A Crisis Of Identity: When Global Elites Forget How To Be Patriotic

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The global, liberal elite are increasingly transcending any lingering commitment to patriotism and national identity, setting them on a collision course with the small-c conservative majority

Michael Lind has an unmissable essay in the National Review this week, entitled “The Open-Borders ‘Liberaltarianism’ of the New Urban Elite“, which manages to explain so much about the rise of Donald Trump and the growing inability of political elites in America and Britain to speak to whole swathes of the country they supposedly control.

The crux of Lind’s argument seems to be that the educated, liberal (to use American parlance) inhabitants of the large cities have increasingly taken on what were always fringe libertarian ideas about open borders and the irrelevance or undesirability of the nation state, leading them to pursue policies and espouse values which alienate the more suburban and rural population.

Key quote:

To date, the public conversation on both sides of the Atlantic has been dominated almost entirely by the elite inhabitants of Densitaria, interrupted only by occasional populist revolts such as the Trump phenomenon or the Brexit vote. In a relatively short period of time, a new elite ideology has emerged that contrasts the dynamic, multicultural, libertarian city-state with the allegedly anachronistic and immoral nation-state. This ascendant worldview unites the open-borders economics and cosmopolitan, utilitarian morality of old-fashioned libertarianism with an idealization of the largest cities and their denizens.

In the 1970s and 1980s, libertarians made all of the major arguments heard from globalists since the 1990s: Favoring citizens over foreign nationals is the equivalent of racism; national borders impeding the free flow of labor and goods are both immoral and inefficient; the goal of trade and immigration policy should not be the relative security or relative wealth of particular countries, but the absolute economic well-being of all human beings.

Until the 1990s, this was an eccentric minority perspective in the U.S. and other democracies, encountered only in small-circulation libertarian journals or in the work of the occasional unworldly academic theorist of cosmopolitan ethics. But in the 2000s, as affluent whites from the professional class and their Latino, immigrant, and black allies displaced working-class whites as the base of the Democratic party, the traditional labor-liberal opposition to low-wage immigration and offshoring of industry was replaced by a new open-borders progressivism distinguishable from traditional libertarianism only by its unworkable combination of support for unrestricted immigration with a generous national welfare state.

This certainly accounts for one of the main reasons behind the Labour Party’s civil war in Britain – from the Blair era onward, Labour has been entirely captured by the open-borders progressives and increasingly turned its back on its former working class voter base. Even under the current Labour leadership election, both candidates hold open borders convictions to their core, even if only Owen Smith is stupid enough to rant about overturning the EU referendum result in public.

It also accounts for the increasing public rage (among non-progressives) about immigration in America, where the Democrats are proud and unrepentant in their support for illegal immigration while the Republicans have talked a tough talk for decades yet done nothing, precisely because the Republican political elites benefit from the current immigration status quo as much as anyone. Enter Donald Trump to an arena where nobody else is even seriously talking about the impact of mass immigration on wages and cultural cohesion, and one cannot be surprised when his crude, simplistic solutions gain political traction.

More:

The combination of open-borders “liberaltarianism” and trendy urbanist hype might lead one to wonder whether leagues of dynamic city-states should replace moribund modern nation-states. Benjamin Barber has published a book titled If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities. Barber is one of the founders of the Global Parliament of Mayors, which, according to his website, can help “fill the void left by nation states who [sic] are increasingly dysfunctional.” The economist Paul Romer has proposed boosting Third World development by means of semi-autonomous “charter cities,” which to his critics look remarkably like Western colonial enclaves.

Not even Barber and Romer propose actual urban independence. While cities may teach one another best practices, there is not the slightest chance that leading American cities will secede from the United States, link up with other city-states around the world, and form a new, global version of the Hanseatic League or the Delian League.

We saw the same loose talk after the EU referendum vote, with many Londoners (most of whom have no conception of what the EU really is or how it works) furious at having part of their cosmopolitan identity ripped away from them (as they see it) suggesting that London should somehow secede from the rest of the “backward” United Kingdom and become its own independent city state.

