Should Democrats Be Talking More About Foreign Policy?
Yes, but the trick it to talk about in a way that voters can understand and identify with. A report from CAP describing and analyzing a major new survey of public views on foreign policy provides useful guidance along these lines. The first thing to note is Trump has serious vulnerability in this area. As summarized by EJ Dionne in his Post column on the survey:
“[T]he survey…found that foreign policy is a genuine vulnerability for President Trump. While voters narrowly (50 percent to 48 percent) approved of the president’s handling of the economy, a large majority (57 percent to 40 percent) disapproved of his handling of foreign policy. Just 31 percent of voters said that “the United States is more respected in the world because of President Trump’s leadership,” while 62 percent picked the other option: “Under President Trump, America is losing respect around the world and alienating historic allies.”
So time to roll out that old time liberal internationalism? (It was good enough for Adlai Stevenson and it’s good enough for me!) Not really.
“John Halpin, a CAP senior fellow and lead author of the study, pointed out a paradox: Most Americans dislike Trump’s approach, but his distance from the old foreign policy establishment is a political asset.
“The language and policies of the foreign policy expert community simply don’t work with many voters,” Halpin said in an interview. “People are confused by abstract calls to defend the liberal international order or fight authoritarianism. The lack of clarity about goals and visions on the center-left opens the door for Trump-like nationalism to take hold, even though the president himself is unpopular.”
The study is well worth a look to get under the hood of public opinion in this area and see what might work better than the usual internationalist bromides.