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One thing about Donald Trump that everyone on Ricochet agrees on — from the most stubborn #NeverTrump to the most enthused Trump supporter — is that Trump is a nationalist, someone who places the well-being, security, and prosperity of the United States above those of other countries. Trump’s nationalism is often among the top reasons his supporters cite in his favor, and (unsurprisingly) they often accuse anti-Trump voices of being globalists, usually in the same tones that were once reserved for heretics, traitors, and people who drive too slow in the passing lane. More recently, Trump’s rise has been likened to the Brexit vote, not only because both represent successful nationalist movements that had been scoffed at by the political establishment, but because both Trump and Nigel Farage have made the connection explicit (H/T @columbo).
But while the comparison between Trump and Brexit is real and significant, it’s only part of the story. How else, for instance, to explain why Daniel Hannan — Farage’s colleague in both the EU Parliament and the Brexit battle — is among the most vociferous anti-Trump voices on the Right? (If you haven’t, listen to Jay Nordlinger’s recent interview with him). The answer, I think, is that nationalism vs. globalism is only one of several political dimensions that deserve our attention.
For example, lost in the talk of late has been the related-but-discrete topic of whether our society should be engaged vs. closed. Both Hannan and Matt Ridley are nationalists who campaigned for Brexit, but their arguments often hinged on how the EU forced Britain to limit its engagement to the Continent rather than giving it the run of the world to seek allies, or to have its people ply their wares, travel, or find bargains.
Similarly, it’s a mistake to evaluate on nationalistic grounds without also considering the left vs. right spectrum. Senator Bernie Sanders, after all, has a strong nationalistic streak — often criticizing free trade and foreign manufacturing in tones that sound a lot like Trump’s — though with leftism rather than Trump’s populism as the solution.
The question, I think shouldn’t be whether Trump is a nationalist but, rather, what kind of a nationalist he is.