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Commentary to Trump Voters: Drop Dead

Remember the people Hillary Clinton dubbed “deplorables”? Those were the Americans who didn’t buy into her globalist embrace of open borders, who couldn’t abide her enthusiasm for trade policies that sapped America’s industrial strength, who believed in old-fashioned American patriotism, and who didn’t understand how “nationalism” had become a dirty word.

Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary, doesn’t use any such pejorative to describe the people denigrated by Clinton. He merely calls them “a dire threat to prosperity and liberty.” [1] He says the level of danger they pose to Western civilization is comparable to that posed by the Soviets during the Cold War.

Rothman issued his fretful warning in a Commentary piece entitled “An Unpopular Approach to the Populism Problem.” The problem he’s talking about seems to be that of people in America—voters!—who don’t see the world as Noah Rothman does. The question he seeks to answer is: what’s to be done with them?

In pursuit of his answer, he brushes aside a New York Times commentary by Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk [2], author of a new book whose title hints at his own elitist view of those voters, The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It. In his Times piece, Mounk suggests that “nationalism” could be “rehabilitated” (Rothman’s word) by yanking the term away from people of bigotry and jingoism and rebranding it into a concept that encompasses a multi-ethnic, center-left internationalism. In other words, for Mounk the question is who gets to own the term “nationalism.” He thinks, without any hint of irony, that the term should belong to internationalists.

Rothman, on the other hand, views this approach as “unequal to the scale of the challenge before us.” He faults Mounk for suggesting Americans are intrinsically less inclined towards “blood and soil” nationalism than their European counterparts, who traditionally have had a more “monoethnic” identity and have tended toward a more coherent sense of nationhood. No, says Rothman, European nationalism “is no less susceptible to hijacking by populist ideologues than its American counterpart.”

But Mounk is correct, says Rothman, in identifying the root of the problem, which Rothman describes as “the unintended consequences of a globalized economy and mass migration from the developing world into the developed.” He adds that these “relatively new realities are destabilizing traditional democracies and rendering them vulnerable to the sway of what [Mounk] called ‘authoritarian populists.’” These are people, says Rothman, who display “economic and political chauvinism backed by popular demand.”

In other words, they’re angry at their lot in a world created by globalists such as Mounk and Rothman. They are responding to “the zero-sum nature of the anarchic international environment: a permanent state of competition that fosters tribal solidarity.”

In Rothman’s view, the antidote to all this, in terms of civic competition, is classical liberalism, which has absorbed nationalism and patriotism for centuries but has always feared populism. “Classical liberals,” writes Rothman, “don’t just have an aversion to populism; they think it’s dangerous.”

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But take heart, he adds, because “populists are outnumbered.” Global free trade and liberal democracy don’t benefit everyone equally, and they create far more winners than losers. The problem is that the political classes are paying too much attention to these inconsequential but highly vocal losers. The West’s political leaders have become enervated by a perception that they no longer have an enemy approaching the danger of the expansionist Soviet empire. But they do: it’s anti-globalist populism. The elites thus need to regain their “skill at championing a model of social organization unapologetically, without fear or favor.”

Rothman sums up: “If populist nationalism is to be contained, it cannot be subsumed into greater liberalism and its malcontents mollified by social welfare programs. The very idea of populist nationalism will have to be overwhelmed. As soon as advocates of unfettered freedom and commerce come to that conclusion, that necessary work can begin.”

The audacity here is breathtaking. This is the kind of talk that leaves one wondering whether the looming civic battle over the definition of America—the globalist vision versus the nationalist one—can be adjudicated through peaceful democratic means. Rothman’s “unfinished work” emanates from a perception that populist nationalism cannot be accommodated; it will have to be eradicated. And those poor folk who have been disadvantaged by the globalist onslaught, as Rothman acknowledges they have been, will just have to be marginalized until they no longer have a voice in civic affairs. This may be unfortunate, but it’s necessitated by the globalist vision of welcoming to America ever more foreigners to displace those benighted populists whose civic influence will have to be curtailed.

