Trump's base may actually be more 'globalist' than Trump himself

Trump's base may actually be more 'globalist' than Trump himself
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE’s agenda has stumbled because of so-called “globalists,” and they’re coming from inside the White House. That, at least, is how the president sees the situation, according to a leaked account of a recent Oval Office meeting on U.S. policy toward China. “I know there are some globalists in the room right now,” Trump said, before making it clear that he was on one side of the issue, and the globalists were on the other.

If there is a single consistent goal for U.S. foreign policy from the start of Donald Trump’s candidacy to today, then it’s to introduce the anti-globalist catechism to Republican orthodoxy. With Trump, long-standing alliances such as NATO, established trade deals such as NAFTA, and international cooperation through institutions such as the United Nations became vulnerable — open season was declared on any and all.

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In fact, Trump took the remarkable step during the campaign of bashing firmly held Republican foreign policy beliefs, including the wisdom of the war in Iraq and the democracy promotion that drove it. In response, many in the GOP foreign policy establishment who had long embraced an expansive view of America’s role in the world spoke out against then-candidate Trump.

Trump, conventional wisdom holds, has been backed in this endeavor by an ardent and sizeable “America First” base, one that is highly skeptical of alliances, foreign trade, and international cooperation.

“We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,” Trump told his supporters to applause during the campaign. His foreign policy, Trump explained, was simply realigning priorities so that they better reflected those of his supporters — and most Americans, in fact — rather than the priorities of a Washington too wantonly looking abroad.

Yet a newly-released survey from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs casts doubt on how ready to shed America’s role abroad Trump’s core supporters in fact are. More than 2,000 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were surveyed by GfK Custom Research in June and July for the Chicago Council survey.

“Core Trump supporters” were those who answered “very favorable” to the question of their opinion of President Trump. This group, 21 percent of the overall sample, self-identify primarily as Republicans (62 percent), but it also includes nearly one-third that identify as Independents (31 percent) and a handful of Democrats (5 percent).

Take one issue: alliances and U.S. military commitments abroad. Immediately there is a surprise. Six-in-ten Republicans — and a majority of core Trump supporters — say NATO is “still essential” to US security. Such sentiment is a far cry from the “obsolete” epitaph Trump used to describe the organization throughout the campaign and well into his presidency.

In fact, almost half of core Trump supporter say alliances in Europe and Asia are either mutually beneficial or mostly benefit the United States. Nearly half of core Trump supporters also say that maintaining existing alliances is “very effective” in achieving U.S. foreign policy goals. A third even support building new alliances.

The MAGA crowd is willing to back up its commitments abroad, too. Seventy-seven percent of core Trump supporters favor maintaining or increasing the U.S. military presence in Europe. More, 84 percent, say the same of the Asia-Pacific.

There’s more. Eight-in-ten core Trump supporters would favor deploying U.S. troops to stop or prevent a government using chemical or biological weapons against its own people. Seven-in-ten would support deploying U.S. troops if North Korea invaded South Korea. And when it comes to Russian aggression, more than half of core Trump supporters favor sending US troops to fight for the Baltic NATO allies if the Russian military were to invade. More than half would even support U.S. troops aiding in humanitarian disasters abroad.

Most surprising, 39 percent of core Trump supporters would favor sending U.S. troops to fight if Russia invades the rest of Ukraine — a share right in line with Republicans overall (41 percent) and Democrats (39 percent). Ukraine, of course, is not a member of NATO and therefore does not fall under the Article 5 collective security agreement.

Trump’s base, then, is not as dead set on a more restrained, disengaged American foreign policy as conventional wisdom says it is, or as the anti-globalist true believers might hope it is. Then again, the president himself is a bit wobbly on this particular issue. “Hey, I’m a nationalist and a globalist,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal in April. “I’m both. And I’m the only one who makes the decision, believe me.”

John Richard Cookson is a special assistant at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.