Second of three parts.
1. Lessons from Brexit
In Part One of this series, we chronicled a tale of two cities: the populist-nationalist Republicans in Cleveland, and the establishment—some would say elitist—Democrats in Philadelphia. Yes, it’s obvious that there’s a gap between the two, maybe more like a chasm.
So now we will begin to examine the divide between nationalism and globalism, focusing on the nationalist eruption in the United Kingdom.
But perhaps the reader has noticed the title of this series: “The Emerging Trumpian Majority.” And one might ask: How can we have an “Emerging Trumpian Majority” if, as the MSM stoutly insists, Donald Trump’s candidacy is doomed?
First off, Trump is not doomed. Despite a hellaciously bad week, the latest Reuters poll shows him down a mere three points. Moreover, the news on August 6 that there was yet another jihadi attack, this time in Belgium, reminds us that the conjoined issues of immigration and homeland security will remain paramount through November—and that’s good for Trump.
Indeed, fair-minded Americans might ask: What’s Hillary Clinton’s plan, other than more of the Obama status quo? We can further say: It’s only a matter of time before someone does an ad morphing Clinton’s face with that of Germany’s Angela Merkel—two peas in the same open-borders pod.
Second, we can observe that long-term trends are favorable to nationalists, such as Trump, and unfavorable to globalists, such as Clinton.
And we can illustrate these two points with a compelling case study from another English-speaking country with overlapping politics: the UK. Over there, all the big shots, and their pollsters and MSM enablers, were convinced that the June 23 referendum on “Brexit”—that is, British exit from the European Union (EU)— would lose.
Indeed, the “Remain,” or “Bremain,” forces had huge advantages: Virtually the entire UK elite, and all their financial and media muscle, were arrayed on behalf of staying in the EU. And yet, of course, Brexit won. That’s a good reminder: Money and media are meaningful, but in a democracy, votes matter more.
Indeed, the degree to which the UK establishment was flummoxed by Brexit is astounding. The polls were virtually unanimous that Brexit would lose—and they were all wrong.
For example, on the day of the election, the YouGov poll, the supposed benchmark for Britain, had Brexit losing by four points. And yet Brexit won by four points. In other words, an eight-point error. Indeed, a former president of YouGov, Peter Kellner, predicted Bremain would win by 8.5 percent. Even the supposedly savvier betting portals were wrong, too: 76 percent wagered on Bremain.
2. British Politics as a Leading Indicator for American Politics
If we study UK politics, we notice something interesting: Elections across the Atlantic have a way of anticipating American elections.
For example, in 1951, Winston Churchill was returned to Number 10 Downing Street. A little more than a year later, here in America, another World War Two hero, Dwight Eisenhower, was given the keys to the White House. Similarly, Margaret Thatcher was elected to the prime ministership in 1979; the following year, Ronald Reagan won the presidency.
So now, as we think about the 2016 presidential election, we can readily see that the same populist-nationalist forces that powered Brexit to victory—and pushed the globalist incumbent, Prime Minister David Cameron, out of office—are at work here in the US. So does the win of Brexit portend a win for Trump? Trump himself seems to think so; speaking of the UK, he tweeted on June 24, “They took their country back, just like we will take America back.”
Of course, the US election is still three months away; so in the meantime, all we can do is study the tea leaves—including the English tea leaves. In particular, the rise and fall of the EU, in the eyes of Britons, tells us a lot.
Not so long ago, in 1975, the British people were asked to vote on whether or not the UK should join the EU, then known as the European Community. The result was a better than 2:1 victory for joining. Among the supporters of “join” were Margaret Thatcher, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party, not yet Britain’s prime minister.
Yet over the decades, as the EU grew in size and ambition, it became increasingly controversial. Originally it was a just a trade zone, but then, over time, it became a political entity—a would-be “United States of Europe.”
And that growth—some would say, metastasis—was more than Thatcher, stalwart English patriot that she was, could abide. So she became a “Euroskeptic,” that is, a critic of the EU. Yet the majority in her party, mostly bewitched by the promise of export opportunities to the EU’s enlarging market—and some also beguiled by the prospect of being part of a new European empire—remained firmly in the pro-EU “Europhile” camp. The widening split between Thatcher and her fellow Conservatives came to crisis in 1990, when the Iron Lady was deposed in an intra-party putsch.
Ever since, under Thatcher’s successors at Number 10, the so-called “Project” of European integration has continued; one of the main features was the opening of national borders and the instantiation of unlimited travel within the EU.
Yes, there was opposition to the EU Project, but it was small and fragmented. And yet fatefully, in 1993, Nigel Farage helped to found the UK Independence Party, UKIP for short.