Unbeknownst to Rothman, however, populism is part and parcel of any democratic regime. It remains largely quiescent when times are good and civic waters are calm. It raises its head in times of turbulence or difficulty, when major economic dislocations hit large segments of the populace and lay them low. It emerges when significant numbers of citizens see the elites remaking their society without so much as a by-your-leave from the people and while displaying unconcealed contempt.

Rothman doesn’t want to accept that there is a legitimate debate about all this in America today. Instead he conjures up the specter of a mortal threat to the republic from people who are every bit as much a part of the American tradition as he is.

Indeed, in projecting his abstractionist view of America, Rothman distorts the picture. He suggests that the open-borders sensibility he reveres has been an integral part of the American experience from the beginning. This is false. Throughout its history, the United States has calibrated immigration policies based on the realities of the time. The last time America reached a proportion of foreign-born residents close to the current percentage, a political reaction set in and major curtailments were instituted. As recently as the 1970s, that number was half what it is today.

Rothman touts “the liberal capitalist order hammered out after the Second World War” as some kind of civic nirvana. It was in fact the right outcome to emerge after the profound global havoc wreaked by war and depression during the period of 1914 to 1945 and in the face of the Soviet threat to the West. But that doesn’t mean the FDR era necessarily should extend into the future forever. It’s now approaching its 75th year, and dissolving under the strain of profound change.

Further, it is simply historical sophistry to suggest that lopsided economic relationships with predatory trading partners represent the essence of America’s economic identity. Rothman needs to read up on the persistent tension between free trade sentiments and protectionist sensibilities seen in various degrees of intensity throughout the American experience, including as recently as the 1980s when “free trader” Ronald Reagan imposed 100 percent tariffs on Japanese electronics and lesser duties on Japanese motorcycles and Canadian lumber and cedar shingles. He also imposed import quotas on numerous products from numerous nations and drove hard bargains against U.S. trading partners to protect America’s economic interests.

Rothman gives the game away in discussing the forces that have riled up those nettlesome populists. He calls them “relatively new realities.” Just so. And these new realities are changing the face of America, culturally, politically, demographically, economically. We should have a debate about this—whether these changes are good for the country or not. These are definitional and hence emotional issues, and so the debate inevitably will be emotion-laden, even raucous. But it can be respectful, consonant with the Founders’ vision of a country setting its azimuth through the give and take of civic discourse.

Noah Rothman’s aim is to delegitimatize his political adversaries and thus marginalize them. It won’t work. Nothing stirs up the opposition forces quite like the kind of disdainful elitism seen in Rothman’s haughty musings on the “populism problem.” And those populists could turn out to be far more formidable than the losers of Rothman’s self-serving imagination.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C. journalist and publishing executive, is editor of The American Conservative. His latest book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century [3], was released in September.

82 Comments (Open | Close)

82 Comments To "Commentary to Trump Voters: Drop Dead"

#1 Comment By LT On March 14, 2018 @ 7:34 pm

“Global free trade and liberal democracy don’t benefit everyone equally, and they create far more winners than losers.”

If people don’t understand yet that they are losers, does that make them winners?

#2 Comment By scott On March 14, 2018 @ 8:04 pm

It doesn’t seem possible to be a blood-and-soil nationalist in America unless one is Native American. Everyone else’s blood and soil is elsewhere.

This is one concept that just doesn’t travel well from Europe to the USA.

#3 Comment By Ross On March 14, 2018 @ 9:42 pm

He makes me cringe, for I and many other Jews will be smeared with his filthy Communist Internationale musings. BTW, he and many like him advocate for open borders for Israel as well.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 14, 2018 @ 10:06 pm

“http://www.mvvm.org/bit-r.htm”

it’s been so long that anyone has referenced the Phoenix missions, I had to be reminded what it was. That anyone would even suggest employing it in the US is almost too much to comprehend. The US for all of our issues is not at war with itself. we are not even that close. And while, dealing with terrorists is important, the Pheonix program has been alive and well via the use targeted killings by spec ops and the advent of drone warfare. Successful it is not, as ISIS which as most these groups do in war zones and long term conflict remain an active vibrant force in the region.

