Prof. Peter Katzenstein, government, describes changes in U.S. foreign policy Tuesday in Malott Hall

February 11, 2016

Prof Explores Shifting Sides of U.S. Foreign Policy

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Prof. Peter Katzenstein, government, spoke on the contradictory strains of interventionist and isolationist principles in U.S. foreign policy in Malott Hall Tuesday.

“Every so often, about every 30 to 40 years, American politics goes through a change,” Katzenstein asserted.

Katzenstein explained that olitical realignment occurs when voting groups  no longer belong to a specific political party and disparate voting constituencies  combine under political leader who is able to unite different factions.

He went on to describe the mobilization of certain segments of the far left under presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as a political anomaly that he said many political scientists were unable to predict.

“If you had asked me, or anybody, nine months ago, whether Bernie Sanders would have a chance of winning New Hampshire, we would have laughed and said get yourself to the hospital,” Katzenstein said. “He’s mobilizing the left, a class based left and a generational left, a left that wants to take the country back.”

Katzenstein also pointed to Donald Trump’s ability to rally a frustrated voter block which he said feels disenfranchised by the Republican establishment.

“On the right, we have this desperation, of ‘We want our country back,’ together with the anti-immigrant story, of ‘We don’t like what this country is becoming,’” Katzenstein said.

Katzenstein delineated the divides within each party with respect to interventionist and isolationist values.

“The old left, shaped by Vietnam [says] ‘Don’t intervene’ … the new left in the Democratic Party supports the human rights interventions of the 1990s and 2000s,” Katzenstein said. “The old right [says] intervene in the defense of U.S. values … the new right [says],‘Don’t interfere, we are a declining power, we don’t have enough resources… we need to look out for U.S. interests.’”

Katzenstein said some experts believe these separate voting groups have been realigning for the past decade to form more cohesive voting blocs, while others believe the process has just begun.

“Whether or not you believe realignment is ongoing or beginning has a lot to do with how you view Obama’s administration,” he said.

After Katzenstein spoke, members of the Cornell Political Union and other attendees debated whether this realignment of political partiesis ongoing.

Around 40 students participated in the discussion, which saw vigorous support for both sides of the argument.

One student said that this realignment has been taking place in the Republican Party for years.

“Since 2004 we’ve seen the immense growth of the tea party within the Republican party, they have a huge [amount of] power over the party, and that demonstrates a clear issue within their party,” the student said.

Another student expressed their opinion and said the realignment to be more recent.

“In this campaign year Senator Sanders having such a large pull from a part of the Democratic Party, but not the entirety of it… demonstrates that separation [is] happening on the Democratic side, and I think that is something that may begin that critical realignmen,” the student said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute, the ILR Global Affairs Club, Cornell Speech and Debate Society and the Society for Women in Politics.