On July 31, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) issued the second of two joint reports focusing on what they describe as “President Donald Trump’s assault on Europe” and “the current populist backlash against international cooperation, multilateralism, and the transatlantic alliance.”
For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the topography of Washington, DC’s small but influential universe of think tanks, the teaming up of AEI and CAP is noteworthy. After all, AEI has long served as the Beltway’s home to some of the leading lights of the neoconservative movement, while CAP is resolutely Clintonian in its policy preferences. Founded by longtime Democratic lobbyist John Podesta and run by former Hillary Clinton aide Neera Tanden, CAP sponsors the liberal-leaning Think Progress blog, among other projects.
But the CAP/AEI alliance is just the latest example of liberal Democrats’ teaming up with neocon hard-liners. Another widely remarked-upon merger was unveiled in July of 2017, when the German Marshall Fund of the United States launched its Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), which brought together Laura Rosenberger (an Obama and Clinton foreign-policy aide) and neoconservative think-tank operative and former Marco Rubio adviser Jamie Fly. The advisory council of the ASD pairs neocons like Bill Kristol and former John McCain aide David Kramer with liberal hawks like Podesta and former Clinton campaign advisers Jake Sullivan and former ambassador Michael McFaul.
In addition to the goings-on in think-tank land, a second manifestation of the alliance between neocons and mainstream liberal Democrats can be found in the elite media. Hard-line neocons Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss have been given real estate on the op-ed page of The New York Times; neocon publicist Max Boot was given a column at The Washington Post; Bill Kristol, David Frum, and Jennifer Rubin are frequently featured as guests on the liberal cable-news outlet MSNBC. Indeed, one need only survey the coverage of Senator John McCain’s days-long funeral to see just how strongly inculcated the neoconservative worldview has become among purportedly mainstream liberals like CNN’s Jake Tapper.
In a way, the alliance between neocons and mainstream liberals is, in this, the Age of Trump, less surprising than it first might appear. It actually began to manifest itself during the course of the 2016 election, when longtime neocons such as the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan and Max Boot publicly abandoned the GOP in favor of Mrs. Clinton. As I warned in The Nation at the time, “The danger in Kagan and Boot’s professed support for Hillary Clinton is this: Should even a few influential neocons return to their party of origin, the marginalization of progressive-realist foreign-policy voices within the Democratic Party would continue apace.”