Ross Douthat says that the true divide in Western politics is now between globalists and nationalists — and this divide is tribal. He explains the identifying markers of the Cosmopolitan tribe, i.e., what makes them different from the nationalist tribe (among them: their “out group” is Evangelical Christians). Douthat says there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this. A propensity for tribalism is part of human nature. More:
But it’s a problem that our tribe of self-styled cosmopolitans doesn’t see itself clearly as a tribe: because that means our leaders can’t see themselves the way the Brexiteers and Trumpistas and Marine Le Pen voters see them.
They can’t see that what feels diverse on the inside can still seem like an aristocracy to the excluded, who look at cities like London and see, as Peter Mandler wrote for Dissent after the Brexit vote, “a nearly hereditary professional caste of lawyers, journalists, publicists, and intellectuals, an increasingly hereditary caste of politicians, tight coteries of cultural movers-and-shakers richly sponsored by multinational corporations.”
They can’t see that paeans to multicultural openness can sound like self-serving cant coming from open-borders Londoners who love Afghan restaurants but would never live near an immigrant housing project, or American liberals who hail the end of whiteness while doing everything possible to keep their kids out of majority-minority schools.
They can’t see that their vision of history’s arc bending inexorably away from tribe and creed and nation-state looks to outsiders like something familiar from eras past: A powerful caste’s self-serving explanation for why it alone deserves to rule the world.
Strong stuff. Read it all. He’s right, though. I talked recently to someone who lives in West Virginia. This person told me stories of the state’s chronic poverty, social dysfunction, and hopelessness, and said that Trump signs are everywhere. Even if you’re against Trump, you had better recognized that he didn’t come from nowhere. As David Frum says in a good essay about the future of the GOP:
None of this is to rationalize a vote for Donald Trump in November 2016. I won’t cast such a vote.
But once safely excluded from the presidency, Donald Trump will no longer matter. His voters, however, will. There is no conservative future without them. There is no quitting the questions: How to win them back? How to deliver them solutions that will actually improve their lives? How to speak to other Americans too, enough to form a presidential majority again? How to remain true to core convictions while emancipating a great national party from the radical dogmas and crass self-seeking of a narrow-minded few? Hard questions all. The right answers win the right to govern—a right more precious and more precarious than all the grim consolations of “I told you so.”
I think Trumpism without Trump would be a powerful force. By “Trumpism,” I mean simply nationalism, in the sense Douthat’s talking about.
Anyway, back to Douthat’s point. His column made me think about why it was so damn satisfying to watch Christiane Amanpour, the epitome of globalist tribalism, melt down on air interviewing Ray Finch, one of Nigel Farage’s lieutenants, shortly after the Brexit win was announced. You might not have seen her spluttering hysteria when later she spoke with Brexiteer Daniel Hannan, who kept his cool and made her look like a screaming mimi:
Shorter Christiane Amanpour: How dare you?!”
On a different interview, she spoke with the UK’s foreign minister, a Remain campaigner. The ever-irate Amanpour demanded that he explain why Cameron blundered into putting EU membership to a vote of the British people. The minister explained that European elites no longer enjoy the confidence of the people they govern, and that the Cameron government believed it was right to consult the British people about their future in the EU. It was not the result Cameron wanted, he said, but the British people have spoken, and we must abide by that.
Amanpour was angry at this. The minister had to explain to her that Britain is a democracy, where the people are sovereign. What’s so fascinating about that exchange is that it never seems to have occurred to Amanpour that the people should have a say in the way they are governed in their own country.
This is the way of her tribe, the Cosmopolitans. They don’t see what’s happening around them. This past weekend, a reader of this blog passed through town, and asked if I had time for a cup of coffee. I did. He’s in his thirties, and lives in a sizable city in another Southern state. When I found out what he did for a living, it seemed to me that he is either upper middle class or close to it. I tell you that so you’ll have some context for what follows.
Somehow we got to talking about the moral collapse of the white working class in this country, and how underappreciated it is by elites in government, journalism, and elsewhere. He said that in his office, there are some white working-class women who do clerical work. They’re all in their twenties, unmarried, with one or more children, and a series of boyfriends. Tattoos all over them. Though this man’s city is in the Deep South, and is a fairly religious place compared to other cities its size elsewhere in the country, religion is an alien thing to these young women.
The man was not putting them down. To the contrary, he was simply observing the Charles Murray-ish chaos in their lives, and wondering how on earth they get out of this hole they’ve dug for themselves.
We agreed that the Sexual Revolution has devastated the working class. My visitor said that it bothers him a great deal that elites who push the Revolution in media and elsewhere seem completely oblivious to the way their values ruin the lives of working class people.
It’s not just the Sexual Revolution, of course. Which is Douthat’s point. The Cosmopolitans are blind and entitled. I say that as someone who moves comfortably within the Cosmopolitan world, and whose tastes and sensibilities are much more Cosmopolitan than Nationalist. But I come from a Nationalist world, and live in that world now. It has its self-inflicted problems, heaven knows, and prejudices against Cosmopolitans. But the one thing these Nationalists get right about the Cosmos is that they, the Nationalists, are completely invisible to them. To the extent that they ever cross the Cosmo mind, it’s as objects of scorn and derision.
Amanpour asks one of her guests, either Daniel Hannan or the UK foreign minister, can’t remember which, what is wrong with the Leave people. Don’t they like their strong economy? It has not occurred to the stateless, rootless, global-citizen Amanpour that people might prefer their own customs and sovereignty to getting rich. Having no loyalty to any particular place, Amanpouristas find the love of one’s people, land, and traditions simply bizarre. So they denounce it as racist. I don’t believe this is cynical. I think they honestly believe it. And here is why it’s tribalism: they see anyone outside the tribe as barbarian. The fact that they see themselves as sophisticated and advanced instead of mere partisans of a different tribe, with their own prejudices and limitations, is what makes them so hard to take. Technocratic liberalism is their religion, and its god is a jealous god.
UPDATE: Colonel Blimp, swinging for the outfield bleachers:
I wish to goodness Wilhelm Ropke were around to see this. This convinced Christian, one of the few economists who understood human beings as people rather than adding machines, fled the Nazis for life in exile in Turkey and then in Switzerland. One might have thought he would have been drawn to the Adenauer/Schuman dream of a united Europe in response to this. Yet, he was dead against it, because, for him, the centralisation of political and economic power and the obliteration of local loyalties and identities would reap a baleful toll. And that was his answer to pretty limited ideas for integration in the 1950s, nowhere near on the scale of today’s EU.
I’ve said it before, but the governing class of the western world, and the upper middle classes below them are warriors for a crazy Kantian worldview that they are utterly resolved to impose on everyone else. They believe religious faith, cultural traditions, provincial and national loyalties and the very idea of ethnicity are idiotic concepts from a benighted past that must now be forgotten. The particular must, MUST, be annihilated; only the universal must remain, and this ‘universal’ is a unified anglophone global civilisation of consumer capitalism, sexual libertinism and obliterated nature. Imagine the whole world united in a Manhattan ziggurat a la Ghostbusters. Imagine it as part hedge fund, part orgy, part Glee concert. Imagine peoples who resist being bombed and droned into submission with Madonna providing the mood music. Imagine Clinton and Trump as Zuul and the Marshallow Man. Imagine fighting these gnostic zealots with all the strength you’ve got because your back is to the wall and they’ll give you no quarter anyway.