Max Levites, Fellow, The Next Generation of Transatlantic Leaders
As the 2020 Presidential race kicks into gear, candidates hoping to secure the Democratic nomination are going to face a host of litmus tests from the progressive left, and any candidate not in support of Medicare-for-all, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and a Green New Deal, among other issues, will have a hard time securing the party nomination. But often missing from these progressive litmus tests is foreign policy. So, what kind of platform can progressives rally around?
The simple answer is that progressives need a foreign policy that aligns with the values they preach domestically, one focused on social justice and reducing inequality. That means defending and promoting democracy and human rights around the world, valuing diplomacy over military force, promoting global transparency and accountability, and rallying other countries to come together to fight climate change.
To do all of this in a world where American leadership is increasingly in question, the US needs partners. Thankfully, progressives need only to look across the Atlantic to find like-minded allies to tackle similar problems at home and common challenges abroad. Rapid globalization has left many on both continents behind as economies change faster than people can adapt, leading to a rise in anti-establishment and populist parties that are often linked to illiberal and authoritarian regimes looking to destabilize Western democracies. Governments are also struggling to keep up with technology that has changed the way global markets operate, allowing multinational companies to maximize profits by evading taxes and avoiding the need to operate transparently. Gaps in international regulation have made room for a “globalized, transnational oligarchy and kleptocracy” that has grown big and bold enough to exert its influence over US and European politics. Finally, the relative wealth of the US and Europe does not make them immune to the consequences of climate change.
Common problems mean ample opportunity for cooperation. As a rising China and a belligerent Russia try to assert themselves as alternatives to liberal democracy, it is increasingly important that the US and Europe defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad. American attempts at democracy promotion through military means have failed more often than not. Instead, the US and the European Union can work together to solve international conflicts diplomatically, as they did when they coordinated a multilateral effort to negotiate the nuclear deal with Iran, acting as a mediator if necessary. The US and EU both have strong internal mechanisms (like USAID) and memberships in multilateral institutions through which they can coordinate their diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. Together, they also carry enough weight for punitive targeted sanctions on violators of human rights to be effective. Actively cooperating on strengthening democratic institutions is increasingly necessary to combat attempts by foreign powers to undermine our political systems by sowing distrust and misinformation.
The US and Europe also have a common interest in promoting a global regime of accountability and transparency that combats transnational corruption and ensures that multinational corporations don’t evade taxes and aren’t opaque about their business practices. Though it may be difficult to agree on what those international standards should be, there is willingness from the left on both sides of the Atlantic to tackle this problem. Solving this issue would create fairer business practices globally and help protect both consumers and the environment, and the added transparency would also help to manage dark money in domestic politics and strengthen the democratic process at home.
Lastly, the US and Europe still have enough weight on the global stage to bring the rest of the world together in the fight against climate change. Democratic hopefuls in the US should not only pledge to rejoin the Paris Agreement but also sign onto the Green New Deal. Some European countries have set ambitious goals for curbing emissions and switching to renewables, and by all accounts are fairly ahead of the US on those fronts. And if governments are not quick enough to take action, growing youth-led movements on both sides of the Atlantic must make enough noise to make their leaders listen.
A transatlantic partnership based on progressive values will go a long way in solving a number of the problems plaguing both the US and the EU. American and European progressives would be wise to reach out to one another.
The views expressed in this blog are solely its author’s, and do not necessarily reflect official endorsement or position by the Transatlantic Leadership Network.