So now, let’s fast forward to 2015. Thatcher had passed away, but Euroskepticism was on the rise across Britain. So the staunchly pro-EU David Cameron, seeking to mollify Euroskeptics before his own re-election that year, felt compelled to promise a referendum on the EU: the Brexit vote.
In the actual 2016 Brexit campaign, Cameron went all out; he even brought his good friend Barack Obama over to London to help his Bremain campaign. And the American president dutifully threatened Britain with economic oblivion if it Brexited. Yet Obama’s venture into foreign politics seems to have boomeranged; UKIP’s Farage reacted sharply: “Obama came to Britain and I think behaved disgracefully.”
Meanwhile, Cameron heavy-handedly kept up the pressure till the very end. Everything that could go wrong, the Bremainers pledged, would go wrong. Yet all this trash-talking seems to have further hurt Cameron’s cause; as one observer wrote in Foreign Policy:
It did not help matters that all Cameron could offer, in response to the Leave campaign’s promise to “take back control” and restore British parliamentary sovereignty, was a parade of “experts”—ranging from the World Bank and the IMF to Barack Obama—all of whom warned against leaving the EU. Experts, too, are out of fashion in Britain. “We are about democracy, they are about economics” said Johnson, while Michael Gove, a former key Cameron ally turned impassioned Leave campaigner, remarked that “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”
Of course, there were at least some experts on the other side, including Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the influential columnist for The Telegraph, who warned his fellow Britons:
The EU as constructed is not only corrosive but ultimately dangerous, and that is the phase we have now reached as governing authority crumbles across Europe. The Project bleeds the lifeblood of the national institutions, but fails to replace them with anything lovable or legitimate at a European level. It draws away charisma, and destroys it. This is how democracies die.
The hottest single flashpoint, of course, was immigration. And the issue wasn’t just immigration into the UK; it was also immigration into the EU, because under EU rules, once in, a European, old or new, can go anywhere—and collect welfare benefits. It was telling, for example, that on June 23, the day of the Brexit vote, 4500 Africans reached Italy—and the next day, probably 4500 more.
So of course Brexit won.
Now the left is reeling. It has an ideological commitment to open borders, but it also has a practical commitment to winning elections. And yet it can’t have both. Stanley Greenberg, a veteran pollster for both US Democrats and the UK Labour Party, observed after the vote, “The biggest rationale, and the strongest arguments, were opposition to immigration.” So what to do? In the US, at least, the Obama-Clinton Democrats have embraced a dubious strategy, doubling down on open borders, including public assistance to any and all newcomers; we’ll have to see how that works out for them.
In the meantime, now that Brexit has won, we might take note of those, in addition to Farage, who were early prophets. One such is Robert Tombs, professor of history at Cambridge University, who in 2015 was quoted in Breitbart London, describing the EU in the direst possible terms:
There is a soft push to create a sense of European citizenship which is based on frankly an invented common history because the history of Europe is to a large extent the history of division, not the history of unity. When it has been the history of unity, as we’ve seen under Napoleon and Hitler or under the Soviets in Eastern Europe, it has gone disastrously wrong. It is a papering over the discordant elements in European history to create this idealized event.
That was last year, before the vote, when Tombs was mostly confined to nationalist-conservative venues. This year, after the vote, Tombs was invited to write a long guest-essay in the left-wing magazine The New Statesman, which is obviously groping to understand the new political facts on the ground.
Still as piercing as ever, Tombs noted, “The only professional groups that strongly voted [for Bremain] were big business, the liberal professions and academics.” Continuing, Tombs sniped: “Europe is now being governed by neither its peoples nor its ideals, but by a bank board.” And then he added this rockem-sockem description of the tactics used by the Bremainers:
They have been out of touch and out of sympathy with opinion in the country, unwilling or unable to engage in reasoned debate, and resorting to collective proclamations of institutional authority which proved embarrassingly ineffective.
And Tombs was no kinder to the Bremain forces after the vote:
The reaction to the referendum result by some Remain partisans has been a monumental fit of pique that includes talking up economic crisis (which, as Keynes showed, is often self-fulfilling) and smearing 17 million Leave voters as xenophobes. This is both irresponsible and futile, and paves the way to political marginalization.
So now Britain is led by Prime Minister Theresa May. Interestingly, she herself was a Bremainer, albeit a quiet one. And yet in the post-Brexit power struggle, the Brexiteers managed to neutralize each other, clearing the path for May.
Yet since taking office on July 13, she has wrapped herself in the popular will; as she has said many times, “Brexit is Brexit.”
We might also note that May stands for more than just Brexit, and that, too, is powerful.
She stands also for a conservative tradition that is patriotic, unifying, and, yes, solidaristic. Stylistically, she is nothing at all like Trump, but nevertheless, the two have something in common: In their devotion to their respective nations, we see a deep commitment to something powerful—the renewal of shared nationalistic values.
