Robert is a freelance writer/researcher in the Seattle, WA area. He covers current political, economic, and geopolitical news.
So Welcoming It Hurts
German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the floodgates last summer when she announced her country would welcome 800,000 refugees from Muslim countries in the Middle East. Naturally, many would flock to the healthiest economy and most welcoming country in Europe. Over one million refugees would eventually arrive within Germany’s borders.
Since then, Germany has been struck by a wave of attacks by these new migrants. The latest was a 21-year old Syrian refugee killing a pregnant woman with a machete. This was the fourth such assault in Western Europe in ten days. Germany’s leaders are wiping their sins of the 20th century by being overly welcoming the 21st.
German President Joachim Gauck was booed and “attacked” in the streets after he said, “the elites are not the problem, the people are the problem.” The political elite fail to realize the everyday impact mass immigration will have on the public. That is because the elite do not live in the same world as the rest of the country.
“Nothing in their lives will get worse,” Peggy Noonan wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal article. The elites, obsessed with globalism and diversity, strive for the “greater good” as opposed to doing what is best for its people. In Germany, the masses “were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending—because nobody cares about them enough to stop it.” This carelessness is what voters need to recognize and this reality coming to light is why Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) and Donald Trump has rose to prominence in the Republican party.
The working class sees their jobs being taken away. The middle class sees their culture eroding. Meanwhile, those at the top of governments and corporations call those pushing back against open borders “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” or even “racist.” But the political elite feel none of the effects and bear none of the costs of unfettered immigration.
Detached From Reality
There is a real detachment between the ruled and the rulers. Noonan expounds:
“The larger point is that this is something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it. It is a theme I see working its way throughout the West’s power centers. At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.”
This apartness is apparent in the great divide between what American voters want and what the elite desires. Republican voters rejected sixteen other qualified political candidates for president and chose real estate developer Donald Trump. Democrats did everything they could to reject Hillary Clinton for Bernie Sanders, but came up short. Brexit became a reality and some have proposed taking a hard look at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The reality is that many leaders in the West do not have the same priorities as the people.
Ruchir Sharma wrote in The Guardian that after Brexit, globalization is on its way out. An anti-establishment feeling has been brewing since the financial crisis of 2008. In the top 20 developed nations, the median approval rating of the incumbent leader has fallen from 54% in the years prior to 2008, to just 37% today.
Still, the rich have gotten richer in this post-crisis world. Since 2007, the world population of billionaires has nearly doubled. More than 70 of them live in London, one of the highest concentrations in the world, making the British capital ground-zero for this revolt against the establishment. The globalized elite, connected to the financial and political rulers of the world, were put in their place following the Brexit vote, showing that self-governance is still possible.
Others have called it too much democracy.
Many point to globalization as the champion of economic development. Globalization and capitalism has certainly lifted millions out of poverty around the world. But, are we too interconnected now? The message from Brexit and other movements is becoming clear, while globalization has been great for some, it has also left many behind.
What does the foreign policy elite do in a time dominated by an anti-establishment message? David Ignatius attempted to answer this question in a recent Washington Post piece.
Trump relished being criticized by 50 significant signers of a document calling Trump dangerous for America. He called them "nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power.”
Stephen Hadley, national security adviser during Bush's second term, “is a prime example of quiet, principled, bipartisan public service,” according to Ignatius. He didn’t sign the letter, but would caution that the growing fervor over globalization and open borders is something that needs to be taken more seriously than it currently is.
"This election isn't just about Donald Trump," Hadley argued. "It's about the discontents of our democracy, and how we are going to address them. The genius of our political system is that these discontents are being worked out this year within our political parties." Let’s pray that we continue to work out our differences in the political realm as opposed to settling our differences through violent upheaval.
Nationalism Is Not Racism
Michael Barone wrote recently in The National Review that Trump and his “America-First” nationalism is not always a bad thing. He points out that just as millions root for their country in the Rio Olympics, it is okay to prefer your nation over another. President Obama would likely scoff at the idea of national borders in private. He styled himself a “citizen of the world” before a massive crowd in Berlin in 2008. Here we see how elites like Obama live in a completely different world than everyday Americans who see themselves as citizens of The United States of America first and foremost.
