Lately, Donald Trump and his supporters have been accusing his opponent, and the press, of being part of a globalist conspiracy. This CNN money article sums it up well:
In the Breitbart worldview, the mainstream media is just as agenda-driven and prone to bias and falsehoods as right-wing media — it’s just that the mainstream media doesn’t acknowledge it.
“This is a group of people serving the same agenda,” [Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex] Marlow said.
Trump echoed those remarks in Thursday’s speech: “The establishment and their media enablers wield control over this nation through means that are very well known,” he said.
That agenda, Bannon and Breitbart’s fiercest partisans believe, is the advancement of open borders, free trade and progressive poliicies at the expense of American sovereignty. “Liberal vs. Conservative” no longer adequately describes the partisan divisions at play in American politics today, Marlow said. The real battle is between populists and globalists.
As my readers know, I have been saying practically the same thing for years now. I use the word “cosmopolitan” instead of “globalist” and “nationalist” instead of “populist”, but it amounts to the same thing. Marlow even uses the word nationalist later in the same article, saying:
“It’s less about the left-right dichotomy, and more along the lines of globalists and elitists versus populists and nationalists.”
I could see myself saying that, to be honest.
So, does that mean I think that the Breitbart/Trump crowd has the right idea? No; not at all.
The saying “even a broken clock is right twice a day” is apt here. The Trump supporters (the so-called “alt-right”) have stumbled on to a fact about American politics that most political scientists, analysts and commentators overlooked. In fact, they might even be the cause of the phenomenon, since all of them take the nationalist side.
However, despite the fact that they are aware of this dichotomy, very few of them seem to understand any of the historical, political or economic reasons for it. They simply happened to notice this state of political affairs, and rather than try to understand it, they simply chalk it all up to a sinister conspiracy. This makes for a good story, but it’s not how the world works.
Globalism is popular because it works very well with ideas espoused by both the Democrats and the Republicans. It fulfills goals of diversity and multiculturalism that the Democrats historically support, and free trade, which the Republicans historically support.
The nationalists often disparage the “global elite” but it is not necessarily a bad thing that successful, well-educated people from different nations tend to find common cause and work together. This increases the probability that disputes between nations can be solved through negotiation or trade deals, rather than through wars.
This brings me to one of the reasons that nationalism is so unpopular nowadays, which is that it is considered responsible for two World Wars. As a consequence, it fell out of favor as a governing philosophy.
I’m not saying that massive wars are the inevitable result of nationalism, or that wanting to protect national sovereignty is inherently bad. I’m just saying that nationalists need to explain why it won’t cause any giant wars, since that has happened before.
There is no doubt that there are drawbacks to globalization. It is possible that its adherents have not considered these, or that they have overreached in the pursuit of globalization, or that globalism is not the best governing philosophy for the current moment in history. All these are topics worth discussing.
The problem is, almost no one on the nationalist side is interested in discussing things. They have simply decided that globalism is an evil conspiracy invented by bad people. They do not have, and do not appear to want, any context or understanding of its origins or the reasons it exists.
Trump himself, the de facto nationalist candidate, has even less interest in the merits of globalism vs. nationalism. His decision to promote nationalist policies is purely pragmatic. He adopted it when he discovered it would enable him to win the Republican nomination. I think that the only reason he won’t abandon it now is because, for a host of reasons, only ardent nationalists will support him at this point. If he drops nationalism, he is left with nothing.