The geopolitical scientist Dominique Moïsi decodes the Democrats’ strategic discussions on Trump.
American progressives are looking for a candidate that embodies a credible opposition to Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, but they cannot agree on a strategy. Dominique Moïsi, a specialist in international relations and a special adviser at the Institut Montaigne, as well as author of numerous essays, including La Géopolitique des series (Stock), analyzes the Democratic family’s internal debates.
L’Express: There is more and more of a question in Washington and New York of the reawakening of left-wing ideas. Is that an illusion or is it reality?
Dominique Moïsi: This reawakening is undeniable, but it exists alongside deepening tensions between a left that is firmly grounded in rather radical positions and a left that is more compatible with a free market economy. In many ways, Trump seems aware of this split among progressives and one can really wonder if a good number of his actions are not an attempt to nudge the Democratic Party’s center of gravity toward the left. He has 2020, the year he will seek re-election, in mind.
L’Express: Oh yeah, you really think he is counting on the Democrats moving left?
Moïsi: Yes, of course, because that would work to his advantage by making the alternative to Trumpism more or less a prisoner of radicalism; if extreme positions on the American left start to add up, that will, in reality, make left-leaning candidates harder to elect, because centrist candidates win presidential elections in the United States just like in France! A left that is too far left is the best gift that Democrats could give Trump. There are many historical precedents for encouraging the opposing side to radicalize.
L’Express: Who are you thinking of?
Moïsi: François Mitterand, for one, and his great skill in this domain! The development that he encouraged on the far-right of the National Front party created a lasting problem for the opposition to socialism, assuring Mitterand’s re-election in 1988.
L’Express: Precisely. Let’s get back to the United States. Is the American left overwhelmingly falling into the trap that Trump is setting for them?
Moïsi: Exactly! And that was already the case during the 2016 primaries, with Bernie Sanders’s supporters, who did not really recover and did not turn out for Hillary Clinton.
L’Express: Is there a Democrat today whose profile can unite radicals and centrists?
Moïsi: Nothing, sadly, is less certain. Some seem to me to be betting on an opposite strategy, simply abandoning the Democratic Party in the hopes of creating, at the center, a new trans-partisan ticket to unite the center-left and the center-right.
L’Express: It is the American version of Macronism!
Moïsi: Absolutely! The moderate American left is looking in the direction of this centrist “overtaking.” One man currently embodies this aspiration, and that is the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. He is hesitating, nevertheless, on this strategy because both Democrats and Republicans are polarized. And he is wondering if it is wise to create a third party in the center, like En Marche! He is also wondering if it might be better for him to fight to conquer the Democratic Party, banking on the realism that could prevail within the party if it appears that the only chance of beating Trump lies in taking a moderate stance. As for “classic” Democrats, they are thinking a lot right now about a ticket between Joe Biden and a younger black woman, while the ex-CEO of J.P. Morgan is also letting his political ambitions show, even though he no doubt embodies the spirit of capitalism too much for the left.
L’Express: A very mixed ideological landscape that is evolving as we speak…
Moïsi: Yes, but sadly, in spite of this emergence of initiatives and scenarios, Trump’s re-election remains the most likely scenario. Trump, by the way, is very much something other than a simple accident of American history.
L’Express: What does that mean? He is helped by isolationism?
Moïsi: And by a growing rejection of multilateralism that was already present several years before his election. America had entered, before Trump, a new “Jacksonian” moment* that he is unfolding and making more intense. To put it plainly, Trump is bringing about a new separation between America and the rest of the world. The only viable alternative could come from an American style Macronism.
*Author’s note: This is a reference to Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, who defended an isolationist foreign policy at the beginning of the 19th century. Trump hung his portrait in the Oval Office.
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L'Express, France's first weekly news magazine, was modelled on the American magazine Time. Its first editor was Francoise Giroud, who had earlier edited Elle and went on to become France's first Minister of Women's Affairs in 1974 and Minister of Culture in 1976. The magazine has a right-of-centre orientation.