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SMC professor analyzes foreign policy in election

| Monday, October 31, 2016

On Friday, Saint Mary’s chair and associate professor of political science Marc Belanger spoke during a Justice Friday luncheon about the impact of the presidential election on foreign policy.

He started the conversation by discussing the attention this campaign season has received around the world.

“This election raises issues about the role of foreign policy in campaigns and the future of the United States in the world,” Belanger said.  

Cartoonists from all over the world have depicted the candidates, and the bulk of the attention has been directed at Donald Trump, Belanger said.

“People from around the world have been paying attention” he said.

Belanger said in previous elections, candidates followed the traditions of their party. This election is different due to Trump’s abnormal candidacy.

“He has asserted positions that in the past would have been inconceivable to politicians,” he said.

Belanger mentioned many of Trump’s positions on foreign policy, such as building a wall that Mexico would pay for, pulling out of NATO and letting Japan and South Korea have nuclear weapons. Belanger said people are questioning if Trump will really try to accomplish these things.

“Trump’s concern is not so much if these are actual policies, but he is trying to reach out to a constituency that didn’t feel spoken to and has anxieties that other candidates are not talking about,” he said.

Belanger said these inconceivable policies are alienating Republican leaders, but Trump is finding support in the base.

“Speaking strongly about these things in ways that shocked the policy establishment has been his way to brand himself as someone [who is] distinctly different,” Belanger said. “These policies aren’t designed to say, ‘This is exactly what I’m going to do,’ but, ‘This is an example of the kinds of ways that I’m going to make you safe.’”

Trump’s extreme policies have caused many high-level Republicans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to support Hillary Clinton, because her policies do not challenge the country’s current foreign policy, Belanger said.

“To most of the Republican establishment, Trump represents the isolationist position that they have long rejected,” he said.

Following his talk, Belanger opened the floor to audience members for questions. In response to a question about whether Trump’s policies would pass or be blocked by a Republican-controlled Congress, Belanger said he believes Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell would take on a larger role in the policy decisions.

“McConnell would quickly try to assert that whatever Trump wants, he has to work through the McConnell,” Belanger said.

Finally, Belanger answered a question about the reason for some people’s extreme hatred of Clinton. Belanger said Clinton has been subject to very public criticism over a long period of time. He said the hatred could be a mixture of legitimate scandals and sexism.

“It’s not hard to believe that another, more conventional politician, that was not Hillary Clinton but had 25 years of a record, would be at a better place than she is right now,” he said.

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