As the year 2020 approaches, perhaps it’s time to think about what the legacy of this decade’s politics will be. The political legacy of the 2000s ranged from recklessness — with George W. Bush’s Iraq War, poor response to Hurricane Katrina, and terrible embrace of supply-side economics, which led to the Great Recession — to “Hope & Change” with Barack Obama. But as we’re seeing now throughout the world, there is a clash of ideologies. On one hand, you have leaders like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, and Angela Merkel. On the other, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and Vladimir Putin. The first group could be classified as globalists; the second group, nationalists.
Donald Trump once said in a speech a few weeks ago that, if he becomes president, America will no longer surrender to “the false song of globalism”, reiterating that the “nation-state is the true foundation of happiness and harmony”. I believe he is right. Globalism accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, as manufacturing jobs were outsourced by large companies due in part to international trade deals that were being signed.
This was the “New World Order” that former president George HW Bush heralded around the time of the demise of the USSR. While many pundits, experts, and even magazines (such as The Economist) praise globalism for “opening up the world” or creating jobs for people in impoverished countries (China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Mexico, and many others, for example), such people often ignore its consequences–consequences that they bemoan. In wealthy countries like the United States, millions of blue-collar workers are out of their jobs, whether it’s making cars, making clothing, mining coal, farming, or drilling for oil. The West buys oil from countries with gross human rights violations (like Saudi Arabia) that they complain about, rather than using green energy or becoming energy independent. Farmers in California lose out as Mexican avocados replace their own in grocery stores, despite California having the climate to support avocados on a grand scale.
Furthermore, young people that once would have worked in grocery stores, as waiters in restaurants, or in stores in shopping malls, are often unemployed. They are then stuck in an “unemployment trap”, where they require experience to get a job, but are unable to get that experience due to the lack of available employment opportunities. College graduates or other older adults instead fill those jobs, despite low wages, and that prevent them (many times) from being able to afford the high cost of living in many urban areas within America. No wonder young people begin listening to Bernie Sanders. He may not know much about foreign policy or have policy specifics, but they’re so desperate for a change that they believe his empty promises and turn a blind eye to his ignorance. Instead, foreigners “benefit” from this.
Or do they? After all, they are often stuck in sweatshops for long hours, with little pay, under the supervision of abusive bosses. This kind of employment was phased out in the United States 100 years ago, after the tragedy in 1911 of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and other such incidents. Moreover, nations like China, India, and Mexico often see an uptick in pollution. Smog chokes the populations of Beijing, Mexico City, and New Delhi. Textile manufacturing plants in India dump toxic dyes and other chemicals into rivers used by farmers and bathers. Brazil is tragically cutting down the Amazon Rainforest–commonly dubbed “Earth’s Lung”–to please lumber companies and ranchers that sell their beef to big corporations, only to be shipped abroad. Meanwhile, Brazil’s economy is collapsing, the government is full of corrupt officials, and drought is becoming more common in a mostly tropical country.
And then, there’s the supra-national entities, such as the European Union, that have come about to “keep the peace” in the international forum. But has this truly worked? Between the Euro crisis and a poorly-handled refugee issue, the EU has stoked tensions in Europe, mostly between East and West, that threaten the existence of the union itself. The fact that EU leadership is chosen not by the people, but by the elites, is another troubling development, one that is particularly questionable in a union that supposedly promotes democracy. The fact that the EU is dominated by Germany (and its naive leader, Angela Merkel), creates an aura of suspicion, fear, and anger in a Europe that has not yet seen the 100th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Merkel’s insistence on flat-out acceptance of refugees and distributing them throughout Europe was reckless in a continent where economic growth is slow, and where tensions already existed over EU policies of richer countries accepting eastern European economic migrants, who often take up a lot of resources from the generous welfare state.
Now, Europe is set to make concessions to the increasingly-Islamist authoritarian country of Turkey–often the target of EU criticism–to stem the flow of refugees. This makes the union look hypocritical. While seemingly surrendering to Turkey — Mrs. Merkel is even trying to have a German comedian prosecuted for insulting the Turkish president–it continues to target and attack Israel with boycotts and condemnations, ranging from questions over whether or not Israel wants to make peace in the region with its adversaries to if its democracy is in danger due to a right-wing government ruling the Jewish state. The safety of Jews in Europe is an afterthought to the politically-correct attitudes of the Political Left towards Islamism.
Voters are angry on both sides of the Atlantic. They feel that economic recovery after the Great Recession has been too slow. Many suffer from low wages or unemployment, and their resentment is often dumped on immigrants that are perceived as taking advantage of a welfare state or “stealing jobs”. And most of all, they feel neglected by a privileged elite. In the United Kingdom, Brexit looms, representing the struggle for national sovereignty over open borders.
And in the United States, the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is not a race of Republican vs Democrat, or conservative vs liberal, as it was in the past–it’s one of nationalism vs globalism. If ideological liberals want to continue to align themselves with globalism and prevent tensions from increasing, they must be prepared to listen to voters’ concerns without labeling them all as ignorant or bigoted, while also admitting the flaws in the globalist system as it is now, and work to fix them.
The EU must do away with the fantasy of a single-currency system for a very diverse continent, particularly since that single-currency system has resulted in failures for Europe’s “banana republics” of Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece. It must continue to demand that Turkey return to its more moderate past; the EU should not surrender its values to authoritarianism of any kind, no matter what the cost. Part of this includes letting the European people have more of a say in policy and leadership within the Union. It should be more responsible on its refugee policy, screening them heavily before allowing them into the EU, while also limiting the number of economic migrants from poorer European countries that can go to wealthier ones. This creates a system of perpetual poverty & brain drain in poor European nations (like Greece) while stripping jobs away from the blue-collar workforce in nations like France or Britain. And finally, the EU must make sure that there is no tolerance for radical Islam–if its leaders spent half the amount of time criticizing Islamists as it does the far-right, there would be far less “no-go zones” or terror attacks within the Old Continent.
In the “peace process,” EU leaders must challenge the Palestinians to make more concessions to Israel and end their racist incitement against Jewish people, while also ending their unjust singling out of Israel, often based on lies and other baseless claims. Concerning other matters, the Political Left must challenge the abuses of workers in sweatshops and increased pollution in second-and-third world countries as a result of the opening of such factories. These kinds of cases should be brought to the UN, as should the awful human rights violations of Saudi Arabia and other oil-exporting Gulf nations. Sweeping things under the rug isn’t solving problems, but prolonging them. Globalism is a broken and failed model at the moment because it is too extreme. If it moderates by moving to the middle, it can perhaps, and hopefully, become just as great as moderate forms of nationalism.