[4]

[5]

[6]

I am not a big fan of the terrorist scare mongering. Because so much of what is terrorism is the direct result of US and EU regime change mongering , of the press against Russia should not be ignored. But story after story would suggest that our targeted killing programs — in states with who we are not war hasn’t accomplished but to move the chess pieces around.

But this is the second reference to hit my ears concerning reviving Phoenix, which was revived after 9/11 and has gone on abetted in view. But I have never heard any suggestion of its use in the US against citizens. Or perhaps, unbeknownst to most of us, it has been employed to destroy the lives of opponents and that is being mild, given what the suggestion wears on its coat sleeves.
reviving Phoenix for use against US citizens — the term is a oxymoronic play on words – there’s nothing live reviving about Phoenix.

I prefer to take a much brighter road and say,

“Nuts”.

#5 Comment By Stafford Leo On March 15, 2018 @ 8:14 am

Tell you what. I’m going to let someone else do the “contest of ideas” part.

#6 Comment By JeffK On March 15, 2018 @ 8:18 am

@fundament says:
March 14, 2018 at 3:07 pm

“…Why yes, he surely has that right. Just like we have the right to kick him the **** out of our country.”

Sure you do, keyboard tough guy/girl.

#7 Comment By Rick On March 15, 2018 @ 10:55 am

Mugs McGinnis,

“Pro-immigration activists say immigration is good for the economy, but obviously it isn’t when the immigrants are low-skilled and living off the social services and tax-exempt philanthropies.”

Have you been to a migrant workers compound lately? It’s squalor at best.

Why? So you and I can get cheap vegetables and fruits.

They’re labor is a huge subsidy to the economy worth billions of dollars annually.

That’s not an excuse for illegal immigration but they probably more than offset the cost of any services they receive.

#8 Comment By Youknowho On March 15, 2018 @ 1:00 pm

@MUgs McGinnis

Why don’t you go to California to pick up the produce that is rotting on the fields because of all the deportations?

After you do that, then you can talk about low-skilled inmigrants living off social services.

#9 Comment By MM On March 15, 2018 @ 1:02 pm

Rick: “Why? So you and I can get cheap vegetables and fruits.”

Only 5% of non-citizens working in the U.S. are in agriculture. That’s mostly unauthorized aliens, but also includes non-citizens with work permits from the government.

Let’s not overstate the economy’s reliance on agricultural workers. Where they take jobs Americans allegedly “will not do”, a dubious assertion, are in construction, hospitality, and professional and business services. That partially explains why U.S. born teenagers by and large cannot find seasonal work. They’ve been totally undercut in terms of starting wages, and are unable to develop skills, whether they go to college or not.

#10 Comment By JeffK On March 15, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

@MM says:
March 15, 2018 at 1:02 pm

“Let’s not overstate the economy’s reliance on agricultural workers. Where they take jobs Americans allegedly “will not do”, a dubious assertion, are in construction, hospitality, and professional and business services. That partially explains why U.S. born teenagers by and large cannot find seasonal work. They’ve been totally undercut in terms of starting wages, and are unable to develop skills, whether they go to college or not.”

I agree with you 100% on this one. I used to travel a lot as a consultant, and the hotels we stay at are often serviced by landscaping companies. It’s almost a given that the workers will be speaking Spanish as they do their jobs. I believe (but can’t prove) almost all of them are undocumented. Same with lots of construction laborers, roofers, etc.

These people do drive down wages (no matter what anybody says). Back in the day (70’s for me) most of the young men I knew had summer jobs working as landscapers, construction helpers, roofers, etc. This was seasonal employment. Those jobs seem to be gone now, which is a real loss to young people just getting started in their work lives. Those jobs showed the value of hard work, teamwork, the importance of showing up on time and fit for work, the importance of pleasing customers and bosses, etc. All that seems to be gone now.

