The impact of the presidential election on U.S. foreign affairs

Three politics professors offer their perspectives

Aside from the boorish behavior and a penchant for secrecy, the presidential election will influence how the United States pursues foreign policy over the next four years.

Three UC Santa Cruz politics professors offer brief insights based on their point-of-view and expertise:

War looms large

Ronnie D. Lipschutz
Professor of politics
Provost, Rachel Carson College

“This appears to be a fairly important election so far as U.S. foreign policy and global politics are concerned.  War, in particular, looms large, and not only in the Middle East.  Hillary Clinton has the experience and the knowledge to do well in foreign affairs and diplomacy, although she has not really offered anything innovative in terms of U.S. involvement in wars abroad. 

"Donald Trump has been fairly incoherent: he wants to pursue something of an "America First!" policy even as he wants other countries to follow the American lead, pay our bills and fight our wars.  We think the president has a rather free hand in foreign affairs; what Barack Obama and many other U.S. presidents have discovered is that, in fact, there are major constraints on that freedom (George W. Bush was an exception, but 9/11 offered a wide window of opportunity to invade Afghanistan and Iraq).  No reason to think this will change very much, whomever is elected.”

China’s perspective

Benjamin L. Read
Associate professor of politics
Director of graduate studies

“China has watched the U.S. election with amusement and fascination. On the one hand, Donald Trump frequently criticizes China, and calls for a tougher trade policy toward Beijing. On the other hand, Trump has questioned the U.S. commitment to longstanding alliances, including those with Japan and South Korea, and China likes the prospect of an isolationist America that would give it a freer hand in East and Southeast Asia.

"Hillary Clinton is of course much more of a known quantity to China. It doesn’t care for her occasional advocacy of human rights and her favoring the U.S. “pivot to Asia” when she was secretary of state, but it knows it can do business with her and wouldn’t expect fundamental change under a Clinton administration.”

Culmination of Republican politics

Daniel Wirls
Professor of politics

“However much we focus on the seemingly unique aspects of Donald Trump and his candidacy, he is, at the same time, the culmination of the style of politics the Republican Party has been practicing since at least 1994. He is almost a caricature of the demagogue the founders warned us against, but his path to power was well-paved.

"One consequence of his candidacy is that the nation is having even less of a substantive conversation about critical issues than even the typically impoverished presidential campaigns of the past. We concentrate on his endless stream of nonsensical or outrageous remarks, and Hillary Clinton is happy to have us do so.

"And even some of the few issues discussed are beside the point. As an example, the candidates were asked during the first debate about “no first use” of nuclear weapons. That has no importance next to the fact that the U.S. is embarking—without any debate in any forum—on a top-to-bottom reconstruction of its nuclear arsenal that could cost $1 trillion over 30 years.”