November 28, 2018


Welfare Chauvinism, Again (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, November 25, 2018, National Review)

For a half a second in 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders, the grumptastical Vermont socialist, was out-Bannoning Steve Bannon if not quite out-Penning Marine Le Pen. Senator Sanders, speaking at Iowa union halls with signs out front banning foreign-made cars from the parking lot (an inconvenience to Sanders's Subaru-driving hordes), insisted with great passion that continuing high levels of immigration from poor countries was part of a conspiracy to undermine the economic and political position of the American working class. Sounding for all the world like an alt-right rabble-rouser, he denounced so-called open-borders policies (creating literally open borders is an idea that has approximately zero political constituency in the United States, but, never mind the facts) as a "Koch brothers proposal" that would end up "making people in this country even poorer."

Candidate Trump concurred, eagerly.

The MFA-and-veganism crowd was appalled. Vox called the senator's rhetoric "ugly and wrongheaded," and Latino progressives began to reconsider whether Senator Sanders was the sort of firebrand they really needed. It did not occur to any of them that the self-proclaimed socialist who left behind his native Brooklyn to represent the whitest state in the Union might harbor some atavist nationalist ideas. That is a very old internal division within socialism: The classical Marxists with their commitment to international revolution ran up against the rocks of national identity (and ethnic identity) as Joseph Stalin turned toward national socialism. The great majority of socialist revolutionaries of our era have been nationalists of one stripe or another: Stalin, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Kim il-Sung, Hugo Chávez, etc. Adolf Hitler called his creed national socialism, which, ironically, is a much better description of the beliefs of his mortal enemies.

Nationalism and socialism are mutual attractants, because each is an expression of illiberalism and collectivism. In our time, nationalism and socialism both are adopted mainly as critiques of the liberal internationalism of free trade, free markets, permissive immigration policies, and other institutions and ideologies affiliated with the easy movement of people and goods across national borders. The readers of The Economist and the readers of Monocle might be best thought of as the center-right and center-left wings of the same liberal and cosmopolitan tendency, while the Sanders movement and the Trump movement represent the left and right wings of what is sometimes called welfare chauvinism, a term that is not fraught with the same historical freight as national socialism.

The problem for the Left is that, as the racism of the Right drives the center-right towards the Democratic Party, Labor politics will be swamped by free marketeers and it will end up as the Reaganite open immigration party.

Of course, all it would take is a decent person--Jeb Bush, Nikki Haley, Ben Sasse, etc.--at the top of the GOP ticket in 2020, especially if running against a Bernie, for that tide to be reversed and the party of Reagan/Bush restored.

Posted by at November 28, 2018 4:01 AM