Trump’s stupid wall would not be needed if ALL employers were forced to verify workers being able to work legally. You would see the problem end almost immediately if we start sending CEOs and small business owners to jail for hiring undocumented workers.

#11 Comment By MM On March 15, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

Jeff K: “You would see the problem end almost immediately if we start sending CEOs and small business owners to jail for hiring undocumented workers.”

A stiff fine will do, frankly. If being in the U.S. without permission is not a crime, neither should employing someone who is in the country U.S. permission.

It’s the legalization proposals on the Left that make no logical sense to me. If you do not prevent another 10 million people from migrating to the U.S. without permission, legalizing the 10 million who’ve done that already merely creates an incentive for the next big wave to come in and undercut wages in certain industries.

Also, the argument that the cost of agricultural goods, services, etc. will all go up if those jobs were reserved only for U.S. citizens or those with work permits, because then all workers would be subject to U.S. labor law, minimum wages, etc. that’s also a canard.

The end goal, as I’ve heard argued, is to grant U.S. citizenship to all individuals who live in the country for some period of time, whether they’re working or not. This would have the net effect of increasing the cost of all these goods anyway, rendering citizenship a meaningless concept.

At the heart of the matter, this is about votes, and prioritizing non-citizens’ employment over U.S. citizens’ employment.

#12 Comment By JonF On March 15, 2018 @ 4:26 pm

Re: Same with lots of construction laborers, roofers, etc.

In construction it very much depends on what type of job you’re talking about. The skilled trades guys who command a premium are American citizens. The low level contractors and day labor types are likely immigrants in any area where there are a large enough number of such people around.

#13 Comment By One Guy On March 15, 2018 @ 5:29 pm

Let’s be honest: The reason American companies love illegals is that they can pay them less, and the illegals will be much less likely to report violations by their employers. But of course, the GOP thinks American businesses can do no wrong.

Which party is in charge of Congress, and how can we convince them to increase the penalties for breaking the law by hiring illegals?

Which party is in charge of the Executive Branch, and how can we convince them to enforce these laws?

#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 15, 2018 @ 6:58 pm

Ross is right. These cosmopolitans harm relations between those who don’t benefit from globalist elitism.

#15 Comment By Grace On March 15, 2018 @ 7:03 pm

Jeff K: “You would see the problem end almost immediately if we start sending CEOs and small business owners to jail for hiring undocumented workers.”

Bingo! and thank you, Jeff K. But that would be too much like right. Better to demagogue the brown people who want to work instead of the evil greedy people taking advantage of the poor.

#16 Comment By Grace On March 15, 2018 @ 7:41 pm

Thrice A Viking says:
March 14, 2018 at 3:48 pm
Grace, many on the Left think that anyone who opposed Obama is racist, and anyone against HRC as his successor is sexist. The terms have been so denuded of genuine meaning as to have lost all sting. And which administration was it which decreed that the wishes of a hundred girls should be ignored so that the desires of a single boy-who-thinks-he’s-a-girl should be accommodated, do you recall?

Not to worry, Vike. Decent people still feel the sting and don’t want to be known as racists. Racists as you so kindly pointed out, not only don’t give a rap but actually take pride in it.

#17 Comment By VikingLS On March 15, 2018 @ 8:36 pm

“Why don’t you go to California to pick up the produce that is rotting on the fields because of all the deportations?

After you do that, then you can talk about low-skilled inmigrants living off social services.”

WOW. On one page you decry the undermining of unions by Reagan, and then you advocate the undermining of unions by Democrats be the near slave-labor conditions that illegal immigration gives us.

#18 Comment By VikingLS On March 15, 2018 @ 8:57 pm

People have to make choices. The Republican party can’t be the party of Ayn Rand and Jesus. The Democrat party can’t be the party of both union labor AND scabs, and NO “but the OTHER party!” doesn’t let you off the hook.

