International

Roy Moore's defeat should send clear message to foreign leaders

What does the defeat of Trump-endorsed Roy Moore have to do with U.S. foreign policy? A whole lot, and it's the same thing as the Nov. 7 elections in New Jersey, my home state of Virginia and elsewhere.  

The Nov. 7 and Dec. 12 election results made it clear that pre-Trump America was back and that if Democrats keep up their momentum, not only may Donald Trump only have three more years left as president (if that), but by this time next year, the Republicans could lose their majority in Congress, which would make Trump's policies - both foreign and domestic - difficult to implement. 

Despite what Trump says now, he had come out strongly in support for the Virginia candidate for governor, Ed Gillespie, and for Roy Moore in Alabama. Both Moore and Gillespie adopted Trump's divisive tactics. Both lost -Gillespie by 9 percent.

 

In Alabama, it wasn't just that Moore was a deeply flawed candidate, Trump's tactics and his endorsement also proved to be failures. If the impact is the same in 2018, Republicans may not be able to hold on to their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would be a massive transformation to both American politics and policies.

What's more, remarkable gains were made by minority candidates in a sharp rebuke to Trump's culture war. New Jersey elected its first Sikh mayor in history. Seattle elected its first lesbian mayor, Charlotte and St. Paul elected their first African-American mayors, and Virginia elected the first transgender lawmaker to statewide office anywhere in the U.S. and its first Asian-American woman to the Virginia House.

Leaders of around the world should now be on notice: Donald Trump's presidency is an aberration.

For starters, he lost the U.S popular vote by millions in 2016. Thus, the vast majority of Americans never wanted him to have the job in the first place. Veteran Republican statesmen like the two Bush presidents, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have all stated that Donald Trump does not represent the best of America.

Top officials are under investigation. Now, 11 months into his term, Trump is historically unpopular: His approval rating is a stunningly low 35 percent -far lower than President Obama's 50 percent at this point in is presidency, as well as President George W. Bush (86 percent), President Bill Clinton (53 percent), President Ronald Reagan (49 percent), President George H.W. Bush (71 percent) and President Jimmy Carter (57 percent). 

Given that Republican candidates in these statewide races and local elections just lost by wide margins, it should be clear to the world that Donald Trump does not represent the direction America will be taking in the long or even medium term.

So if those foreign leaders cozying up to Donald Trump and urging him to shift U.S. policy in new directions don't see the domestic election results as a wake up call, they do so at their own peril.

Some leaders may double down and work as fast as they can to get the Trump team to institute changes while they are still in office, but the wise among them will understand that the American values that centered U.S. foreign policy for decades will one way or another largely be restored.

Although these elections took place in Alabama, New Jersey, Virginia and elsewhere, and not Lexington and Concord, they can and they should represent the 2017 equivalent of the 1775 "shot heard around the world." 

Hady Amr is a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings. He formerly served as U.S. deputy special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and at the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and at USAID. He tweets at @HadyAmr.

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