The Election Is Over. The Ideological Fight Is About to Start.

The Election Is Over. The Ideological Fight Is About to Start.

A preview of the foreign-policy battle that’s looming over Joe Biden’s presidency.

Go ahead, exhale. Barring judicial intervention, the U.S. presidential election is probably over, even if President Donald Trump spends the rest of his life whining that he actually won. More importantly, while Trump may have lost the presidency, Trumpism is still alive. And that means the battle for the soul of U.S. foreign policy will continue.

Former Vice President Joe Biden now finds himself in an unenviable position. Assuming the Republican Party retains control of the Senate (as seems likely), Biden won’t be able to pass serious domestic legislation. He could turn to foreign policy instead, because presidents have more latitude in that arena and it’s been a major interest of his throughout his career—although even on foreign policy, Biden may have to struggle with a Republican Senate to appoint a national-security cabinet of his choosing. And there’s one other problem: Most Americans don’t care that much about foreign affairs, and focusing on foreign policy will lead many to accuse him of neglecting the home front. Even if he scored a few big foreign-policy wins, it won’t make him or the Democrats significantly more popular. Biden and his cohorts will be quick to mend fences with traditional U.S. allies, but warmer ties won’t translate into direct, immediate, and tangible benefits for most Americans. His best hope is hang tough and to try to flip the Senate in 2022, when more Republican seats are in play, and have serious legislation ready to go in the third year of his presidency.