Of course this would never actually happen, but it shows just how disconnected the metropolitan elites are becoming from the country as a whole, and the sheer contempt with which they regard other regions which dared to express their patriotism and belief in self-determination by voting for Brexit. It is also misplaced arrogance of the worst sort – the lights would go out and people would begin to starve in London within days were it not for the arterial links of people and goods from the supposedly terrible and backward rural and suburban regions.

And it is this continual feeling of disrespect, I think, which does so much to drive populist insurgencies like the rise of Donald Trump, and (if I am honest) even those populist causes that I actually agree with, like Brexit. People in the industrial and commuter heartlands, as well as rural folk, are getting increasingly sick of being told that they are too backward, too intolerant, too racist, that their own priorities and concerns do not matter and that they should be led in all regards by an urban elite who don’t even seem terribly attached to the country that gives them life and liberty, and who find the slightest display of national pride or patriotism almost painfully embarrassing.

I’m fortunate. I got into a good university and managed to embark on a career which has seen me work in numerous countries across three continents. But if this had not been the case – if, like many of my peers, an international business career was either never on the cards or simply not what I wanted to do – then I would probably be quite put out by people whose interest and commitment to any one country seems transitory at best telling me what I should think about immigration, global governance and democracy.

Now living in remain-voting West Hampstead, I am surrounded by the kind of people who are aghast at the Brexit vote and who consider it a calamity brought down upon the heads by the kind of ignorant, unwashed oiks whom they would never normally speak to unless they were fixing their car or serving them a burger. I can see how it must grate with Middle England, because it grates with me.

Lind goes on to touch on this point:

What appears to be a debate among globalists and nationalists, then, is really a debate about the structure of the 21st-century nation-state. There are real dangers associated with the coalescing elite ideology of post-national globalism or, to be precise, national-elite pseudo-globalism.

One danger is groupthink resulting from the attempt by the new globalists to equate even enlightened and civic nationalism with racism. When the economist Larry Summers, nobody’s idea of a pitchfork-waving populist, tentatively called for “responsible nationalism,” he was criticized by The Economist, whose open-borders libertarianism, once eccentric, has become near-orthodoxy among the trans-Atlantic elite.

And closes with this stark warning:

The most significant threat is the possibility that the abandonment of national patriotism by many elite citizens of the nation-state for make-believe cosmopolitanism will weaken national unity, to the benefit of sub-national racism, ethnocentrism, and regionalism. The loyalties that succeed national solidarity are likely to be narrower, not broader. If history is any guide, the victims of tribalism and illiberal populism are likely to include would-be citizens of the world who despise the nation-states that make possible not only their wealth but also their security.

Absolutely. This blog has been banging on for years about the continued importance of the nation state as the final guarantor of most of our most precious rights and freedoms. But the nation state is also, in the democratic age, a relatively harmless way of allowing people to feel and express a sense of belonging and community pride without tipping over into other, much darker expressions of identity.

Those weepy europhiles mourning Britain’s imminent departure from the EU because they consider themselves “European citizens” might want to pause and think through the consequences of further undermining the nation state, which is the primary aim of their beloved project. Because enlightened, one-world government is a few centuries away yet, and whatever crops up to replace the nation state that they so eagerly undermine will likely be unpleasant, even violent.

And while it may not be purely libertarian, this blog would much rather live in a world of moderate, familiar nationalist rivalry than descend into the known horrors of ethnic or religious sectarianism. We already see the early fruits of this blinkered commitment to “multiculturalism” in self-segregated and un-policed communities here in Britain among certain immigrant populations. We don’t need to extend those delights to the entire population.

What is the solution? Michael Lind does not offer one, and this blog does not see an easy fix either. But when global elites (Davos Man and the like) and the next tier down (those with international lives and careers) have more in common with each other than with those of other socio-economic groups and communities in their own countries, it is a recipe for political alienation and the eventual fracturing of our civic life.

To avoid disaster and a true crisis of democracy, our ruling elites in the political and commercial sphere must somehow learn to be patriotic again – for if the nation state has no champions it will go on being relentlessly undermined on all fronts. But right now there is little evidence that they are remotely interested in bridging the growing chasm between their own interests and those of the people they supposedly “serve”.

