In 1952, the Republican presidential nomination contest marked a turning point for the party. In one corner was Dwight Eisenhower, a committed internationalist who favored an alliance with Europe to contain Russia. In the other was Senator Robert Taft, an isolationist who wanted to avoid engaging with the world except for confronting "Red" China. From that election through 2016, every Republican candidate—Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney—belonged to the internationalist wing of the GOP. In 2016, Donald Trump broke the streak. And so, that debate is now coming back to Republican politics.
This time, Trump—and to a lesser extent, Ron DeSantis—are in the Taft "isolationist except China is bad" camp. Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and most of the other wannabes are really internationalist in orientation, but have to be careful how they express this to avoid riling the isolationist base. If Trump or DeSantis gets the nomination, then the race is going to pit an isolationist against a committed internationalist, Joe Biden, who was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 30 years, ending as chairman. Foreign affairs usually aren't the key to elections, but with an ongoing war in Ukraine, which is a proxy war with Russia, it could be different this time.
Also, though everyone in both parties is anti-China, the battles will be about how to handle China. Biden and the Democrats are going to ridicule Trump for putting a tariff on t-shirts and iPhones, which just made them more expensive for U.S. consumers. Biden, in contrast, is taking very concrete steps to beef up American manufacturing capacity. Making Chinese products more expensive is pointless if the U.S. still has to buy them from China because nobody else makes them. Biden's strategy will be to tout things like the Wolfspeed plant (see above), the $100-billion chip factory Intel is building in Ohio and the $40-billion chip factory a Taiwanese company, TSMC, is building in Arizona. These not only will reduce America's dependence on China for advanced chips, but also create many good-paying jobs in American factories, something Trump's policies never did. So it is likely that foreign policy will play a much bigger role than usual in the 2024 elections.
Another area where foreign policy will play a role is the environment. Mitigating climate change—and all the deleterious effects thereof—will require worldwide cooperation, such as the Paris Accord. Republicans are against these measures, but every time there is a big hurricane in the East or massive wildfires in the West, Democrats are going to be harping on: "This is climate change. How do you like it?" (V)