#19 Comment By Rebecca On March 16, 2018 @ 8:34 am

You get it wrong from the lede on:

Remember the people Hillary Clinton dubbed “deplorables”? Those were the Americans who didn’t buy into her globalist embrace of open borders, who couldn’t abide her enthusiasm for trade policies that sapped America’s industrial strength, who believed in old-fashioned American patriotism, and who didn’t understand how “nationalism” had become a dirty word.

The so-called ‘deplorables’ were not anyone who disagreed with Clinton, as you implied; they were the white-nationalists who had infiltrated the GOP; the people who marched with tiki torches in Charlottesville; Richard Spencer, Steve Bannon, and a host of others who used people’s economic discomfort to spread hate for outsiders.

Here’s the actual quote:

“I know there are only 60 days left to make our case — and don’t get complacent, don’t see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think, well, he’s done this time. We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

It’s pretty deplorable for you to enlarge Clinton’s basket with all Trump supporters instead of the actual bigots she described.

At the end of this piece, you say, “But it can be respectful, consonant with the Founders’ vision of a country setting its azimuth through the give and take of civic discourse.”

You could start by setting a good example, and interpreting Clinton’s actual quote with it’s real meaning instead of the fake-news meme you’re spreading here.

#20 Comment By MM On March 16, 2018 @ 12:52 pm

Rebecca: “You could start by setting a good example, and interpreting Clinton’s actual quote with it’s real meaning instead of the fake-news meme you’re spreading here.”

How about you demonstrate how 31.5 million Trump voters on Election Day, including 500,000 Obama/Sanders voters, are “white-nationalists”?

Clinton did say half of his supporters were essentially scum, and he received 63 million votes on Election Day, including approximately 1 million Obama/Sanders voters.

Where are your facts to back up Clinton’s nasty comments?

#21 Comment By John Gruskos On March 16, 2018 @ 2:11 pm

Here’s the actual quote:

“you could put HALF of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables . . . they are irredeemable”

According to Hillary Clinton, HALF of Trump’s supporters, which equals one quarter of the entire population of the United States, 81 million Americans, are “deplorable” and “irredeemable”.

But don’t worry.

Noah Rothman will use “firepower” to “defeat” the 81 million Americans who are “deplorable” and “irredeemable”.

#22 Comment By Rebecca On March 16, 2018 @ 2:44 pm

John Gruskos has some math as well as comprehension issues.

First, Clinton apologized for using the word ‘half,’ instead of some variation of ‘portion.’

But the ‘half’ is not a quarter of the US population; many, many people don’t bother to vote, and fewer people voted for Trump. I understand the impulse to bash Clinton is strong amongst Trump voters, but a column essentially asking the opposing side to be reasonable that start’s off unreasonably depicting that side is failing at by its own standards.

As far as Rothman goes, this liberal would like to know who he even is, certainly not a big thinker in the liberal world, which isn’t advocating ‘firepower’ to eliminate deplorable and bigoted views.

But I continue to be amazed at the force with which you gather yourselves all into the same group and self-identify with actual white-nationalist and neo-nazis. It’s almost as amusing as watching the GOP embrace the Russians as bosom buddies.

#23 Comment By I Don’t Matter On March 16, 2018 @ 2:58 pm

Clinton’s comments were irredeemably stupid and, ahem, deplorable. They told us more about her than the rest of her wretched campaign ever did.
Meanwhile, can MM and John Gruskos take it outside to settle on the exact calculation of the number of deplorables in this country? It makes a difference in preparation to dispose of 31.5 vs 81 million – the evil SJWs need to know how much work they have to do.

#24 Comment By kimp On March 17, 2018 @ 9:25 pm

Didn’t our current President hire immigrants to staff his golf courses and hotels, by declaring that he couldn’t find Americans to do the jobs? Doesn’t he have his Trump-branded products manufactured…not here? I will never understand why blue-collared workers somehow thought these facts would mean he was in their corner.

