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US Presidential Elections and Foreign Policy: Candidates, Campaigns, and Global Politics from FDR to Bill Clinton

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While domestic issues loom large in voters' minds during American presidential elections, matters of foreign policy have consistently shaped candidates and their campaigns. From the start of World War II through the collapse of the Soviet Union, presidential hopefuls needed to be perceived as credible global leaders in order to win elections -- regardless of the situation While domestic issues loom large in voters' minds during American presidential elections, matters of foreign policy have consistently shaped candidates and their campaigns. From the start of World War II through the collapse of the Soviet Union, presidential hopefuls needed to be perceived as credible global leaders in order to win elections -- regardless of the situation at home -- and voter behavior depended heavily on whether the nation was at war or peace. Yet there is little written about the importance of foreign policy in US presidential elections or the impact of electoral issues on the formation of foreign policy. In US Presidential Elections and Foreign Policy, a team of international scholars examines how the relationship between foreign policy and electoral politics evolved through the latter half of the twentieth century. Covering all presidential elections from 1940 to 1992 -- from debates over American entry into World War II to the aftermath of the Cold War -- the contributors correct the conventional wisdom that domestic issues and the economy are always definitive. Together they demonstrate that, while international concerns were more important in some campaigns than others, foreign policy always matters and is often decisive. This illuminating commentary fills a significant gap in the literature on presidential and electoral politics, emphasizing that candidates' positions on global issues have a palpable impact on American foreign policy.


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While domestic issues loom large in voters' minds during American presidential elections, matters of foreign policy have consistently shaped candidates and their campaigns. From the start of World War II through the collapse of the Soviet Union, presidential hopefuls needed to be perceived as credible global leaders in order to win elections -- regardless of the situation While domestic issues loom large in voters' minds during American presidential elections, matters of foreign policy have consistently shaped candidates and their campaigns. From the start of World War II through the collapse of the Soviet Union, presidential hopefuls needed to be perceived as credible global leaders in order to win elections -- regardless of the situation at home -- and voter behavior depended heavily on whether the nation was at war or peace. Yet there is little written about the importance of foreign policy in US presidential elections or the impact of electoral issues on the formation of foreign policy. In US Presidential Elections and Foreign Policy, a team of international scholars examines how the relationship between foreign policy and electoral politics evolved through the latter half of the twentieth century. Covering all presidential elections from 1940 to 1992 -- from debates over American entry into World War II to the aftermath of the Cold War -- the contributors correct the conventional wisdom that domestic issues and the economy are always definitive. Together they demonstrate that, while international concerns were more important in some campaigns than others, foreign policy always matters and is often decisive. This illuminating commentary fills a significant gap in the literature on presidential and electoral politics, emphasizing that candidates' positions on global issues have a palpable impact on American foreign policy.

12 review for US Presidential Elections and Foreign Policy: Candidates, Campaigns, and Global Politics from FDR to Bill Clinton

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chris Esposo

    This was an interesting tour of US foreign policy history from the start of the Cold War to the end, concluding with the 1992 H.W. Bush/Clinton campaign. The narrative confirms what I’ve suspected, which is that though foreign policy does not often play a major (or decisive) role in US presidential elections, except possibly in the 68’ and 72’ Nixon elections/re-elections (and possibly the 64’ Johnson/Goldwater contest, though this is in dispute). To someone less familiar with US history this m This was an interesting tour of US foreign policy history from the start of the Cold War to the end, concluding with the 1992 H.W. Bush/Clinton campaign. The narrative confirms what I’ve suspected, which is that though foreign policy does not often play a major (or decisive) role in US presidential elections, except possibly in the 68’ and 72’ Nixon elections/re-elections (and possibly the 64’ Johnson/Goldwater contest, though this is in dispute). To someone less familiar with US history this may come as a surprise, especially given the perceived all-encompassing nature of the conflict (at least that is how it has been written after the fact). From the election case-studies outlined by the authors, one could conclude that despite extraordinary international conflicts/events, more often than not, the deciding factor for these contests had to do with conflicts at home rather than those abroad. These include racial politics, with southern Democrats (“Dixiecrats”) caring more about Johnson’s support of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts rather than his policies in Vietnam, or cultural, like Ronald Reagan’s embrace of the a throw-back “golden era” for the United States epitomized by his “Morning in America” for his 84’ campaign. Where the narrative veers towards foreign affairs having a critical influence like Carter’s 1980 defeat, which he attributed to the Iran-hostage situation, and his failure to recover those American consulate workers, there’s no real hard evidence suggest this or some other more salient domestic troubles like intercine political warfare within the democratic party i.e. Ted Kennedy’s attempt to usurp the President during the nominating convention or the stagnation he presided over (as Jim Carville would say a decade later “It’s the economy stupid”) had a larger practical effect on the ultimate outcome of that campaign. The authors of this collection do make some interesting points including that there was a foreign policy consensus between the two parties for at least 20 years after WW2, and this was only broken after Vietnam. The most interesting case study was Nixon. Though he may be singular in the fact that Nixon not only had an extraordinary event thrust on him (it was China’s foreign ministers which broached the topic of executive-level dialogue with the United States), but that he engaged in extraordinarily deft (and underhanded) politicking both with his Chinese counterparts and domestic allies to ensure he would be the first in Beijing and would be the one to reap most of the political capital for the event. Overall, I felt the book was well written, I didn't learn much new here. Much of the material and narrative would be covered in an in-depth treatment of US Cold War History, some of the details on campaign strategy to either use or circumvent international events was insightful, but given the brevity of the text, you get basically “History Channel” bites of this kind of knowledge. Really this book should have been 3x the volume to have been truly insightful. As is, it’s a good accompanying text for a 2nd or 3rd year political history course focused in this area. Conditional recommendation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bananayams

    Pretty good and fair deep dive into presidential elections. It touched on things other than foreign policy and honestly gave insight into parts of history that may be jettisoned by todays journalistic standards. My only complaint is they didn't go further back in the election cycles! Pretty good and fair deep dive into presidential elections. It touched on things other than foreign policy and honestly gave insight into parts of history that may be jettisoned by todays journalistic standards. My only complaint is they didn't go further back in the election cycles!

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

  4. 5 out of 5

    Arnór Gunnar

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Woznik

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mz

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jaffar Diab

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hany

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elsadig Ali Ahmed

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Woznik

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alexandrin Mudra

  12. 5 out of 5

    Abulafia89

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