Law & the Courts

Twenty-First-Century Politics: Patriots vs. Transnationalists

Detail of the 1964 World’s Fair Unisphere in New York (Photo: Evan Spiler/Dreamstime)
Surprisingly, patriotism has stronger transnational appeal than transnationalism.

Politics in the Western world is undergoing a “big sort” that could upend major parties in several nations that date their existence to the industrialization of the 19th century. While it’s no sure thing, conservatives stand a good chance of forming the new winning coalitions that will emerge from this kaleidoscopic change.

That should be encouraging news for conservatives from Europe, North America, and Latin America who will gather in Miami this weekend for a conference that is attempting to get off the ground a group called “Conservatives International.”

There is a heavy lift involved, however. To win, conservatives must embrace wealth-creating free markets that are complemented by an unabashed patriotism based on civics and cultural values. Economic growth and the solidarity of patriotic fellow feeling will appeal to enough voters from all groups and races.

If they keep the social contract in mind, conservatives should be able to beat an opposite political coalition that would probably be built around knowledge workers with spotty attachment to the nation-state, along with immigrants and racial and gender groups who have been taught over and over that they are victims of society.

These two new large umbrellas — let’s call them the “Patriots party” and the “Transnationalist party” — could be the ones left standing after economic, cultural, and political forces sweep away, or at least reshuffle, many of the political parties created in the West in the 19th century.

In Germany, the Social Democratic party was formed in the 1860s to protect workers, the same reason the Spanish Socialist party was created in Madrid in 1879. In Britain, the Tories in their present form emerged from the split that was created when Robert Peel repealed the protectionist Corn Laws.

In America, the Republican party and the realigned Democrats emerged in the 1850s after the Whigs and the Jacksonian Democrats broke up, not only over slavery but also over tariffs and immigration.

The three catalysts for the reorganization of parties today are also linked to trade and immigration: the international division of labor, large-scale migration, and sustained attacks on national identity by cultural Marxists who have taken over our universities and arts.

Most members of the knowledge elite who will form the Transnational party will have been taught to disdain the nation, the family (“the patriarchy”), and the church. Their anthem is John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and their flag is the rainbow one that proclaims that the family is whatever arrangement you want.

Most members of the knowledge elite who will form the Transnational party will have been taught to disdain the nation, the family (‘the patriarchy’), and the church.

These same cultural Marxists have drilled into immigrants and their children that they must resist assimilation into the host culture and retain their loyalty to the old country — or develop new loyalties to subnational groups created by the bureaucracy: “Hispanics,” “Asians,” and perhaps soon to come, “Mena” (Middle East and North Africa).

The cultural pedagogy has dovetailed with globally integrated markets, which reward global knowledge and relationships. As German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel put it at a conference in Berlin last week, “The lawyer in Boston has more in common with the lawyer in London and Frankfurt than with the farmer in Iowa.”

These forces can also encourage not a little hubris regarding compatriots left behind in America’s “flyover country” or “la France profonde” by the global division of labor. One can hear the condescension for them drip off the tables at dinner parties in Georgetown, London’s Islington, or Berlin’s Scheunenviertel.

At first glance it might appear that the Patriots party would be at a disadvantage in strategizing across borders. Unlike Marxists, who have a global blueprint, conservatives champion not just the national but the local and provincial as well.

But the conservatives gathering in Miami this Friday and Saturday can exchange ideas on how to repair the social fabric with a national identity that is civic. That means a return to the assimilationist policies that the U.S. so successfully employed in eras of high immigration, such as the 1850s and the 1890s through 1910s, but dropped after 1965.

This stress on patriotic feelings can help not only with the globalization within but also the one without. Using the bully pulpit of leadership to stress national solidarity with fellow citizens should remind CEOs that their long-term success is not divorced from that of their nation.

A cultural identity will be a harder sell in Europe, where nations have usually been ethnic, not creedal, but the Patriots party must avoid the temptation to base its patriotic bonding on race or ethnicity — or economic policy on isolationism and protectionism. If they give in to such sentiments, they risk the recent fate of Marine Le Pen, who was crushed in a French vote that was a laboratory experiment on how the Transnationalists can win.

It augurs well for the Miami conference that it will be led by visionaries such as José María Aznar, who in the 1990s led Spain’s conservatives out of Franco’s “throne and altar” mysticism; Jason Kenney, a parliamentarian who in this century gave Canada’s Conservative party the greatest minorities vote in its history; and Daniel Hannan, a British politician known as the mastermind behind Brexit.

Hannan tirelessly put his sublime mastery of the English language to work to articulate why the Leave campaign did not mean a Little England shutting itself off, but the contrary, a return to its maritime trading traditions.

The Brexit vote was the other laboratory experiment on how the Patriots can crush the Transnationalists going forward. Patriots will keep winning when they show that freedom is not only good in itself, but the best way to prosperity and unity.

Mike Gonzalez — Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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