#25 Comment By jacqueline davis On March 18, 2018 @ 4:12 am

Deplorables were White Nationalists who infiltrated the GOP you say??? I was an Obama delegate twice and voted for Trump in 2016. No Russian influenced me on how to vote. The deplorables were past Obama supporters. Take a look at the votes in this country from Obama election years. We just had enough and more Clintons was just too much to swallow. Trump retired the Clintons and as far as I am concerned we should raise a monument to him on the Washington Mall for that reason.

#26 Comment By fundament On March 18, 2018 @ 5:47 am

“Sure you do, keyboard tough guy/girl.”

The “keyboard tough guy” you ought to be concerned about is Mr. Rothman, who is threatening to unleash “globalist firepower” to “defeat” us regular Americans. By contrast, we have no desire to unleash “firepower” against Mr. Rothman. Kicking him the f*** out of our country will suffice.

#27 Comment By MM On March 18, 2018 @ 5:25 pm

Rebecca:

I repeat, please demonstrate with factual evidence that 31.5 million Trump voters on Election Day, including 500,000 Obama/Sanders voters, are “white-nationalists”. You said you agreed with Clinton’s original statement, and added in “white nationalists” to the allegation.

I’m not a Trump voter or supporter, but I’d like a direct answer to that simple question.

Any further equivocation on your part will indicate to me that think anyone who disagrees with your POV is either “dumb” or “scum”, as Clinton herself continues to claim today…

#28 Comment By beejeez On March 18, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

So it’s anti-populist to demand that a president who lost the popular vote govern in a way that respects the population. Got it.

#29 Comment By Solutions On March 19, 2018 @ 4:18 pm

If all you presumably sensible liberals commenting at this website cannot see that by their actions the Powers That Be are trying their best to replace the populations of those who resist the Narrative with as many literally-ignorant immigrants as possible, and are practicing Anachro-Tyranny on a vast scale against the natives (England sex scandals involving Middle-Easterners of an unmentionable persuasion; refusing to report racist/religious atrocities in America), then I guess you will have to be shocked when those your representatives in the establishment hate take up arms and end the cold civil war against them. Play dumb if you like, but the victims of the hate-you-know-who campaign are not going to discriminate as to the active haters and their pet thugs versus you enablers. The target on your backs will be the same. Pray your atheism is correct.

#30 Comment By Casey On March 20, 2018 @ 2:14 am

Solutions: (England sex scandals involving Middle-Easterners of an unmentionable persuasion; refusing to report racist/religious atrocities in America)

Calling yourself a native: Let me guess. you are not of native Indian heritage, are you?

Interesting that you picked some random sex scandals: you must have missed the weekly digest of adult teachers having sex with underage boys & girls right here in our own backyard.

#31 Comment By Casey On March 20, 2018 @ 2:20 am

Rebecca: Hillary was a flawed candidate: she just seemed to be the lesser of two evils.

1. Kept hearing from her: Vote for me & lets break that glass ceiling; I am interested in solutions, not breaking the glass ceiling when I vote. I will vote for a man or a woman if they demonstrate they have it.

2. Just as the hateful rhetoric out of Turmp’s mouth is unacceptable, she should have said, that their comments are deplorable: not the people themselves regardless of how many there are/were. I rather have her call Trump a fatass: which he is.

3. And Hillary won the nomination because she did not play fair against Bernie; she cheated.

She is not her husband; and she should have stopped capitalizing on the fact that her last name is Clinton. She was a lazy candidate; did not want it bad enough.

#32 Comment By Reader On August 4, 2018 @ 6:23 pm

>> Further, it is simply historical sophistry to suggest that
>> lopsided economic relationships with predatory trading partners
>> represent the essence of America’s economic identity.

This is well stated. Although free trade is a worthy ideal, the United States has been on the losing end of several trade wars for far too long. Similarly, NATO has degenerated from an alliance into a protectorate. Rothman is so busy trying to win the argument, he forgot to assess the current state.