This leaves the field wide open for the likes of Donald Trump and UKIP 3.0 to make inroads with voters left cold by the other options available to them. And the time may soon come when the political elites sorely regret ceding this territory.

 

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American Conservatives For Brexit, Part 5 – The National Review Endorses Brexit

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If the future is a post-democratic world then Brexiteers should be proud to have the support of the magazine founded by William F Buckley in order to stand athwart history yelling “Stop!”

“A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it”William F Buckley

The National Review comes out forcefully for Brexit, in an excellent piece which takes David Cameron to task for the tawdry and nauseatingly left-wing campaign he has run.

Money quote:

One of the less noticed aspects of the referendum campaign has been the extent to which Cameron has had to rely more and more on fundamentally left-wing arguments to make the case for the EU — and, indeed, to rely more and more on Labour and trade-union organizations, too. He removed from the government’s program some items of legislation that were especially offensive to labor unions in return for the unions’ spending more on campaigns to arouse their apathetic members (many of whom are in fact Euro-skeptic). That oddity has gradually revealed two hitherto unseen truths about the campaign: First, the EU is essentially a left-wing corporatist cause that is hard to support on conservative grounds; second, the traditional Tory arguments of patriotism and free enterprise not only can’t be appealed to, but would arouse emotions on the right that would weaken Remain’s entire case, including its only positive argument for staying in.

That argument is that Britain would face ruin outside the EU and prosperity inside, as all “experts” know. Those experts turn out to be (some) corporate businessmen, the leaders of international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, and heads of governments such as President Obama. Delegations of all three have been turning up in London and issuing grave warnings about Brexit at regular intervals. Small businesses and native entrepreneurs such as inventor James Dyson apparently don’t count as experts, but they have been speaking out in favor of Brexit, as have a significant number of leaders of both British and multinational corporations. What is emerging as a fault line is that this battle is between Davos Man and the rest of us.

The National Review goes on to criticise the sheer defeatism and pessimism of the Remain campaign, whose pitch to the electorate has basically been that Britain is too small, weak and puny to prosper outside of the EU’s political union:

It would be easy to continue rebuking the alarmist scare stories from Remain — and distinguished economists, including two former British finance ministers, have been doing so with zest. What is more important is to realize that they are designed not to persuade but to instil a sense of defeatism in the British people. Their consistent message is that the Brits are rubbish, can’t hack it, need the protection of Europe, and that anyone who differs from this masochistic view is in the grip of an imperialist nostalgia.

That is nonsense. The Brits are an unusually influential middle-ranking power in military, diplomatic, and intelligence terms. Culturally speaking, they are a global superpower. And — to repeat — Britain is the fifth-largest economy in the world, a leading member of all the main international bodies and likely to remain so, and a country which is a byword for effective democratic constitutional governance. It is — or ought to be — shocking that a British government should seek to instil a false sense of failure and dependency in its citizens in order to win a campaign they can’t win on the intellectual merits of the case.

And of the three explanations later offered by the National Review for this appalling behaviour from the British establishment, the third is the most persuasive:

Third, and above all, a half-conscious rejection of democracy. For the EU is a mechanism that enables the political and other elites in Britain to escape from the constraints of democracy. It removes power from institutions subject to the voters in elections, such as the House of Commons, and vests it increasingly in courts and bureaucracies in Brussels that are effectively free of democratic control and even of democratic oversight. As a result, the EU is seductively appealing to those who want to exercise power and who believe they would do so more responsibly and successfully if they did not have to account for their decisions to… well, ordinary people like their relatives.

All three passions are temptations to the power-hungry, and they have shaped a Remain campaign reflecting the interests and values of post-national, post-democratic elites. Once we step outside the moral universe of these elites, however, there is no case whatever for Britain to surrender its self-governing democracy to Brussels.

With the due deference of outsiders, we urge the British people, our friends in peace, our allies in war, to be true to themselves and to their democratic traditions on Thursday. That should be more than enough.

