Short Views

The Nationalist Moment

Ever since the end of the Cold War, the standard of respectability in politics has been clear.  Respectable politicians are those who believe in international trade agreements, sing the praises of mass immigration, and insist that military force should be used to advance some abstract notion like democracy—whether under the auspices of the United Nations or of the White House.  Politicians who hew to this globalist consensus can be assured of favorable press coverage.  Those who challenge it will be accused of isolationism or protectionism or xenophobia or the like.  Of course, these epithets simply make it clear that the politician in question is a nationalist of some stripe.

Just before the Republican presidential debate in December, the Sunday New York Times offered a reminder of who is respectable and who is not.  The paper pictured House Speaker Paul Ryan as fighting what the paper termed “polarizing populism” and the “angry insurgent refrain blasting into the winter primaries.”  To counter all of this anger, Ryan told the Times that he favored “an agenda that’s inspirational, that’s inclusive, that’s optimistic.”  The Times mentioned Donald Trump’s campaign as the current focus of this polarizing anger, but Ryan himself said that the battle against political darkness has been going on for far longer...

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