Indeed, we can further say that May and Trump share some common intellectual ancestors, and one of them, in particular, is worth examining.
3. “One Nation” Conservatism
On the day she took office, May started out with a nationalist-patriotic bang. Appealing to the forgotten man and forgotten woman of the UK, May spoke to them directly. And her language was about more than just tax cuts:
The mission [is] to make Britain a country that works for everyone… If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realize. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home but you worry about paying the mortgage. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school. If you’re one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly.
And then she did just that:
When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty, but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritize not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.
Some might say that May sounds like a populist, but that’s a misreading of the Oxford-educated PM. She isn’t saying that the mass, or the mob, should rule; she’s saying, instead, that wise leaders, having won a popular mandate, should rule—and rule with the well-being of the people first in mind.
As such, May summons up the ghost of one of Britain’s greatest conservative leaders, Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister for seven years and an important figure in British politics for four decades. It was Disraeli, back in the 19th century, who outlined the idea that has guided the Tory Party, at its best, ever since: “One Nation Conservatism.”
Born in London in 1804, Disraeli was horrified by the impoverished conditions of the English working class, and yet he was horrified also by the thought of French Revolution-style radicalism coming to his country and soaking it in blood.
Seeing that stand-pat rural-dominated conservatism was destined to fail in the face of industrialization, urbanization, and proletarianization, Disraeli picked up his pen; he wrote not only political pamphlets, but also novels that mixed high-society intrigue with a reformist message.
Elected to Parliament in 1837, Disraeli articulated his One Nation idea, championing policies–and more to the point, an overall approach–that he believed would not only quell revolution but also bring the English working class into the Tory fold.
Disraeli described English workingmen as “angels in marble.” That is, they were natural Tories, in terms of basic attitude; so just as a sculptor, confronting a block of solid rock, chisels away everything that’s not an angelic form, so, too, would One Nation Tories carve out new voters from the lower levels of English society.
In no sense was Disraeli a redistributionist leftist. Yet still, by seeking to assure at least a minimum for all, Disraelites believed that the rich and the poor could be bonded together in the unifying sentiments of patriotic nationalism.
A century-and-a-half later, May is talking that same Disraelite language. Earlier this month, after repeating, once again, her resolve to move ahead on Brexit, she called for a unifying economic agenda:
We need a proper industrial strategy that focuses on improving productivity, rewarding hard-working people with higher wages and creating more opportunities for young people so that, whatever their background, they go as far as their talents will take them. We also need a plan to drive growth up and down the country—from rural areas to our great cities.
To be sure, the words “industrial strategy” will rankle some on the right, because they sound like “industrial policy,” and that’s anathema to free-market purists. And without a doubt, conscious economic development is sometimes a mess, even if the Japanese, Chinese, and South Koreans have done a good job of making it work—and other countries have, too.
4. Lessons from the U.S., for the U.S.
In the past, adhering to the ideas of our first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, the US has also emphasized One Nation economic development—and with great effect: The Erie Canal was an industrial strategy. So was the Transcontinental Railroad and, for that matter, all the railroads. So, too, was the Tennessee Valley Authority, jet aviation, the Interstate highways, the Internet, and GPS. The typical pattern was that the government would jump-start the idea, and then the private sector would take over, reaping profits and creating jobs.
Still, it can’t be denied that a politicized development program will include some inefficiencies—although one man’s inefficiency, of course, is another man’s job. And this is where politics comes in: If an area or region is afflicted by hard times, what’s the right answer? Is it to tell the folks to move to where the jobs are? Yet what if that’s Mexico or China?
No, a better way is to take advantage of local resources and build something valuable, such as, say, Hoover Dam. Completed in the 1930s, Hoover Dam to this day provides low-cost hydropower to much of the Southwest, thereby enabling tens of millions of Americans to make a living in what would otherwise be desert.
And if that’s inefficient from a purist point of view, well, too bad: As US history proves, we can live with that much “inefficiency.” What we can’t live with, however, is a country in which whole states and regions are left behind, in the dust.
Indeed, tolerance for a degree of geography-conscious “inefficiency” just might be the only way for the right to win. That is, the right must occupy the center-right, bringing in middle-of-the-road voters.
We can quickly see: If there’s a center that needs to be occupied in order to win elections, it can be occupied by either the center-right or the center-left. After all, in a big country, there’s no such thing as pure right-wing or pure left-wing governance. And what’s most imperative is keeping the greens and the multiculturalists out of power. If the right fails to do that, we end up with Obama’s America—or Hillary’s America.
In fact, today, it’s an open question as to whether or not the Obama-Clinton coalition—greens, multiculturalists, plus George Soros and Al Sharpton—are even interested in economic growth and development. So that’s a huge opportunity for Republicans, should they choose to seize it. Seizing it, of course, would require a return to the Hamiltonian policies that guided such Republican presidents as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower.
