President Trump: A Preliminary Analysis

President Trump: A Preliminary Analysis

On November 8th, Donald Trump shocked the country and the world by defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential race by accumulating a majority in the Electoral College. Mr. Trump, the first president in U.S. history to gain the presidency without having been previously elected to office or served in the military, is something of an unknown. In other words, we have little personal history to examine to forecast his geopolitical leanings. All we really have are his public statements and campaign platform.

However, these sources do offer solid clues as to where he intends to take his foreign policy. In this report, we will characterize our expectations of Trump’s foreign policy using Mead’s archetypes.1 From there, we will examine how we expect Trump to change America’s superpower role, which it has provided since the end of WWII. As always, we will conclude with potential market ramifications.

Trump, the Jacksonian

We use Walter Russell Mead’s 2002 book Special Providence2 to examine foreign policy positions. Mead took a unique approach in describing policy positions, using historical figures instead of abstract models. Other policy analysts have used terms like “realists” or “idealists.” Unfortunately, these broad generalizations fail to fully express the subtleties of American foreign policy.

Mead named four archetypes: Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian and Jacksonian. Each one of these archetypes has specific characteristics that describe the viewpoints and behavior of a policymaker of that certain type. By using a real historical figure as a representative of that archetype, it helps the reader to envision the position of that particular “school.” As with all archetypes, these are considered model specimens. Actual policymakers tend to be a mix of these four types; rarely will a policymaker be of pure form. However, the archetypes do offer a construct for an analyst to examine and predict the foreign policy behavior of elected officials.

Jacksonians are perhaps the most unique of the four American archetypes. As such, this archetype is the one likely to most confound foreigners.

The Jacksonians believe that the most important goals of foreign policy are the physical security and economic wellbeing of the American people. Thus, they oppose the Hamiltonian approach to policy as too willing to support business to the detriment of American workers. They also find the Wilsonian position on fighting moral wars repugnant. Why risk American lives because some dictator is abusing his own people? That problem is someone else’s worry.