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Brexit in America? Trump and the Global Nationalist Blowback

Posted by Steve Turley ● Jun 11, 2017 3:35:00 PM

In two previous posts, we looked at what many scholars believe to be the two dominant forces operative in the world today, globalization on the one hand and nationalism on the other, and we looked at how the two interrelate. Because globalization involves what are called detraditionalizing dynamics, which in effect replace traditional ways of life with modern secular lifestyle values, globalization tends to provoke a mass nationalist blowback, at the heart of which is retraditionalization, which involves the re-emergence of a culture’s religion, language, and customs; one might even say ‘bitterly clinging to their guns and religion.’ This is nationalist retraditionalization. And what we noticed, particularly with Brexit and the Russian Federation, is that the nationalist forces seem to have the advantage right now over against globalist forces.

Now, given the stunning upset of Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the question is: To what extent were such nationalist sentiments at work in the 2016 election? Were the concerns that propelled the Brexit and the revitalization of Russian Orthodoxy and a number of other nationalist movements comparably propelling the candidacy of Donald Trump?

I think the answer to that is a clear ‘yes,’ and I want to go over with you why I believe that the nationalist waves behind say Brexit have indeed made their way to the shores of the US, and it is President-elect Trump more than any other candidate in recent memory that is riding these waves.

Now, these nationalist and indeed populist movements have some key characteristics that define the Trump candidacy, and these characteristics are: immigration, trade, the national moral climate, and political correctness and multiculturalism.


Nigel Farage, one of the leaders of the Brexit movement, has commented that while our problem in US is with illegal immigration, in Britain their problem was with legal immigration, as authorized by the EU. Globalized economies generally involves porous borders, because the economy by its nature is transnational, it transcends the boundaries of nation states. And these porous borders which serve to expedite flows of goods within a globalized economy entail a significant increase in levels of immigration, both legal and illegal, which trends along the direction of economic activity: Turks flow into Germany, Albanians ebb into Greece, North Africans into France, Pakistanis into England, and Mexicans into the U.S.

And this mass immigration poses a radical threat to the languages, religions, customs, and traditions of a nation, particularly as this mass immigration is exploited by politicians. For example, in the U.S., unfettered immigration, both legal and illegal, is radically changing the social complexion of the nation to one favoring liberal democratic policies and preconceptions. It’s not that the immigrants are themselves inclined toward liberal social issues (most are not), but they have been largely persuaded that their political advocates belong to a center-left coalition at the state and federal levels. Thus, the stream of immigration that has flowed uninterrupted over the last few decades is providing an increasingly insurmountable political demographic responsible for the advancement of left-wing social agendas. The liberal politics of California today will be those of Texas tomorrow.

And so what you can see here in the wake of unfettered immigration is a combination of concerns: nationalist concerns focus on the erosion of traditions, language, and customs due to this radical demographic sea change, and populist concerns focus on the ways in which an aristocratic political elite exploit this unfettered immigration for their own political gain. And so, it is surmised I believe rightly that if we were to stop the flow of unfettered immigration, and we will have cut-off a significant source of left-wing power and influence. And Trump is the candidate that is committed more than any other in recent memory to such stoppage, with the apparent managerial competency to accomplish it.

So that’s the first characteristic of a Trump candidacy that exemplifies these worldwide nationalist and populist trends.


The second characteristic involves trade policies, another issue that concerns nationalist movements throughout the world. There has been a general commitment among both Republicans and Democrats over the last several decades to establishing and maintaining American economic prominence in the processes constitutive of globalization, a worldwide social system comprised of a capitalist economy, telecommunications, technology, and mass urbanization. It has been argued (rightly) that such economic and technological dynamics have the power to arrest control of national economies away from totalitarian projects such as the Soviet Union and communist China while simultaneously expanding economic growth and prominence among capitalistic nations.

However, what’s key here is that the interactions between these economic and technological forces have forged a global division of labor, where manufacturing and industry have moved to the global South, while finance and ownership of capital has coalesced around the West. And so what we’ve seen over the last few decades is this mass exodus of industrial and manufacturing jobs from the U.S. into these so-called third world or global south nations such as Mexico and China. And the workers who have lost these manufacturing jobs have been told by our economic and political elites to basically get over it since it is argued that globalization is inevitable; stop clinging to your guns and your religion and move on with your lives.

