the supposed rebellion of “common people” against elites has not been much in evidence. Billionaires have taken over US politics under President Donald Trump; unelected professors run the “populist” Italian government; and all over the world, taxes have been slashed on the ever-rising incomes of financiers, technologists, and corporate managers.
.. Meanwhile, ordinary workers have resigned themselves to the reality that high-quality housing, education, and even health care are hopelessly beyond their reach.
.. What, then, explains the sudden dominance of nationalism? There is not much positively patriotic about the new nationalism in Italy, Britain, or even the US. Instead, the upsurge of national feeling seems largely a xenophobic phenomenon, as famously defined by the Czech-American sociologist Karl Deutsch: “A nation is a group of people linked together by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbors.”
- .. Hard times –
- low wages,
- regional deprivation, and
- post-crisis austerity
– provoke a hunt for scapegoats, and foreigners are always a tempting target.
.. There is nothing patriotic about Trump’s belligerence against Mexican immigrants and Canadian imports, or the nativist policies of the new Italian government, or Theresa May’s most famous statement after becoming UK Prime Minister: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means.”
.. The xenophobic effort to blame economic hardship on foreigners is doomed to failure.
.. Consider the post-crisis effort to divert popular anger about the collapse of market fundamentalist economics onto “greedy bankers.” This ultimately failed, in part because bankers have huge resources to defend themselves, which foreigners generally do not.
.. banker-bashing failed to assuage public anger mainly because attacking finance did nothing to boost wages, diminish inequality, or reverse social neglect. The same will be true of the current attacks on foreign influence, whether through immigration or trade.
.. European issues have nothing to do with the genuine political grievances that motivated a large part of the “Leave” vote. Instead, the Brexit negotiations will now dominate and distract British politics for many years, or even decades. And Britain’s nationalist confrontation with the rest of Europe will offer politicians of all parties endless excuses for failing to improve everyday life.
.. scapegoating foreign influences, whether through trade or immigration, will do nothing to lift living standards or address the sources of political discontent.
.. Successive Italian governments since the financial crisis have gradually laid the foundations for pension, labor market, and banking reforms. These changes have created the conditions for economic recovery .. but they have been politically unpopular and are now being denounced as symbols of elitist foreign oppression.
.. If the new government abandons all three reform projects, Italians can also abandon hope of economic recovery, perhaps for another decade.
.. Trump thinks his measures against imports from China, Germany, and Canada will hurt these trading partners and create American jobs. This might have been true when the US economy was suffering weak growth and deflation. But in a world of strong demand and rising inflation, German and Chinese exporters will find new markets for their products, whereas US manufacturers will struggle to replace foreign suppliers.
.. tariffs will act as a tax on American consumers, through higher prices, and on American workers, businesses, and homeowners, through rising interest rates.
Bannon was in Rome to learn from and provide support to the unusual coalition of populists and nationalists who together won half the vote in Italy’s recent elections and have formed a government. Bannon sees that sort of coalition — mixing left and right, old and young — as his goal for the United States. “Europe is about a year ahead of the United States. . . . You see populist-nationalist movements with reform [here]. . . . You could begin to see the elements of Bernie Sanders coupled with the Trump movement that really becomes a dominant political force in American politics.”
.. The Republican Party’s strategy, for now, appears to be to make the midterm elections a series of local contests focusing on the tax cut and the healthy economy. Bannon views this as fundamentally misguided. “You have to nationalize the election,” he said. Bannon understands that voters are moved from the gut more than through a wonky analysis of taxes. “This is going to be an emotional [election] — you’re either with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi or you’re with Donald Trump.
.. Bannon is most focused on the issue of immigration because it hits both the heart and the head. “Immigration is about not just sovereignty, it’s about jobs.”
.. He believes that the Trump coalition can attract up to a third of Sanders supporters who see trade and immigration as having created unfair competition for jobs, particularly for working-class blacks and Hispanics.