A good argument, well made. When publications as diverse as the National Review and Spiked are making the same case, warning against the attempt by European elites to construct an unaccountable, post-democratic society, alarm bells should seriously start to ring.

And in the fight against the dystopian, post-democratic future heralded by the European Union, it is good to have the endorsement and support of the American publication whose founding mission is to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop!”

 

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Quote Of The Day

Angry Mob Fun Run

Standing athwart the European Union, yelling “Stop!”

This, from William F. Buckley Jr.‘s 1955 founding mission statement inaugurating the American conservative journal National Review, seems particularly apt at this point in British political history:

Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by the Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.

This certainly holds true for small-c conservative Brexiteers, who have been not only ignored and humiliated but also scorned and threatened by the current Conservative prime minister, he and his chancellor both staunch members of the “well-fed Right”.

But perhaps this later quote from the same article might give hope to Brexiteers regardless of what happens on referendum day, and even if our efforts come up short:

That, a thousand Liberals who read this sentiment will say with relief, is clearly not enough! It isn’t enough. But it is at this point that we steal the march. For we offer, besides ourselves, a position that has not grown old under the weight of a gigantic, parasitic bureaucracy, a position untempered by the doctoral dissertations of a generation of Ph.D’s in social architecture, unattenuated by a thousand vulgar promises to a thousand different pressure groups, uncorroded by a cynical contempt for human freedom. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leaves us just about the hottest thing in town.

Having right on one’s side is no small thing, and we Brexiteers have it. The human desire for freedom and self-determination is not a fad or a passing fashion. It does not grow old, and despite the European Union’s continual attempts to snuff it out, it will only grow stronger the more the EU infringes on our right to exercise meaningful control over our lives and communities, and hold our leaders to proper account.

Brexit will happen one day, whether that process begins with a Leave vote in the referendum this Thursday, in some future referendum or by the unilateral decision of a future British government faced with no other choice. Brexit will happen, even if only when the entire rotten apparatus of the EU’s supranational government disintegrates and comes crashing down around us. This anachronistic attempt to build a post-democratic society of consumers rather than citizens will fail.

As Pete North so eloquently puts it:

But Brexit is not a word that will die quietly because it is an idea, behind which there is passion and a body of knowledge which cannot be silenced. And so for as long as there is no mandate for the EU and people willing to do whatever it takes to get us out, we will be here time and again.

We are told that Brexit is the province of fearful old men, but as I look at my co-conspirators I see thriving minds of all ages, each with their own motives, all of whom have different ideas – but agree on one thing. The EU is not a democracy and there is no resolution until we leave.

Among them are technicians, physicians, lawyers, writers, engineers, scientists, teachers and labourers. In this there is no racism, no seething nationalism and no nostalgic delusions. Just a recognition that the EU remains a thorn in our side and a brake parachute on progress.

And what I can tell you about these people is that they are all kind, warm, dedicated people. It has been humbling to see how many sacrifices they have made to give all that they can to this campaign. A far cry from the devious, scheming liars whom we are pitted against.

And that is why I know we will leave the EU one way or another. That decency will prevail. Maybe not on Thursday, but probably in my lifetime. In the coming months and years, having had this bitter debate, we will all come to know the EU as the castle of lies it has always been.

No matter the result, the democratic case for Brexit (advocated by The Leave Alliance, this blog and our many generous readers and supporters) will not be vanquished. And while it may be stretching truth to describe us as “the hottest thing in town”, it is certain, absolutely certain, that our day will come.

 

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Republicans Are In No Position To Mock The Democratic Party Primary Debates

In his Morning Briefing email today, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty disparaged last night’s latest Democratic Party primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with these words:

‘Yeah, There Was Another Democratic Debate.’ (Stifles Yawn)

Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn basically amounted to Bernie Sanders’s repeating all of his familiar attacks against Hillary and her insisting they’re baseless; and her charging that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, at which point he would counter-charge, “THE GREED AND THE RECKLESSNESS AND ILLEGAL BEHAVIOR OF WALL STREET BROUGHT THIS COUNTRY INTO THE WORST ECONOMIC DOWNTURN” — sorry for the all caps, it’s the only way to accurately capture the volume of Sanders’ high dudgeon voice — “SINCE THE GREAT RECESSSION OF THE THIRTIES, WHEN MILLIONS OF PEOPLE LOST THEIR JOBS AND THEIR HOMES AND THEIR LIFE SAVINGS, YOU’VE GOT A BUNCH OF FRAUDULENT OPERATORS AND THEY’VE GOT TO BE BROKEN UP!”

