The draft Democratic Party platform condemns the Trump administration’s policy towards Venezuela and disavows “regime change” as U.S. policy, in a victory for the party’s progressive wing.
President Donald Trump is currently pursuing intense economic and political pressure campaigns aimed at several different foreign governments. Its two most prominent efforts have been the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and the attempt to force Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro to step down.
The Democratic Party might just take such projects off the table entirely.
A draft of the platform released on Tuesday states that “the United States should not impose regime change on other countries” and that Democrats “reject [regime change] as the goal of U.S. policy toward Iran.”
The document can still be amended before it is officially adopted at the Democratic National Convention next month.
For now, the language on regime change appears to be a victory for a coalition of progressive foreign policy groups that released an open letter last week asking future Democratic leadership to “oppose illegal U.S. efforts to forcibly overthrow foreign governments.”
“We’re glad to see the Democratic Party reject the failed policy of regime change,” said Win Without War executive director Stephen Miles, whose group signed the letter, in an email to the National Interest. “Failure after failure after failure has shown how delusional Washington’s obsession with regime change is and the DNC’s platform is simply recognizing reality.”
Just Foreign Policy executive director Erik Sperling said that the draft platform closes a chapter of history that began with the CIA-backed coup d’etat against Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953.
U.S. officials insist that the current pressure campaign against Iran is meant to change the government’s behavior, not overthrow it.
But former National Security Advisor John Bolton, architect of the campaign, has openly stated that his goal was “regime change,” and Yahoo! News recently revealed that Trump gave the CIA permission to conduct “destabilization” operations against Iran.
The draft Democratic platform calls the Trump approach a “march towards war.”
But the section on Latin America is a little more ambiguous.
“We will reject President Trump’s failed Venezuela policy, which has only served to entrench Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorial regime and exacerbate a human rights and humanitarian crisis,” the draft states. “Democrats believe that the best opportunity to rescue Venezuela’s democracy is through smart pressure and effective diplomacy, not empty, bellicose threats untethered to realistic policy goals and motivated by domestic partisan objectives.”
Maduro has been locked in a power struggle with opposition leader Juan Guaidó since a disputed presidential election in 2018. The United States and several other countries recognize Guaidó, although Maduro still controls most parts of the Venezuelan government.
The Trump administration is now pursuing economic sanctions aimed at forcing Maduro and the Venezuelan military to step aside in favor of a “democratic transition framework.”
The draft Democratic platform does not indicate whether Democrats will disavow the Trump framework entirely—or how they will react if Maduro moves forward with new elections—even as Democrats condemn the Trump administration’s approach.
“Real progress would mean accepting the failures of all forms of US backed regime change,” Sperling wrote in an email. “[F]rom wars, to coups, to backing the (often white) elites’ use of legal technicalities to remove elected leaders or prevent popular leaders from running.”
Matthew Petti is a national security reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @matthew_petti.