“Nationalism can be a positive force,” Barone writes. Every nation has developed its own cultures and practices, rules and mores. But, “an intelligent nationalist can respect the strengths of other nations, while preferring his own, just as an Olympics fan can appreciate the superb performance of athletes from other countries even while keeping an eye on the medal scoreboard.” Being proud of your country and everything it stands for is not selfish and is not racist. It is patriotism and is a natural reaction from a proper citizen.
Barone brings up social psychologist Jonathan Haidt to clarify the divide between the elites and the rest. Writing in The American Interest, Haidt noted that “as nations grow more prosperous, their elites become more globalist in outlook, and consider nationalism as blind prejudice or even racism.” This is playing itself out in America now. Trump is constantly accused of racism for wanting to have borders. In its post-World War II dominance, the U.S. has gone from isolationist in nature to much more global in its outlook. From installing the United Nations to propping up NATO, Americans led the world in uniting the globe.
Still, Haidt would point out that “having a shared sense of identity, norms and history,” or nationalism, “generally promotes trust.” Nationalists feel a bond to their country and feel proud to be a part of it. Globalists want to remove every country’s borders and do away with democracy.
Trump said in a speech in June that the economic problems of the U.S. are “the consequence of a leadership class that worships globalism over Americanism.” This line hits home with many red-blooded Americans, looking for strong leadership following Obama’s accused “leading from behind.” President Obama has pushed globalization via executive orders and allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the country despite ISIS declaring they would strike us that way.
Brexit, Germany and Trump might just be the beginning of the end for globalization. If that’s possible.
Globalization Can’t Be Stopped?
Michael Schuman would contest in Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek that Brexit won’t stop globalization. Even though money manager Bill Gross said Brexit marked “the end of globalization as we’ve known it,” the rest of the world is still integrating with other nations and forging stronger links. Companies, countries, and communities want to be further connected with each other, not more isolated.
The World Trade Organization found that 52% of developing countries’ exports went to other emerging economies in 2014, up from 38% in 1995. China and India, the world’s two most populous nations, ballooned its trade total to $72 billion in 2014, up from $1.7 billion in 1997.
Companies from the emerging world are becoming important investors as well. Per the American Enterprise Institute, Chinese companies invested $111 billion worldwide in 2015, more than 10 times the amount of 2005. The same pattern played out in India where total investment rose 43% in five years. Putin is cozying up to China, as the Russian president announced in June that the two countries are jointly undertaking $50 billion in projects.
“Too many countries see their future as part of something bigger,” Schuman concluded. In India, globalization has helped lift many out of poverty and created an open business environment. In Myanmar, military rulers gave in to democratic reforms and new sources of growth are now pouring into the country.
Schuman and others who lean toward globalism believe that Trump’s plan of erecting walls to protect U.S. jobs and lives is racist and unwise. Yet, the global economy is becoming increasingly competitive. Political leaders must be savvy and put their own nation’s interests before the rest of the world. If that sounds selfish, then so be it.
Last year over 300,000 people immigrated to Britain for work. As in the U.S., Britain has seen much of its manufacturing base disappear to cheaper locations overseas. Nearly 9 million people aged 16 to 64 were able to work but unable to find work. In the U.S., that significant number is even higher, with a record 94 million Americans out of the labor force in May (14% of the population in the U.K., vs. 30% in the U.S.)
That is the economic context in which movements such as Brexit, Donald Trump’s “America-First” message, Marine Le Pen’s French nationalist party - preparing for a “Frexit,” and the backlash in Germany over Merkel’s liberal immigration policies are taking place.
Citizens of most nations simply want what is best for its family, community, and country. Critics of Donald Trump say his smashing of the status quo poses a danger for America. Many ambassadors and others in similar political circles see Trump’s proposals as racist, selfish, and wrong for furthering our best interests. Trump has been harsh on free trade and has suggested renegotiating some deals in place with other countries such as China.
Trump has also panicked many allies in his spurning of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a secretive, 12-nation trade agreement that would lower barriers such as tariffs and enact other measures to "promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs, and other acts that would further link these nations economically. Countries like Singapore and Vietnam are especially rattled by the prospect of a Trump presidency as these two are heavily dependent on trade. Trump’s lambasting of our current trading partners such as the U.K., Japan, and China has come as quite a shock to many. But his main message seems to be that the system is rigged and he is going to fix it.
