Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) describes how Donald Trump supporters in his state and elsewhere harken back to the populism of President Andrew Jackson (in a speech that shows far more policy knowledge than your typical Trump speech). The speech is brimming with resentment at Obama’s foreign policy and undefined “elites.” And yet he takes a far more skeptical view of Russia and China than Trump does, and support for NATO:
“Jacksonians are proud, confident, muscular patriots. They have no doubt our way of life is the best there is. In politics, Jacksonians are democratic and populist. They’re skeptical of elites and do-gooders.
“In foreign policy, they see the world as it is—a dangerous anarchy—not as we might wish it to be. For that reason, they speak the language of strength, respect, fear, and interests. They don’t think our job is to make the world safe for democracy, but rather to make the world safe for American democracy.
“They therefore don’t care much for international law or organizations. When Donald Trump says he’s the most “militaristic” guy out there, they nod with approval. Gordian knots exist to be cut. Jacksonians make commitments and draw red lines with caution, but uphold and enforce them absolutely and ruthlessly. They aren’t looking for war, but woe unto those who provoke the Jacksonian spirit latent in the American soul. “Limited war” for them is an oxymoron. Jacksonians have a simple war doctrine: hit them as hard as you can, as fast as you can, with as much as you can, until they surrender unconditionally…
In his inaugural address, (Trump) spoke of “America first.” Now, I know this is considered a thought crime by the globe-trotting Party of Davos. But to most Americans it’s just plain common sense. When they hear those words, they don’t think of World War II and Charles Lindbergh…The plain-spoken meaning of those words contains a healthy nationalism…Those high-minded ideals are translated into an everyday code of honor, self-reliance, individualism, courage, and equality. That’s a pretty sensible basis for our national identity.
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post “right turn” columnist, critiques this philosophy as quite narrow-minded. If we assume that the neo-Jacksonians are “somehow noble in their rejection of the international order and the sacrifices required to sustain it and somehow wise in their myopic conviction that we can survive and prosper without concern for the freedom and security of faraway countries of whom we know nothing, then the party of Ronald Reagan becomes the opponent of all free peoples, the enemy of values-based foreign policy and the 21st-century counterpart to 20th-century Soviet apologists who also were willing to concede half a continent to the jackbooted thugs in Moscow. In short, they will become what they despised,” she writes.