A report by David Swanson for RootsAction.org
November 24, 2020In 2020 Congressional elections, 78 percent of Democratic candidates' campaign websites informed the visitor of some sort of policy platform. These varied in length and depth, but many contained substantive proposals on dozens of issues. However, only 29 percent included foreign policy as one of the topics discussed. While militarism alone takes up over half of federal discretionary spending, most of those seeking responsibility to exercise that discretion had little or nothing to say about foreign policy, war, peace, diplomacy, weapons sales, bases, treaties, international law, or budgetary priorities.
Of the 15 Democrats newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, 100 percent had issues sections on their websites, and 33 percent of those included foreign policy.
Of the foreign policy platforms made available on the campaign websites of House Democrats, 74 percent advocated continued or increased militarism. They went beyond simply promoting the funding of local bases, which was common, and beyond simply promoting concern for veterans and members of the military, which was very common. They advocated militarism as good policy. These statements were a couple of sentences or several paragraphs. The longer ones sometimes included opposition to some war or weapon, but on balance promoted militarism significantly more than peace, nonviolence, or disarmament.
Another 11 percent of the foreign policy platforms of the House Democratic candidates who had any were so mixed or vague or brief that it is impossible to categorize them as more pro- or anti-militarist. But 14 percent clearly promoted decreased militarism. These 10 campaign websites belonged to incumbents Anna Eshoo, Raul Grijalva, Debra Haaland, Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Ben Ray Lujan; and the newly elected Jamal Bowman and Mondaire Jones. (Lujan's campaign was for the Senate but was included in this study because he is currently in the House.)
To qualify as having a foreign policy section on their website for purposes of the preceding count, a candidate need only have included a couple of sentences on any aspect of foreign policy. In fact, 8 percent of the foreign policy platforms were exclusively about Israel, 1 percent exclusively about Iran, and 2 percent exclusively promoting Russiagate. Fewer than 5 candidates advocated any particular policy on each of the following topics: the military budget or its share in the overall budget, which wars to end or continue or start, which treaties or international agreements to join or abandon, which bases to close or maintain or open, what nuclear weapons to build or dismantle, what secret agencies to support or abolish, whether to continue killing people with missile strikes including from drones, or which nations to sell weapons to or give military training to or give military funding to (apart from lots of somewhat vague "support" expressed for Israel). No candidates took any position on any economic conversion program from militarism to green energy or other peaceful endeavors.
The strongest indication on many campaign websites of awareness that foreign policy even existed, or that by implication the 96 percent of humanity outside of the United States existed, was found in a policy section on veterans. This was found on 46 percent of the websites, in contrast to the 29 percent with a section on foreign policy. For those sites that had both of these sections, they were sometimes separate and sometimes combined into one, blurring the line rather blatantly between caring about veterans and supporting wars. Many sites also had a section on immigration policy.
Newcomers Slightly Improved
Looking just at the 15 new Democratic House members, while they all had issue sections of their websites, only 5 had a section on foreign policy, and one of those was exclusively about Israel. But none promoted more militarism, 3 gave mixed messages, and 2 were among the strongest platforms for demilitarization with the most extensive answers to various foreign policy questions. Those two were the campaign websites of Jamal Bowman and Mondaire Jones.
More to the Story
The campaign website is not the entirety of a campaign. Incumbent Congress members maintain two websites, a campaign site and a Congressional site. The latter virtually always has an issues section, and a majority of those sections mention foreign policy at least with a few words followed by links to press releases. This might help explain the absence of any opposition to war on the campaign sites of Mark Pocan, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Rashida Tlaib, Jim McGovern, Peter DeFazio, or Earl Blumenauer. Even new candidates speak at events, on social media, through mass media, and via printed flyers. If we were comparing Twitter accounts, the newly elected Cori Bush might take the prize for strongest antiwar messaging. Yet it remains somehow acceptable for these candidates to completely omit the largest part (in budgetary terms) of the job they are applying for from their campaign websites.
House Democrats are not the whole of Congress. Republicans and Senate candidates may be slightly more likely to mention foreign policy -- which is not necessarily a good thing, considering the content of many of their positions.
Why it Matters
Foreign policy was largely absent from media coverage, from advertising, from debates, and from the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden had no foreign policy section on his website and formed no foreign policy task force. In contrast to, for example, the 2006 elections in which voters told exit pollsters that ending the war on Iraq was their top concern, few voters seem to have been focused on foreign policy in 2020. Yet foreign policy will always be a major part of what Congress does, and holding so-called representatives to their campaign promises is easier if they've made any. Even determining what they might be inclined to do is vastly easier if they've expressed any opinions.
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