Finally, we can add this: Today, “efficiency,” which in theory is good, seems to have become, in political parlance, a codeword for the hegemony of the Wall Street and Silicon Valley. The ascendancy of billionaires might, in some dry economistic way, be a sign that markets are equilibrating, that is, working well. But in practice, such a people-be-damned ascendancy equals losing politics for incumbents. To put the matter another way, a political and economic system in which the losers vastly outnumber the winners is not a viable system—at least not in a democracy.
And of course, questions of efficiency beg the further questions of whether or not financial bubbles are an inherent part of “efficiency”—and also, we might note, whether or not “efficiency,” as understood by Silicon Valley, means PC thought control.
5. Nationalism vs. Globalism
Yes, Brexit won, and that means that the nationalists won. And yet, the globalists are attempting to deny that victory. This is not surprising; the EU, after all, has built up its own culture of post-nationalism, and Eurocrats can’t be expected to change their mind just because the voters have spoken.
For instance, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (an appointed, not elected, job, by the way), insists that there will be no retreat on open borders, within and without Europe. Just last month, under the headline, “Juncker: No Matter How Bad Migrant Crisis, Terrorism Gets, We’ll Never Give Up On Open Borders,” Breitbart London reported:
The President of the European Commission is not just committed to open borders within Europe. Under his presidency, the European Commission lists migration as one of its priorities. As well as offering residency to the world’s “refugees”, the Commission seeks to make it much easier and more desirable for Africans and their families to move to EU countries.
Speaking after Islamic terror attacks left 130 dead in Paris last November, Mr. Juncker rejected calls to rethink the EU’s open doors policy on migration from Africa and the Middle East. Dismissing suggestions that open borders led to the attacks, Mr. Juncker said he believed “exactly the opposite”—that the attacks should be met with a stronger display of liberal values including open borders.
We can pause to note that the Brussels-based EU, that melange of 28 countries and a population totaling nearly 500 million, paying top salaries to hundreds of thousands of technocrats, has indeed developed its own “gravity’’—even if it’s mostly jet-setting knowledge-workers and bankers who feel the attraction.
Moreover, as the historian Michael Lind has observed, the globalists seek to extend the EU model to the world:
For multicultural globalists, national boundaries are increasingly obsolete and perhaps even immoral. According to the emerging progressive orthodoxy, the identities that count are subnational (race, gender, orientation) and supranational (citizenship of the world). While not necessarily representative of Democratic voters, progressive pundits and journalists increasingly speak a dialect of ethical cosmopolitanism or globalism—the idea that it is unjust to discriminate in favor of one’s fellow nationals against citizens of foreign countries.
Indeed, the globalists are so invested in this model that Brexit came as a stunning shock. It was as though the Russian White forces had overthrown Soviet leader V.I. Lenin and his new Red Utopia and restored the Romanov Czars.
Indeed, some Europeans today, probably most, lean toward anti-EU insurgency. One such is Marine LePen, leader of the National Front in France. All along, she has defined the battle as a fight between “globalists” and “patriots.” After Brexit, she tweeted, “Victory for freedom!” Continuing, she called for similar referenda in France and all the EU countries. Of course, any referendum on the EU is exactly what the Eurocrats wish to avoid; the last time the EU put something to a vote in France, back in 2005, it lost resoundingly. Hence the lesson learned by the elite, although not by Cameron: No more referenda.
In the meantime, the elite has focused on smearing LePen and her growing National Front party. So we’ll have to see whether or not the French patriots can overcome the EU’s “democracy deficit” and pull off a “Frexit.”
In the meantime, the EU itself, and its actions, are continuing to stoke anti-EU sentiment. Exhibit A, of course, is the open-borders policy. After a string of allahuakbar-type attacks in Germany, a local newspaper, Bayernkurier, operated by a conservative political party, was moved to declare: “Angela Merkel’s policies have been a stimulus package for right-wing populists.”
Indeed, we can step back and see that around the world, the dueling forces are globalism, on the one hand, and nationalism, on the other.
Globalism, as we have observed, is a curious combination of socialism and capitalism—that is, bureaucrats and bankers, working together to flatten national boundaries and, indeed, to flatten the nation-state itself. As an aside, there’s a good reason why New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman chose to entitle his 2005 book, The World Is Flat—it’s what he wants to see happen.
As for nationalism, that’s the credo of all others, whether we like them or not. Trump, Farage, and LePen are nationalists, but then so, too, are the Russians, Chinese, and Iranians. In other words, just about all the peoples of the world are instinctive nationalists; it’s globalism that is the strange mutation, afflicting mostly the West.
So we’ll take up the challenge of sorting out the good from the bad in the next installment.
Next: Nationalism vs. Globalism in America