Today’s Backlash against Globalism: Trump and Le Pen

Greg IP, in The Australian, 12 January 2017, and The Wall Streeet Journal, where the title is Trump, Brexit, Le Pen: West’s anti-globalism backlash”

Late on a Sunday evening a little more than a year ago, Marine Le Pen took the stage in a depressed working-class town in northern France. She had just lost an election for the region’s top office but the leader of France’s anti-immigrant, anti-euro National Front did not deliver a concession speech. Instead, Le Pen proclaimed a new ideological struggle. “Now, the dividing line is not between Left and Right but globalists and patriots,” she declared, with a gigantic French flag draped behind her. Globalists, she charged, wanted France to be subsumed in a vast, world-encircling “magma”. She and other patriots, by contrast, were determined to retain the nation-state as the “protective space” for French citizens.

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Le Pen’s remarks foreshadowed the tectonic forces that would shake the world last year. The British vote to leave the EU in June and the election of Donald Trump as US president in November were not about whether government should be smaller but whether the nation-state still mattered. Le Pen now has a shot at winning France’s presidential elections this northern spring, which could imperil the reeling EU and its common currency.

Supporters of these disparate movements are protesting against not just globalisation — the process whereby goods, capital and people move ever more freely across borders — but globalism, the mindset that globalisation is natural and good, that global governance should expand as national sovereignty contracts.

The new nationalist surge has startled establishment parties in part because they don’t see globalism as an ideology. How could it be, when it is shared across the traditional left-right spectrum by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, George W. Bush and David Cameron?

But globalism is an ideology, and its struggle with nationalism will shape the coming era much as the struggle between conservatives and liberals has shaped the last. That, at least, is how the new nationalists see it. After successfully pressuring Carrier Corporation to keep in Indiana about half of the 2100 jobs that the firm had planned to move to Mexico, Trump told a rally last month, “There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. From now on, it’s going to be ‘America First’.”

In the 1930s, nationalists were also expansionists who coveted other countries’ territory. Today, Trump and his ideological allies mostly want to reassert control over their own countries. Their targets are global structures such as the EU, the World Trade Organisation, NATO, the UN and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Little unites the new nationalists other than their shared anti­pathy towards globalism. Trump’s economic program is as far to the right as Le Pen’s is to the left. Nor do they have credible plans for replacing the institutions of globalisation that they want to tear down, as Britain’s confused exit from the EU demonstrates. But globalists would be wise to face their own shortcomings. They underestima­ted the collateral damage breakneck globalisation has inflicted on ordinary workers, placed too much weight on the strategic advantages of trade and dismissed too readily the value that many citizens still attach to national borders and cultural cohesion.

Globalism’s early roots are found in basic economics: just as two people are better off specialising and then trading with each other, so are two cities and two countries. “All trade, whether foreign or domestic, is beneficial,” British economist David Ricardo wrote in 1817. Britain presided over the first great age of globalisation, from the mid-1800s to 1914. Its leaders were not self-consciously globalist. They adopted free trade and the gold standard purely for domestic benefit.

After World War II, the logic of globalism shifted beyond trade to grand strategy. By ceding modest amounts of sovereignty to international institutions, a country could make the world, and itself, far stronger than by pursuing its own narrowly defined interests. “If the nations can agree to observe a code of good conduct in international trade, they will co-operate more readily in other international affairs,” US president Harry Truman said in 1947.

Truman and the other founders of the postwar order saw economic and geopolitical self-interest as inseparable: the US opened its wallet and its markets to its allies to hold back Soviet communism. In 1957, six European countries signed the Treaty of Rome, creating what would become the EU, hoping that economic and political integration would make war unthinkable.

For decades, trade, industrialisation and demographics produced a virtuous circle of rising prosperity. By the 90s, trade barriers had dropped so much that the gains from trade were smaller and more concentrated. Between 1987 and 2008, total US wages adjusted for inflation rose by 53 per cent, while the profits US companies earned abroad soared by 347 per cent. Still, the strategic benefits of trade remained alluring: president Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in 1993 in part to embed a pro-US government in Mexico, and the EU moved after the Cold War to admit former Soviet satellites to solidify their democracies and draw them out of Russia’s orbit.