.. “You’re not going to be able to take the Hispanic and black community from the STEM system in grammar school to our best engineering schools . . . to the great jobs in Silicon Valley, unless you start to limit these H-1B visas and this unfair competition . . . from East Asia and South Asia.”.. The most likely result of limiting these visas is that talented immigrants will simply go elsewhere — Canada, Britain, Australia — and start successful companies there... The Democratic Party is too far to the left on many of these issues, embracing concepts such as sanctuary cities, which only reinforces its image as a party that is more concerned with race, identity and multiculturalism than the rule of law.
.. I wrote last month that Trump would try to fight the midterm elections on immigration and added, “Do not be surprised if Trump also picks a few fights with black athletes.”
.. He predicted the next major battle would be over the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. “The wall is not just totemic. The wall is absolutely central to his program. . . . As we come up on Sept. 30, if [Congress’s] appropriations bill does not include spending to fully build his wall . . . I believe he will shut down the government.”
.. Bannon doesn’t think the fighting and the rancor in the United States are going away any time soon. The “battle between nationalists and globalists is at the fundamental roots of what America is, what America will be,”
Three theories as to why the poll numbers are improving for the president and his party.
- First, the president’s personal standing has rebounded.
- .. Second, the formidable Democratic advantage on the generic ballot for Congress has narrowed.
Let’s call them the economy, exhaustion, and equilibrium.
.. based on the strength of the economy, one would predict more favorable views of Trump.
.. The rise in Republican numbers has also coincided with the tax bill passed in December.
.. “There’s no question that Trump benefits when a critique of his tax and health care policies is not front and center—especially when voters are hearing Trump’s side of the story on the economy,”
.. another product is fatigue: When there are so many scandals, they all start to blend together and fade. One retort to the anti-Trump slogan “This is not normal” is to point out that by now cataclysmic scandals are in fact the new normal. Trump’s improvement may reflect exhaustion with scandals and diminished anger at the president as a result.
.. Democrats would need a strong slate of wins to take back the House and a near-miracle to take back the Senate.
.. Democrats still don’t have a unified message.
In demeaning tweets and public statements, Trump blamed McConnell (Ky.), who remains popular among GOP senators, for the party’s inability to muscle through an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. The president also urged McConnell to “get back to work” on that and other campaign promises, including cutting taxes and spurring new infrastructure spending.
.. Trump associates said the attacks, which began Wednesday night and resumed Thursday, were intended to shore up Trump’s outside-the-Beltway populist credentials and would resonate with core supporters frustrated by a lack of progress in Washington.
.. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), a Trump adviser, said on Fox News Channel that the president bears some responsibility for the Republican failure on the health-care legislation.
.. Even some Republicans close to the president suggested that the attacks on McConnell would hurt him on Capitol Hill, where relations with GOP leaders have seriously frayed as Trump’s agenda has stalled.
.. “Discerning a particular strategy or goal from these tweets is hard,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee communications director and a former Capitol Hill staff member. “It just doesn’t help enact any part of his agenda, and it sends a further troubling sign to Capitol Hill Republicans already wary of the White House.”
.. McConnell has been one of the most steadfast supporters of Trump’s agenda in Congress, and, at least publicly, Trump has had a smoother relationship with McConnell than he has with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional leaders.
.. In April, McConnell orchestrated the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, changing the Senate rules so that Democrats could not block the nomination. The Gorsuch confirmation is Trump’s largest victory on Capitol Hill.
.. Politico first reported that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire heavily involved in Trump’s political ascendancy, is making a donation to a group supporting former Arizona state senator Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year.
.. However, inside the White House, Trump has a collection of advisers who have had antagonistic relationships with McConnell and Senate GOP leaders.
- Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, came from Breitbart, a news organization that regularly antagonized McConnell’s leadership team.
- Stephen Miller, chief policy adviser to Trump, was not considered an ally to the Senate leader’s staff when Miller was a top adviser to Jeff Sessions (Ala.) in the Senate.
- .. Moreover, one of Trump’s top legislative affairs advisers is Paul Teller, who served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s top aide during a period when the Texas Republican accused McConnell of lying about trade legislation.
- And Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Trump’s budget director, was a constant critic of the Senate during his three terms in the House, regularly opposing fiscal compromise deals that McConnell brokered with the Obama White House.