So elections happened this week in the U.S. And there were a lot of big victories for Republicans. As a self-identified anarcho-social democrat, this was not particularly encouraging to me.
On the other hand, there were victories that I appreciate. Across the country, people rejected so-called “personhood” amendments (a.k.a. attempts to outlaw abortion and some types of birth control,) raised the minimum wage, and legalized marijuana, an issue I care about mainly because our criminal justice system imprisons way too many nonviolent drug offenders for way too long. (Look here for a list of some of the progressive victories that we did win yesterday and cheer up a little.)
So all is not lost. In fact, I see the emphasis on ballot initiatives in various states in the past few years as kind of encouraging. For one thing, letting voters make choices on specific issues rather than trying to compare two candidates with different stances on a broad range of important policy questions seems good to me. For another, it is proof not that the majority of Americans approve of a regressive Republican agenda, but rather that, as is often the case, they are annoyed with the party in power for failing to adequately represent their interests. Sure, I think it is foolish to support progressive policies while voting for candidates who oppose those some policies (looking at you, Colorado, with your rejection of personhood amendments and your new personhood-amendment-sponsoring senator-elect,) but, I do think it is important to shift away from only voting along party lines.
In terms of domestic policy, I think a greater emphasis on ballot initiatives could prove to be a good thing. I would also like to see more popular organizing around particular issues perhaps helping us move away from a purely two-party system, although that might not be possible given our straight majoritarian electoral system.
However, at the moment, ballot initiatives are mainly conducted on the state and local level. So the main type of policy I study, foreign policy, is not really addressed through those kinds of initiatives, since it is determined at the federal level.
So what do the midterm election results mean for U.S. foreign policy? I actually predict…not a whole lot. The War on Terror remains a policy obsession for the U.S., despite President Obama’s attempt to retire the term. And at this point, the two parties basically are not offering any real options for how to address that issue. There is some variation in exact tactics, but the emphasis remains on military “solutions” chosen more out of a determination to be seen taking action on terrorist threats than any actual critical consideration of the most effective way to deal with terrorism and other security issues.
The over-militarization of all aspects of U.S. foreign policy will be the subject of my next post.