By the 2000s, globalism was triumphant. The World Economic Forum had evolved from a cosy management-oriented workshop in the Swiss town of Davos to an extravagant summit for elites. Political scientist Samuel Huntington applied the caustic label “Davos man” to those who saw “national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing”. For globalists, this was a badge of honour, symbolising not just an outlook but a lifestyle of first-class departure lounges, smartphones and stock options. This is also when globalists overreached.

In 2000, Clinton blessed China’s entry into the WTO. Echoing Truman, he predicted China’s membership was “likely to have a profound impact on human rights and political liberty”.

It didn’t. China adhered to the letter of its WTO obligations while systematically violating their spirit with discrimination against foreign investors and products and an artificially cheap currency. A wave of Chinese imports wiped out two million American jobs, according to one widely cited 2016 study, with no equivalent boom in US jobs linked to exports to China. Meanwhile, China became more repressive at home and antagonistic abroad. By behaving quite differently from other members of the global trading club, China has undermined support for it.

Globalists in Europe also overreached. In 1999, 11 EU members joined the euro, the crowning achievement of European unity. Economists warned that Italy, Spain and Greece couldn’t compete with Germany without the safety valve of letting national currencies periodically devalue to offset their faster-rising costs. Sure enough, their trade deficits ballooned, but low-cost euro loans at first made them easy to finance.

The loans proved unsustainable, and the resulting crisis has still not run its course. One result: in Italy, the populist Five Star Movement, which is jostling for first place in the polls, has promised a non-binding referendum on membership of the eurozone.

Chinese and German trade surpluses could wreak havoc thanks to expanding cross-border finance. To globalists, its growth was as inexorable as that of trade. In early 2008, president George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, put out a report arguing that globalisation had made much of US financial regulation obsolete. The priority was to maintain US “pre-eminence in the global capital markets”. Those same capital markets soon tipped the world into its worst financial crisis since the 30s.

That crisis has woken up globalists to the flaws of globalisation. Yet their faith in open borders remains unshaken. President Barack Obama entered office as a free-trade sceptic, but he soon threw his energy into negotiating the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The pact’s anticipated economic benefits for the US were modest but its strategic aims were sweeping: the US would forge a pro-America, pro-trade order in Asia rather than let a rising China dominate the region. With Trump’s win, the accord is now presumed to be dead.

Globalists were blind to the nationalist backlash in part because their world — entrepreneurial, university-educated, ethnically ­diverse, urban and coastal — has thrived as whiter, less-educated hinterlands have stagnated. Similar splits separate London from the rest of England and the EU’s capital cities from the countryside of continental Europe.

Many globalists now assume that the discontent is driven largely by stagnant wages and inequality. If people are upset about immigration, they reason, it is largely because they fear competition with low-wage workers.

In fact, much of the backlash against immigration (and globalism) is not economic but cultural: many people still care about their own versions of national identity and mistrust global institutions such as the EU.

A 2016 study by Ronald Inglehart of the University of Michigan and Pippa Norris of Harvard University analysed party manifestos in 13 Western democracies and found that, in the 80s, economic issues such as taxes and welfare became less important than non-economic issues such as immigration, terrorism, abortion and gay rights.

Last July, two scholars at the London School of Economics found that rising unemployment didn’t make British regions likelier to vote to leave the EU but a growing migrant population did. These voters were bothered less by competition from immigrants than by their perceived effect on the country’s linguistic, religious and cultural norms.

One of the first to exploit such cultural resentments was Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front, who frequently decried mondialisme in xenophobic terms. After his daughter Marine took over the party in 2011, she threw him out because his anti-Semitic outbursts were repelling mainstream French voters.

In 2014, Steve Bannon — Trump’s top strategist and the former leader of Breitbart News, a fiery conservative site that is fiercely opposed to immigration and multiculturalism — acknow­ledged that Le Pen’s National Front and its British counterpart, the UK Independence Party, “bring a lot of baggage, both ethnically and racially”. Nonetheless, Bannon saw them as fellow travellers. He said, “The working men and women in the world … are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos.”

Indeed, one 2012 study found that Europeans’ opposition to immigration was driven less by pocketbook concerns than by worries about how changes to “the composition of the local population” would affect “their neighbourhoods, schools and work­places”. The last big US backlash against immigration came during the Roaring 20s, the last time the foreign-born share of the population stood as high as it is today, at 13 per cent.

Which raises the most troubling question of the emerging globalist-nationalist divide: is the new nationalism a cloak for ethnic and religious exclusion? Nationalist leaders insist that it isn’t. Le Pen, for example, says she is merely defending France’s secular character when she criticises overt displays of Islamic observance, distancing herself from her plainly xenophobic father. Trump says struggling Latino and African-American workers are victims of cheap foreign labour just as much as rust-belt whites.

Yet the new nationalism often thrives on xenophobia. Trump has been criticising free trade since the 80s, but his candidacy took off when he started attacking Mexican immigrants and Muslims. American Jewish groups heard unsettling echoes of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories when Trump accused Hillary Clinton of meeting “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty”. Alternative for Germany started as an anti-euro party, but as an influx of Middle Eastern refugees and migrants has stoked worries about crime and terrorism, the party’s focus on Islam (which its manifesto declared “not a part of Germany”) and its popular support have jumped.

In short, there is ample reason for scepticism about whether the new nationalists can prove themselves a genuinely secular, democratic alternative to globalism.

If globalists are to regain the public’s trust, they will need to re-examine their own policies. The dislocation caused by past globalisation casts doubt on the wisdom of prescribing more. That globalisation’s winners can compensate its losers makes impeccable economic logic, but it rings hollow among those too old to retrain or move. Political capital may be better invested in preserving existing trade pacts, not passing new ones. And trade pacts may be a less effective bulwark against China than military co-operation with those worried about Chinese aggression.

Many European globalists blame the euro’s crisis on too little integration, not too much. But pressing for a more federal Europe could further alienate voters who “do not share our Euro-enthusiasm”, Donald Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland who is now president of the European Council, warned last May. “Disillusioned with the great visions of the future, they demand that we cope with the present reality.”

Above all, globalists should not equate concern for cultural norms and national borders with xenophobia. Large majorities of Americans, for example, welcome immigrants so long as they adopt American values, learn English, bring useful skills and wait their turn. Australia’s low tolerance for illegal immigration helps to maintain public support for high levels of legal entrants.

“We’ve created this false dichotomy that if you’re not for open borders, you’re racist,” says Avik Roy, president of the US conservative Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and a former adviser to Republican presidential candidates. “There is some sort of middle ground between a nationalist and globalist approach,” he argues.

Even as committed a globalist as Obama has come to acknow­ledge this. Democrats, he told Rolling Stone the day after the election, must recognise that “for the majority of the American people, borders mean something”.

 ALSO NOTE

INTERNATIONAL News = “Le Pen’s world: French nationalism at heart of her campaign” …. https://www.mail.com/int/news/us/4892560-le-pens-world-french-nationalism-heart-campaign.html#.1272-stage-hero1-1

PARIS (AP) — France — as envisioned by far-right leader Marine Le Pen — should be its own master and have no globalization issues, European Union membership or open borders. It would join the United States and Russia in a global battle against Islamic militants. Francs, not euros, would fill the pockets of French citizens. Borders would be so secure that illegal immigration would no longer fuel fears of terror attacks or drain public coffers.

le-penMarine Le Pen, far-right leader and candidate for next spring’s presidential election, delivers her New Year’s address to the media in Paris. Le Pen, a top presidential candidate, sees a “grand return” of nationalism and a new France if she is elected. Le Pen’s vision for France is no European Union, no open borders and closer ties with Russia.

It’s a vision that holds increasing appeal for voters once put off by the image of Le Pen’s anti-immigration party as a sanctuary for racists and anti-Semites. It has made Le Pen a leading candidate in France’s presidential election this spring.

A series of deadly extremist attacks, 10 percent unemployment and frustration with mainstream politics in France have helped make the party she has worked to detoxify a potentially viable alternative.

Early polls place her as one of the top two contenders. The other is former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, a conservative who would slash the ranks of civil servants and trim state-funded health care — an untouchable area for Le Pen, whose campaign slogan is “In the Name of the People.”

Le Pen believes her chance of victory has been bolstered by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and by Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential victory. She speaks with confidence of winning, saying “I will” change France.

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“This page in the history of the world is turning. We will give back to nations reasoned protectionism, economic and cultural patriotism,” she said. On Thursday, Le Pen showed up at Trump Tower in New York and was seen sipping coffee in a basement coffee shop, leading to speculation she was looking to create a bond with the U.S. president-elect. However, no such meeting was on his agenda.

Trump Tower resident George Lombardi, who said he’s been friends with Le Pen for over 20 years and is a friend of Trump’s, said the French politician attended a private gathering on Wednesday evening at his residence.

She was joined by entrepreneurs, industrialists and diplomats — people she might be able to raise money from and “that have the possibility to help her with the campaign in France,” Lombardi said. “We did not reach out to the Trump campaign. We did not reach out to Mr. Trump,” he said. “We did not go begging for any interview with anybody on the transition team because she was here to meet other people.”

Like Trump, Le Pen, 48, a mother of three and lawyer by training, envisions improved relations with Russia, which she and other National Front officials have visited. But she takes it further. “I want an alliance to emerge between France, the United States and Russia to fight Islamic fundamentalism, because it’s a gigantic danger weighing on our democracies,” she said last week.

For Le Pen and her supporters, “massive migration,” notably from Muslim North Africa, is supplanting French civilization and is at the root of many France’s modern woes. “On est chez nous” (“We’re in our land”) is a mantra at National Front rallies.

Le Pen insists she has no problem with followers of Islam, but wants people who espouse radical political ideas in the guise of religion to be put on trial and expelled before they install Sharia, or Islamic law, in France.

Traditional Muslim dress, which many in France consider a gateway to radicalization, could disappear from public view should Le Pen win the presidency. The National Front’s No. 2, Florian Philippot, says Le Pen’s platform calls for extending a 2004 law banning “ostensible” religious symbols like Muslim headscarves from French classrooms to include the streets.

Le Pen took over leadership of the National Front in 2011 from her father, party co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. Her make-over included sidelining him. His party membership was revoked last year after he repeated an anti-Semitic reference that had drawn a court conviction.

But the slogan “French First” — coined by the elder Le Pen in 1985 — remains alive under Marine Le Pen. Newcomers to France would have to spend several years paying a stipend before availing themselves of free school and health care, Le Pen has said, benefits she considers a draw for immigrants.

Nonna Mayer, a leading expert on the party, said Le Pen has “gone half-way in changing the party,” ridding it of its long-time anti-Semitic image but making Islam the enemy. “At the heart of the party of Marine Le Pen … there is something which is not really compatible with the values of democracy,” she said. “It’s the idea that one must keep housing, social benefits, family stipends, employment to the French.”

Le Pen emphatically rejects the label of extremist, proudly calling herself “a patriot.” The words “democracy” and “democratic” roll off her tongue. Yet her entourage includes one-time members of an extreme-right movement once noted for its violence. A former leader of the hard-core Identity Bloc in Nice, Philippe Vardon, joined National Front ranks and quickly won a councilor spot.

Under Le Pen, the National Front was France’s big winner in 2014 European Parliament election, taking more seats than any other French party. But she wants to do away with the 28-nation EU, which she claims has stolen national sovereignty, and ditch the euro currency, which she describes as a “knife in the ribs” of nations, ruining economies.

Her EU exit formula is “very simple:” Try immediately to negotiate a return of borders, national currency and “economic patriotism” to protect French jobs and industry and allow the French to pass laws unadulterated by directives from Brussels.

Six months later, she would call a referendum and counsel remaining in a “new Europe” if negotiations are fruitful, or advise bailing out as Britain has done. “My program cannot be put into place if we remain subjugated by European diktats,” she said. “I see the grand return of nationalism.”

Le Pen is expected to present her full presidential agenda during a Feb. 4-5 convention. But she set the tone with her New Year’s greeting, a “wish of combat” to defeat political adversaries that she contends represent the interests of banks, finance and the media.

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