Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nationalism Nationalism Nationalism (redux)

For a long time now I've been saying that Trump owes his rise to nationalism, a political force that has long been significant in American life, and is usually ignored by the punditocracy. Nationalism is powerful because it cuts across class lines, and because it cuts across ideological divides. We are now witnessing a global tidal wave of nationalism, from China to Russia to India to the UK to the United States.

Some people like to theorize that this is somehow a cry against globalist neoliberalism, but Trump will most certainly enact tax cuts and deregulation when he's president. Nationalism is also running high in China, which has perhaps benefited from globalization more than any other country. I simply do not buy the thesis that nationalism comes from economic anxiety, though I will accept that it can be a mitigating factor. The economic anxiety thesis is a kind of comfort to the Left, who can think that a leftist politics will somehow drain away nationalist agitation by improving the lives of those hurt by globalization. It won't.

American nationalism of the sort peddled by Trump is deeply rooted in white supremacy. Historically a lot of working class whites have violently enforced the color line as a way of ensuring a superior economic position. A large number of working class whites will never, ever, join in solidarity with their black or brown brethren, sad to say. They love their skin privilege way too much. When someone comes along with a leftist program, that means lifting up the black and brown poor, and white workers will not that.

Not only does nationalism elide class differences, it is endlessly self-perpetuating. There are always enemies to the nation, external and internal, that any failures can be blamed on. Any disloyalty to the Trump regime then becomes disloyalty to the nation itself. I remember after the invasion of Iraq how any criticism of the Bush administration was treated as treason. The notion that criticizing the president in time of was unseemly also helped Bush win a second term. Every time Trump will fail he will blame people in this country who are not sufficiently "American."

We are in an epoch of nationalism. Of closed minds and closed borders. Of hate and suspicion. I see America becoming much like Putin's Russia, where an already servile media will polish the image of the Great Leader. Dissenters will live in fear or exile. Criticism of the president will become criticism of the nation, and that won't be tolerated.

The Republican leadership sees Trump as the demagogue front man that will allow all of their free market wet dreams come true. He has lied and dissembled so much that I cannot even tell what he's going to do, whether he just wants to hold power or whether he has any firm beliefs about what to do with it. I do know that holding and wielding power for its own sake is at the top of his list. Woe unto us.

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