Now it is precisely a nationalist resistance to these trade deals, to this globalized division of labor, that we are seeing emerge among nations today, particularly Russia and Japan. And this of course is where Trump’s economic nationalism kicks in. you have many Americans particularly those around the Rust Belt, who are tired of trade policies that ship manufacturing and industrial jobs overseas. They would like to see the government protect rather than outsource their jobs in the name of some globalized vision of economic freedom.

National Moral Climate

Now a third characteristic of this global nationalist and populist trend is a concern over the moral climate of a nation. What is crucial for us to understand is that built into globalization processes is what we’ve called in our previous videos detraditionalization, or various mechanisms by which local customs and traditions are relativized to wider economic, scientific, and technocratic forces. Once social life is caught up in a global industrialized economic system, it is propelled away from traditional, national, and local practices and beliefs. In the shadow of globalized transnational policies, traditional moral codes and customs become increasingly implausible to objectively sustain.

It therefore does appear that the Reagan-inspired or perhaps better Bush-inspired conservatism of the last nearly two-score years entails two mutually exclusive social projects: the commitment to globalization allows for modernizing dynamics that undermine the commitment to traditional moral values. This may in fact explain why otherwise conservative politicians and pundits are so hesitant to openly attack political correctness or, in the case of Chris Christie who signed a bill banning so-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ for teens, even embrace it.

And so, what we are hearing, particularly from nations such as the Russian Federation, is a recognition that globalization undermines the moral foundations of a nation, in undercutting a nation’s traditions, customs, moral codes, and religious frameworks, globalization is in fact a threat to the perpetuation of civilizational flourishing. And so, while Trump himself certainly seems to fall quite a bit short of these traditional moral aspirations, many believe that his proposed economic nationalism provides a plausible paradigm by which traditional moral values, which most certainly ought to concern faithful Christians, can actually be protected and preserved.

Political Correctness and Multiculturalism

A fourth characteristic of this worldwide nationalist trend is a concern over political correctness and multiculturalism. And this of course fits in with much of the detraditionalizing dynamics inherent in globalization. As the name intimates, political correctness a secular system of values that is calibrated around the sensibilities of a political elite, and which in effect defends the secular state from all alternative visions of the public, most especially that of traditional values and norms. According to political correctness, the values that are specific to the Christian vision of life are no longer welcome in our public square. This is the essence, the nature, the purpose of such values as tolerance, inclusivity, multiculturalism, and moral relativism. And in the name of this tolerance, supporters of the Brexit for example were called racist, nativists, and Islamophobes, while at the same time you have these elites calling Colin Kaepernick and supporters of Black Lives Matter heroes.

Increasingly more and more people, particularly traditionalists, are finding find themselves on the wrong side of political correctness and multiculturalism. They simply don’t understand why it is that individual acts of violent force among police elicits mass generalizations about systemic racism while Muslims and Islam are deliberately distanced from individual acts of Islamic terror. Christians don’t understand why white people are by definition racist and black people aren’t. And they certainly don’t understand why Christian bakers and florists are being shut down because they won’t celebrate LGBT values. They are sick and tired of political correctness substituting for justice and equity. And no major political figure has declared war on political correctness like Donald Trump.


And so, these four nationalist concerns – immigration, trade, the moral climate, and political correctness and multiculturalism – that characterize so much of global nationalist movements are precisely what are propelling the Trump phenomenon. The more I examine the Trump candidacy, the more I am convinced that he is fully aware of the global nationalist and populist dynamics he’s tapping into, and that his positions are far too consistent regarding the interrelationship of these dynamics for this to be a mere coincidence on his part. Trump recognizes the interrelationship between unfettered immigration, economic globalization, moral degeneration, and political correctness far better than any of the other Republican candidates for president, and I think that is the key reason why he was able to trounce so decisively the competition for the GOP nomination. For right or wrong, what matters to a significant number of Americans and particularly Christians is that he stands up as one of them, and has declared an end to public policies that many believe have contributed inordinately to the moral and economic degeneration of our nation.


For more ways of cultivate habits of grace, see my Ebook, Classical vs. Modern Education: A Vision from C.S. Lewis, or watch the video series on classical education here.

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Topics: Immigration, nationalism, politics, trump, blog, Economics, Economy, Globalization

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