The Cable

Bernie Sanders Could Push Hillary Clinton into Uncomfortable Foreign Policy Territory

Bernie Sanders isn't going to win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. But he could force Hillary Clinton into some uncomfortable foreign policy positions.

471657284

Progressive Democrats want Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president. They’re getting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who could push front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to take some uncomfortable stances on foreign policy.

The longtime lawmaker announced early Thursday that he would challenge former senator and Secretary of State Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Warren, who has fashioned herself as a champion of the working and middle class, and is a darling of the far left, has said she plans to stay out of the race.

Sanders is a long shot to upset Clinton — he’s polling in the single digits, some 60 points behind her. And while he likely knows a win is highly unlikely, his positions on foreign affairs could force her to take positions at odds with the far left of the Democratic party.

“I believe he could deliver an enormously powerful message that the country is waiting to hear right now and do it in a way that succeeds,” Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who has promised to help Sanders’s campaign, told the Washington Post last year. “He knows how to do the organizing that’s required. As a mass media person, I also think he would be a great television candidate. He can connect on that level.”

For example, he’s vehemently opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade alliance being pushed by the White House. Sanders claims it would kill American jobs while bolstering Asian economies. In 2012, during a State Department visit to Australia, Clinton praised the accord. As a candidate she has refused to comment on the deal, something Sanders is already hammering her on.

“Are you on the side of working people who would suffer as a result of this disastrous trade agreement, and seeing their jobs go to China or Mexico? Or are you on the side of corporate America and pharmaceuticals?” Sanders said on CNN recently.

Sanders could also compel Clinton to take a more forceful stance on American involvement in the fight against the Islamic State. He originally opposed the war in Iraq — a fight Clinton supported, a stance that contributed to her losing the 2008 Democratic race — and argues Arab nations like Saudi Arabia should be doing the bulk of the fighting in Iraq and Syria. Clinton has been relatively silent on the U.S. strategy, minus criticism that the failure to arm Syrian rebels helped the Islamic State gain power.

“I’m sitting here wondering where Saudi Arabia is, where Kuwait is, where Qatar is,” Sanders said in September 2014. “I’ll be damned if kids in the state of Vermont — or taxpayers in the state of Vermont — have to defend the royal Saudi family, which is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola