by Edward Ring
Just over three years ago, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speaking at a fundraiser in New York City, characterized half of Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” And for more than three years, Trump, along with everyone who supports him, has been subjected to passionate hatred from nearly everyone who would rather have seen Clinton elected.
It might be tempting to return the favor and hate back. That not only would be a tactical mistake—since you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar—but also inaccurate targeting. There are a surprising number of liberals, progressives, and even socialists, who are not only anti-Clinton, but are begrudgingly, and increasingly, capable of seeing the positive side of the Trump presidency.
A very early indication of this came in October 2016, when John Pilger published in the London Progressive Journal an influential article titled, “Why Hillary Clinton Is More Dangerous Than Donald Trump.” Pilger, notwithstanding his socialist leanings, is a world-renowned journalist and filmmaker of undeniable courage and integrity.
In an eloquent tirade notable for its many, many examples of how Hillary Clinton is a murderous establishment puppet, this observation by Pilger summed it up: “She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted ‘exceptionalism’ is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.”
Sound familiar? And wow, how that system has tried, and continues to try to take down Trump.
Pilger saw it coming. About Trump, he wrote, “In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist. He is certainly odious; but he is also a media hate figure. That alone should arouse our scepticism.”
A “media hate figure.” Ain’t that the truth! And liberals eat it up. And along with Trump, they hate us. Or do they?
John Pilger isn’t alone. There are millions of liberals, progressives, Democrats, and even socialists who have seen through the establishment’s programmatic hatred, despite (or perhaps because of) it coming from every quarter—entertainment, academia, corporations, politicians, and all mainstream media, online and offline.
Their skepticism is indeed aroused, and not just over Trump.
Loving the Bull
Many Trump supporters cheered his election not because of his pugnacity (about time), or his policies (also about time), but because when you hate the china shop, you love the bull.
Trump has exposed the Democrat versus Republican, Right versus Left, liberal versus conservative paradigms as, if not obsolete shams, then at least models that have lost most of their dialectic vitality. They remain real and represent important differences, but they are overshadowed by a new political polarity, worthy of urgent and vigorous dialectic—globalism versus nationalism.
Until Trump came along, the globalist agenda crept relentlessly forward under the radar. Issues that now can be framed explicitly as globalist versus nationalist—immigration, trade, foreign policy, even climate change—found deceptive expression when shoehorned into the obsolete paradigms.
It suited the uniparty establishment to engage in phony, ostensibly partisan bickering to keep up appearances. It suited them to pretend that immigration and “free” trade bestowed unambiguous global economic benefits, while claiming that to oppose it was economically ignorant and “racist.” It was convenient to pretend ceaseless foreign interventions were based on moral imperatives, while silencing the opposition as “isolationists.” It was easy to get away with promoting climate change policies based on supposedly indisputable scientific evidence, while stigmatizing opponents as “deniers.”
Suddenly all of that is revealed as almost Ptolemaic in its contrived complexity. Here is Trump’s Copernican breakthrough: if you want open borders, absolutely free movement of capital and jobs, and an aggressive international “climate agenda” enforced by the American military, you are a globalist. If you do not, you are a nationalist.
The impact of the globalist agenda has been felt acutely in America already, but the pain is spreading and intensifying.
Unskilled immigrants are taking jobs away from the most vulnerable Americans, and every year, they continue to arrive by the millions. Manufacturing jobs which are vital to America’s economic vitality are being exported to any nation with cheaper labor, costing Americans still more jobs. Policies that are supposedly designed to save the planet have made it virtually impossible to build anything cost-effectively—houses, roads, reservoirs, power plants. In states where the globalist agenda is well advanced, the gap between rich and poor is at record levels, and the cost-of-living is prohibitive.
The rest of the world faces the same onslaught from globalists. With rare exceptions, such as the administrative clerisy and the minute fraction of economic refugees for whom the rudest of welfare benefits in developed nations far exceeds their lot in their nations of origin, the only beneficiaries are the investor class and multinational corporations.
Economic development, utterly dependent on cheap fossil fuel, is denied because fossil fuel is denied. African cities that might become inviting metropolises fueled by natural gas and nuclear power are instead hellholes of misery, as a burgeoning population forages into wilderness areas for food and fuel, stripping it of life.
The problem with the globalist vision isn’t just that it denies people their cultural identity as it McDonaldizes the world. The problem is that it’s not working economically or environmentally. It is an epic disaster, unfolding in slow motion. If globalism isn’t stopped, it will engulf the world in war and misery.
And guess what? There are liberals, progressives, and socialists, who get it. The see how their lives are being destroyed. They see through the platitudes, they see the hypocrisy. They can tell that globalism is not working. They’re looking for new ideas.
Modern American Nationalism Transcends President Trump
Donald Trump may have accelerated nationalist movements around the world, but how they find expression in the decades to come depends on how they are shaped by his followers, including belated, reluctant followers, including many who had been his critics. For many years, there have been a lot of smart Democrats who are rejecting the tactics of globalists, even if they have not been critical of globalism itself.
In California, a crucible of American culture, two respected Democrats offer examples of brave commentary that constitutes rank heresy to establishment globalists. In Berkeley, of all places, Michael Shellenberger, a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment” and co-writer of the EcoModernist Manifesto, has worked tirelessly through his organization Environmental Progress to campaign for reviving nuclear power in America.
Shellenberger in recent years has turned his attention to California’s homeless crisis, calling for emergency measures that cut through a web of stultifying, counterproductive laws that have prevented effective solutions.
Another Californian, quite possibly the most intelligent Democrat who’s ever lived, is Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban studies at Chapman University, described by the New York Times as “America’s uber-geographer.” For more than a decade, Kotkin has patiently explained how urban containment (because suburban sprawl supposedly causes excessive “greenhouse gas” emissions”) is strangling our cities and preventing equitable economic growth.
Backing up everything he writes with data, Kotkin has exposed the hidden agenda behind extreme environmentalism, and how it benefits a coalition of special interests—investors, tech billionaires, the professional consultant class, and public sector unions—but condemns everyone else to a feudal existence.
Nationalism Can Be a Model for World Peace and Prosperity
What is nationalism? Why does that word have to connote something extreme? Why can’t it simply acknowledge the practical reality of borders, language, culture, and history, and the ongoing right of citizens to determine their own destiny and compete in the world?
Why is it that to the establishment in America and throughout the western democracies, “globalism” is still held up as an ideal, and the inevitable destiny of humanity? Why can’t that inevitability be restricted to the technical facts of globalization—communications, transportation, trade, finance—without also requiring a surrender of national sovereignty? Why can’t nationalism be compassionate, benevolent, economically enlightened, and inclusive?
Nationalism can be all those good things. It can be a model for world peace and prosperity.
As for “climate change” mitigation, why are rational criticisms such as those produced by the luminous Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg castigated as denying reality? Shall the reasoned skeptics of the world be swept away by an orchestrated crusade fronted by children? Should the 16-year-old schoolgirl Greta Thunberg’s vapid denunciations of world leaders actually be taken more seriously than Bjorn Lomborg’s impeccable cost/benefit analyses?
Although mass movements of people proceed more slowly, a philosophical realignment arguably is already upon us. In terms of applied political theory, the prevailing opposition today is nationalism versus globalism. Like all polarities, these labels are fraught with ambiguities and contradictions. For that reason, there are virtues to some aspects of globalism just as surely as there is a dark side to nationalism. Moreover, the 20th-century polarities of Left versus Right and liberal versus conservative are still potent. But to have a meaningful political discussion today, those 20th-century labels are subsumed within the new model.
To be a left-wing socialist liberal, most of the time, is to be a globalist. But not always. Not any more. Remember this, the next time hatred comes your way. Realignment is coming.
Don’t recriminate. Recruit.
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Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is a co-founder of the California Policy Center, a free-market think tank based in Southern California, where he served as their first president. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Ring, a fifth-generation Californian, has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from the University of Southern California.