A Democratic resistance plan on foreign policy
© Getty Images

The past weeks in U.S. foreign policy have revealed how utterly ill-equipped this president is at pursuing our interests abroad or protecting the homeland. Consider the recent tumult: earning worldwide condemnation for separating families at the border, pulling the U.S. out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, disrespecting our allies at the G7, slapping unreasonable tariffs on our top trading partners with zero justification, no longer using our amnesty policy to hold governments accountable for protecting basic human rights, violating a detailed and verifiable global agreement with Iran, and yet celebrating a thin, non-binding statement with no path to disarmament with North Korea.

These actions have all made clear that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally MORE has no actual foreign policy, instead supplementing ego and chaos for cool-headed statesmanship. The key question therefore becomes whether Democrats can articulate an alternative for voters in 2018 that resists Trump’s chaos, reframes U.S. global leadership as central to the Democratic brand, and charts a vision for restoring a grand strategy for U.S. foreign policy in the 21st Century.


But what exactly is that plan? Democratic candidates should begin their case for taking back the House with the promise of holding this president accountable and bringing stability and maturity back to foreign policy. Three bills should be a part of this foreign policy resistance package.

It begins with a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to limit the administration's powers to attack anyone and anything under the guise of counter-terrorism. This accountability would also push the administration to actually take seriously the remaining terrorism challenges, such as the over more than 50 territories around the world where ISIS affiliates now lurk, including in neglected Afghanistan where ISIS and Taliban together contest or control of more than 40 percent of territory. Just because this administration does not want to talk about this failure doesn’t mean it does not exist, and a new Authorization for Use of Military Force would force a more honest public assessment of our global terror challenges. A new AUMF would also mean Trump must seek permission from Congress to launch attacks in places like Iran and North Korea. In the same vein, Congress should require that the promised new nuclear deals, both with Iran and North Korea, come to the body in the form of a treaty which can be debated in a transparent manner. This will rightly put the representatives of the American people in the driver's seat of our international agenda and serve as a symbolic push back against Trump’s unilateral dismissing allies and embracing dictators.

Second, a Democratic Congress could immediately push forward legislation that would limit this president’s heartbreaking policies on immigration and amnesty. Congress should pass bills that provide families accommodation and protection at the border as well as set a broad definition of asylum, to include the victims of systemic government complicity in domestic violence and gang criminality. Congress could both strip the attorney general of the ability to unilaterally limit the scope of asylum protections and signal that the United States is serious about human rights as a cornerstone of global order. Such a stance will save lives and hold governments to account for their failures, not to mention keep families together.

Finally, a Democratic Congress should reassert its constitutional authority over foreign economic trade and deny the president’s power grab on trade policy. Trade Promotion Authority, also known as “Fast Track,” allows the president to negotiate trade on behalf of the government in place of Congress. Using this authority, the president is destroying our most foundational relationships and needlessly creating global strife where we used to provide clear leadership. In reasserting its constitutional authority, Congress can additionally require that the president’s new and reckless tariff impositions on our allies be subject to a legislative vote, contrasted with the current Republican government that has declined to exercise its basic power.

These three legislative priorities would show the electorate that “resisting” in 2018 isn’t just about marching, posting on social media, stipulating what we are against. Rather, Democrats can offer a detailed plan for Congress to assert authority over an imperial presidency, dog-paddling through a sea of foreign policy challenges. This plan will show that Democrats have both a plan and a backbone--two things the party seemingly lacks at the moment.

Joel Day, Ph.D., is a professor of international relations at the University of San Diego and National Security Fellow at Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own.