In parliamentary elections in our motherland, the United Kingdom, nearly two-thirds of voters chose nationalist parties. Nationalist conservatives chose the Brexiteering Tories, while nationalist liberals chose the Scottish separatist party.
Meanwhile, on our shores, the leading Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, is pursuing a perpendicular strategy, assuming the tide of globalism will well up enough to wash him home.
Biden is out with a new 60-second campaign ad that attacks Donald Trump as “a president the world is laughing at,” featuring video of European heads of state allegedly mocking Trump at the recent NATO summit.
Biden’s video is only ostensibly about foreign affairs. It’s really about globalism, which has become the second greatest motivating strain in the realigned Democratic coalition, second only to identity-based social justice. In today’s “Obamaified” Democratic Party, good liberals consider themselves “citizens of the world” more than as Americans, and the very notion of “nation” is considered crude and outdated. The derision of Trump by the European salon is the meanest thing Joe Biden can say about the president. He believes his Democratic audience already views Trump as racist and sexist.
If this critique came from young intellects in the field, such as Rhodes Scholars Cory Booker or Pete Buttigieg, it would be less noteworthy than it is from Biden, the blue-collar son of scruffy Scranton, Pa. Obama chose Biden because of his appeal to blue-collar Democrats – but now even he can read the writing of the realignment wall.
The 2016 election signaled the culmination of a tectonic shift in our politics from the 60-year stasis of the New Deal era in which Democrats focused on middle-class economics and redistribution and Republicans united around laissez-faire policies. Trump’s election cemented a framework in which Democratic appeal refocused toward upscale social sensibilities, while Republicans focused on blue-collar cultural concerns. The working-class lunch-bucket voter is gone for Democrats – and the worldly, college-educated voter is what remains.
In his new campaign ad, Biden says, “If we give Donald Trump four more years, we’ll have a great deal of difficulty recovering America’s standing in the world and our capacity to bring nations together.” He’s not aiming to woo back Obama-Trump voters in places like his hometown of Scranton with that rhetoric. For swing voters, Trump’s penchant for not collaborating with European leaders is part of his appeal.
In debates, most Democrats running for president have said “climate change” is the greatest threat confronting the next president – a challenge whose solution they believe is inherently the province of multi-national bodies. They fault Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal championed by Europe and chastise him for imposing economic tariffs on China – even though their party for decades advocated the use of tariffs to protect American labor unions and raise American wages. This derision of Trump’s tariffs has little to do with economics and everything to do with worldview.
And it’s not a phenomenon limited to the United States. The political system in the United Kingdom has revolved entirely around its division over withdrawing from the European Union, another divide cleaving globalists on the left from nationalists on the right. Thursday’s stunning result in Britain handed the Tories blue-collar parliamentary constituencies they’ve never held in history – all while the party was ceding ground in upscale London proper. The liberal Labour Party is now at its post-war nadir because it has been abandoned by laborers.
Similarly, Democrats in America today worry little about tool-belt labor unions. The political muscle of the AFL-CIO has shifted to government workers who spend their days in air-conditioned offices, not on sweltering factory floors. Moreover, AFL-CIO membership was smaller when it endorsed Hillary Clinton against Trump than it was in 1984, even as the overall electorate grew by 48 percent.
In the realigned America and in the U.K., the people who vote Democrat/Labour believe the German chancellor’s opinion of the occupant of the White House is more relevant than half their countrymen’s – a development the World War II generation in both countries would never have predicted in their lifetimes.
Instead, Democrats target the support of upper-income, dual degree households found in neighborhoods full of only that. These voters all have passports, look down on those who don’t, and never worry about the negative effects of off-shoring on American wages. That global worldview is in many cases all they have in common with Democratic politicians, but it is a powerful vein of shared elitism.
Leading Democrats now regularly use the term “nationalism” as a multi-modal slur – often throwing in adjectives like “Christian” or “white” to spice it up further – while most Republicans understand the term to be a benign synonym of “patriotism,” or at most a declaration that the United States' singular interests should come before those of other nations.
In the realigned America and in the U.K., the people who vote Democrat/Labour believe the German chancellor’s opinion of the occupant of the White House is more relevant than half their countrymen’s – a development the World War II generation in both countries would never have predicted in their lifetimes. The same impulse led candidate Obama to tour Western Europe even in the heat of his first campaign, drawing enormous crowds in cities like Berlin for what conservatives dubbed an “apology tour,” seeking atonement for the foreign policy of prior American presidents.
Democrats are banking on the fact that Trump’s style may grate on just enough right-leaning voters in wealthy suburbs such as Philadelphia and Milwaukee to provide an Electoral College majority. They might be right. But they’re crossing a cultural rubicon that decades of Democratic icons from Harry Truman to Mario Cuomo would never have dared cross.
To watch the realignment of American politics, you merely have to trace the trajectories of Joe Biden's presidential pursuits. In 1988, when he announced his first candidacy for the White House, Biden derided free trade and rising foreign investment in the American economy. He said, “I want America to flat-out win,” a phrase his campaign aides in the millennial generation would today find cringe-worthy and jingoistic.
As fixated as we are on whether Trump, Biden or anyone else wins next year, the history that’s being made in this campaign is the curing of the cement around of the realignment that gave us 2016.