Below are a couple of highlights, to the extent there were any:

Clinton, last night, defending her judgment: “President Obama trusted my judgment enough to ask me to be secretary of State for the United States.”

Yeah, that line may work really well in a Democratic primary, but you can apply the same “hey, if Obama picked me, I must know what I’m doing” argument to former HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, VA secretary Eric Shinseki, short-lived Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, all of those wealthy donor ambassadors who knew nothing about the countries where they would represent the U.S . . .

Hillary Clinton: “It may be inconvenient, but it’s always important to get the facts straight. I stood up against the behaviors of the banks when I was a senator.

I called them out on their mortgage behavior. I also was very willing to speak out against some of the special privileges they had under the tax code.”

Bernie Sanders: “Secretary Clinton called them out. Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this. And was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements? So they must have been very, very upset by what you did.”

I’m sorry, does a political debate no longer count as interesting or exciting unless a deranged mob of populist Republicans are flinging feces at each other or comparing the size of their junk?

Are Sanders and Clinton repeating themselves a lot? Yes – as someone who is deluged by campaign emails and briefings from both sides, that much cannot be denied. But at least the things that they are saying actually matter. They relate to foreign policy, trade policy, crime and punishment, campaign finance and the influence of Wall Street.

The argument in the GOP primary has devolved into little more than pledges to revoke ObamaCare faster than the other (“I’ll abolish ObamaCare by executive order at the beginning of my inaugural address!”) and competing visions for exactly how high the wall should be between the United States and Mexico.

Debates on both sides probably shed a lot more heat than light, but anyone who has watched a few of these things in the 2016 cycle would have to admit that more of substance has been learned on the Democratic side than the Republican side this time round – with the same going for 2012 too, when the Republicans treated us to Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain.

There is a group – and I can’t say how large it is, but I know it exists from my time living in America – of liberty-minded conservatives out there who are thoroughly disgusted with the Democrats’ record in office and the general direction of the country, but who will stay home or hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton before they see Donald Trump or even Ted Cruz in the White House.

(And to those Trump supporters who protest, I would simply say that fighting back at the establishment and sticking it to the man does not have to mean vocally supporting torture and eroding the constitution. In fact, as Britain’s Nigel Farage discovered, it is actually better when the establishment come at you equally hard for holding mostly reasonable position, as their desperation to kill the challenge to their power is then exposed for what it is).

Though I am not yet a US citizen, if I had voted in the 2008 election I would have voted without hesitation for Barack Obama over the John McCain / Sarah Palin freak show. Many others did the same. So forget trying to attract massive new demographic groups to the side of the Republican Party – maybe the GOP should focus more on simply not alienating those people who will reliably vote for any serious-minded conservative, but who are constantly chased away from the party by the carnival of idiots who keep making it to the primary debates.

You can sneer that it is cultural snobbishness at work (and a bit of it is – though not the majority), but it goes deeper than that. And the good news is that the Republican Party will soon have another chance to reinvent itself for a new era as they spend another presidential term in dreary opposition. Hopefully they will not repeat the mistake of 2008, and actually have serious discussion this time about who they want in the party and who they want out, and whether they want to appeal to the better angels or the darkest fears and prejudices of those who are invited to remain.

That process can begin soon. But in the meantime, let’s not get cocky about the Democratic Party primary process, which has seen left-wing politicians with substantially different worldviews tearing chunks out of each other on policy and substance – which is precisely what should happen.

That is the debate that the GOP should have been having this election cycle were they still a functioning party, and were they not now being forced to pay in a lump for every cynical act of alarmism, obstructionism and posturing they have taken since the inauguration of Barack Obama.

 

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