Right now, we are less than a year from the presidential elections and only months away from the beginning of the race for the White House, with the conclusion of the primaries and caucuses, which will set the stage for the coming election in November. Both Republicans and Democrats are now going through the process of preparing their campaigns, which will most likely be based on issues at home, such as immigration, abortion, inflation and unemployment. Given the rather tenuous circumstances in current international affairs, however, there is a very strong chance that the outcome of this election will depend on the parties’ stances on foreign policy and the diplomatic relations of the United States.
The office of the president in the United States enjoys a unique political function, which is that the power and influence of the United States as a global superpower can seriously impact the outcome of international matters and disputes. Consequently, whoever controls the White House can also greatly influence world affairs via the diplomatic power the United States can exert around the world. It is no surprise, after all, that the elections in the United States are often covered by foreign news networks across many nations, as the motives of a president sitting in Washington D.C. can easily alter the strategy another leader sitting in Helsinki, Ankara or London will use for their own national interests.
President Joe Biden, who is as of now the likely candidate for the Democratic Party, has had a very tumultuous career as president since coming to office in January 2021. He was and — to a certain degree — is still praised for his strongly Atlanticist and pro-NATO stance in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s inclinations toward a more isolated United States foreign policy. Yet his own tenure is marked by incidents such as the Fall of Kabul in Afghanistan, which cast doubt on the United States’ military strength and its policy of “nation-building,” the outbreak of both the Russo-Ukrainian War and the rising hostilities with China, which have greatly increased global tension during his rule, and, most recently, the violent eruption of hostilities in Gaza, where the United States government has been repeatedly criticized for not supporting a cease-fire or any solid peacemaking efforts. These incidents are subjects that plague the image of the Biden administration and are likely to influence his image as a candidate for a second term.
On the opposite side, the Republicans have to deal with a diverse range of issues — most important of which is the fact that, as of right now, there are no clear and definitive indications toward who might become the candidate for the presidential race in the first place. Former President Trump is viewed by various observers as the likely candidate, but there are other candidates who can become an alternative choice for the party, such as Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy. All of these candidates have overlapping views on the economy, human rights and other legislative and judicial affairs. However, their respective stances on China, Russia and future foreign policy goals that will be pursued in relation to national interests all have differences that can greatly influence and even alter the image of the Republican Party from an ideological viewpoint.
Most importantly, both parties and their respective candidates will likely have to find ways to adapt to the fast pace at which circumstances in international affairs change today and influence their own opinions and positions for the future. As an example, the war in Ukraine has become a notorious point of contention between the Democrats and the Republicans in recent days, despite the initial bipartisan support for military aid at the start of the conflict. After the infamous failure of the widely publicized southern counteroffensive campaign at the cost of expensive aid efforts as well as the recent increase in demands from Israel for their own defense needs, global affairs are now putting a limit on how much the United States can do to support its strategic partners. The United States is actively supporting such partners across a wide range of conflicts throughout the world and should current economic hardships begin to strain the capacity of the United States to support these partners, serious sacrifices in diplomatic efforts would be necessary in order to sustain national interests and address important domestic concerns.
Currently, there is no clear way to determine the outcome of next year’s presidential election — new developments can easily and rapidly sway public opinion, as they, for example, did back in 2016, when the idea of Trump becoming president was seen as nothing more than a funny joke. Consequently, and especially with global affairs influencing both Washington’s diplomatic strategies as well as stances on domestic affairs, a key strategy for electoral victory for any candidate might depend on having an appealing stance on world affairs that could potentially bring a significant shift or even a surprise victory at the ballot box.
Deniz Gulay is a freshman majoring in history.