has resonance among those who would self-describe both as conservative and as liberal. There remains little appetite for full-blown isolationism, but what will be interesting in the coming months is whether the tendency Khanna describes will begin to take greater shape and salience.

One factor that may delay this development is the current nature of American politics, which focuses squarely on the person of President Trump. There has been, with regard to matters such as NATO, Syria, or Korea, a reflexive reaffirmation of the status quo as a way to register unease with Trump. On the other hand, the Congress is beginning to wrest back war powers it was content to let Presidents Bush and Obama wield precisely because of distrust with Trump—but as these powers come back, it does make it harder for this or future presidents to intervene unilaterally.

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<a href="">Protest against U.S. military attacks on Syria, April 2017</a>. CREDIT: Fibonacci Blue via Wikimedia Commons

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