In terms of the economy, Colby and Mitchell are avowed capitalists, but they see unfettered globalization as a strategic vulnerability and think that partial decoupling from China is merited. They believe the global economy must also serve the interests of the middle class, rather than primarily facilitating the free flow of capital, goods, and services. This idea may seem rare among Republicans, but it reflects a growing body of opinion within the party that a shift of this kind may allow them to siphon off some of the progressive Democratic voters who support candidates such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Read: The Sanders doctrine
Marathon is a small think tank, but is important because it represents one of the most serious attempts to date to reconcile Trumpism with elements of traditional Republican foreign policy. Nadia Schadlow, who served on the Trump National Security Council and authored the National Security Strategy, has also written about the future of foreign policy in the party. In an article for Foreign Affairs titled “The End of American Illusion,” she wrote:
Trump has been a disrupter, and his policies, informed by his heterodox perspective, have set in motion a series of long-overdue corrections. Many of these necessary adjustments have been misrepresented or misunderstood in today’s vitriolic, partisan debates. But the changes Trump has initiated will help ensure that the international order remains favorable to U.S. interests and values and to those of other free and open societies.
Schadlow ignores Trump’s personal hostility to alliances and democracy promotion and focuses on the great-power-competition concept that she and others in his administration championed.
Ironically, these efforts to define Trumpism are only likely to succeed if Trump loses. If he is reelected, he alone will decide, and the MAGA faction—ultra-loyalist operatives such as the former Trump Cabinet member Richard Grenell and cable-news commentators such as Douglas Macgregor—will be in the ascendant.
A number of Republicans still make the argument that Trumpism itself must be discarded altogether. Kori Schake is the director of foreign- and defense-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and previously served in the George W. Bush administration. She signed the letter against Trump and has endorsed Biden, but has not given up on the Republican Party. Classic liberal internationalism—support for alliances, freedom, democracy, and an open global economy—remains conservatives’ best option, she told me. Nothing else would have delivered the successes of the past half century. The party must learn the right lessons from the Bush years and from the mistake of the Iraq War. It must demilitarize U.S. foreign policy, avoid foolish interventions, and strengthen diplomacy, but it should not shrink its ambition. By helping others with their problems, she said, the United States can persuade others to help us with our challenges. Having a universal vision is a strategic asset. Marathon, Schake said, is “trying to move the needle away from its natural resting place.”