Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Decline of Trump's Nationalist Identity Politics, The Renewal of Globalist Liberalism

In some previous posts (here, here, here, here, and here I have argued that there is no evolved natural desire for ethnic nationalism, and that a globalist liberalism has been amazingly successful in satisfying our natural desires for a flourishing human life.  Consequently, I have suggested that Trump's nationalist identity politics and the illiberal populist nationalism that has arisen in Europe are unlikely to prevail for long, because they frustrate those natural desires that have been fulfilled by the Liberal Enlightenment.

Even the most fervent of the recent Counter-Enlightenment critics of liberalism--like Patrick Deneen and Rod Dreher--propose alternative forms of community that actually depend upon the liberal principle of voluntary choice in forming communities.

There is now growing evidence to suggest that the appeal of illiberal nationalism is waning.  For example, the populist anti-immigrant Law and Justice Party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland has recently suffered a devastating defeat.  They were defeated in mayoral elections across the country including Warsaw and two-thirds of the other urban districts.  Significantly, the strategy of the Law and Justice Party was to stir up fear of immigrant refugees who would invade Poland.  Although this might have aroused its core voters, it also provoked a huge turnout for opposition candidates.  Voter turnout was the highest since 1989.  The voting results exposed the fact that Law and Justice can count on only about one-third of the voters.

Similarly, Donald Trump decided to turn the mid-term congressional elections into a referendum on his nationalist identity politics, and his strategy has been to stir up fears of Hispanic immigrants who will invade the country and begin murdering and raping American citizens.  Of course, this goes back to his speech in June of 2015, which launched his presidential candidacy by warning against Mexican rapists and murderers.

For the last week of the campaign, Trump personally endorsed an anti-immigrant television ad that was so blatant in its bigotry that even Fox News stopped running it.

This has probably backfired for Trump just as it did for Kaczynski.  Public opinion surveys indicate that while about a quarter of Americans, led by Republicans, believe that undocumented immigrants commit more crime than native-born Americans, about half of Republicans reject that idea; and the great majority of independents and Democrats reject it.  Three-quarter of Americans see immigration as generally good for the country.

Most Americans--particularly, young, educated, and urban Americans--see the social, economic, and cultural benefits of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society, and so ethnic nationalism has no appeal to them.  Some Americans--particularly, older, less educated, and rural Americans--find Trump's nationalist identity politics appealing.  As long as the first group turns out to vote in large numbers, Trump's Republican Party will lose.  If that happens, it will show the enduring appeal of globalist liberalism.

Trump has been saying the mid-term elections are all about him.  His opponents have been happy to agree.

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