Analysis & Opinions - The Wall Street Journal

The Peril of Trump’s Populist Foreign Policy

| Nov. 28, 2017

His style of deal-making prizes uncertainty and brinkmanship, without a plan for what comes next.

One of America’s senior statesmen predicted earlier this year that Donald Trump’s hunger for success would push the president toward a more traditional foreign policy. I countered that it depends on how Mr. Trump defines success. We now have an answer: Mr. Trump’s foreign policy reflects his instinct for political realignment at home, based on celebrity populism.

Populist movements feed off grievances and impatience with traditional politics. Frustrations—whether generated by economic distress, social displacement, or cultural challenges—fuel skepticism about institutions and elites. Challengers (who want to become the new elite) attack traditional leaders as out of touch, incompetent and corrupt.

Mr. Trump rallies his supporters by proclaiming the three presumptions of populism. First, it professes to reflect the will of a scorned people. Hillary Clinton called them “deplorables.” The will of the people is intolerant of the give-and-take of pluralism and disdains the identity politics of the Democratic Party.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Zoellick, Robert.“The Peril of Trump’s Populist Foreign Policy.” The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2017.