Citizens Crave Nations With Cultures
Eric Bovim concludes in a piece in Salon that Trump and Brexit have sown something in the working and middle classes that cannot be stopped. Trump and a UK-less-EU could usher in a new world order. “Such notions of greater integration, in the aftermath, appear at risk by the so-called populism that pushed Britain to sever from the EU,” wrote Bovim. “In the U.S, it’s hard to see a viable pathway for the Trans Pacific Partnership, even if it is an important thread that will draw countries closer. Trump represents an embrace of uncertainty, a certain asymmetry to predictable systems and policies, and that holds appeal among at least the 12 million Americans who voted for him.” And so, this rising nationalism in Europe seems to have crossed the Atlantic, infecting the American political system. But will that be enough to get Trump to defeat the Hillary Clinton machine?
Rich Lowry hopes he can. He summed up in Politico how unions do not measure up to nations. He says the 28-nation European Union does not have the bonds each member nation with its own culture does. “It is too big and too sprawling for true accountability. No one in Poland cares how Finland is governed, and vice versa. Forging a Europe-wide government has always been an elite project that necessarily operates outside democratic channels, accruing more authority, mostly out of sight.” Once again, we come back to the elites being detached from reality, or at least the reality that most of the middle class feels. The priorities between the ruled and rulers are grossly mismatched.
Is nationalism and putting your country’s needs before another so terrible? Conservative columnist John O’Sullivan points out that multinational unions do not have a great track record:
“Half of the states involved in the First World War were multinational empires such as Austria, Hungary and czarist Russia. The Second World War was caused by the colliding ambitions of the two great transnational ideologies hostile to nationalism: Nazism, with its belief in a racial hierarchy transcending nations, and communism, with its belief in a class hierarchy transcending nations. It was local nationalisms in Britain and occupied Europe that provided most of the morale to resist fascist ideologies.”
Removing borders removes cultures. If we don’t have laws and enforce them, we don’t have a country. As organizations such as the EU and UN reveal, multinational institutions simply do not work. It is fine for countries to form individual agreements and alliances with other nations, but it is not imperative that we unite the world in one big happy kingdom.
Every country has its own culture. Donald Trump wants America to maintain an American identity. Desiring to enforce the laws on the books does not make someone a racist. Trump, Brexit, and Germany seem to hint that the future of globalization is in jeopardy. If the people can succeed over the ruling elite via the ballot box, then maybe some of the 94 million Americans out of work will start getting back to it.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on August 27, 2016:
Great article - and I wish I could have wrote it. I get way too angry thinking about politics to write well about it.
I'm always so very put off by how the left wing is forever stating someone is some kind of racist unless they are shouting the left wing's catechism.
It's like 'the boy who cried wolf.' They've made accusations of racism only mean 'someone who doesn't proclaim the left wing's all knowing wisdom.'
Christopher from Northridge, CA on August 23, 2016:
I would say it's still too soon to say. If Trump is elected President and Britain follows through with Brexit, then it could indeed signal a partial reversal of globalization. However, I think that a complete end to globalization is both unrealistic and undesirable. While there are downsides, and some would argue that it has gone too far, there are also benefits. Rather than trying to end globalization, it is better to keep it in moderation and ensure that it is as fair as possible.
CJ Kelly from the PNW on August 23, 2016:
Trump is a last gasp of an aging electorate. Long term, it will have no real effect on the future. I'm willing to bet that the baby boomers who are voting for him now will be more liberal four years on, as they will have health care concerns and probably be dependent on Social Security. Many younger voters are rejecting his birtherism and overall chaos. (Full disclosure: I'm a never Trump GOPer).
Brexit will eventually be corrected and/or reversed. Financially, I don't think the UK can survive without the free trade and grants from the EU.
As for Germany, I don't know what their long term plan is exactly. Not sure why they accept so many refugees when they are not responsible for the problems of the Middle East. It is baffling why they take on this burden. Aging population that needs tax revenue? Probably.
The world is too interdependent now to go back. Poor countries are desperate to trade with the first world. Living standards are getting better, even in Mexico.