A wave of anti-globalism has swept democracies across the world, threatening to dismantle the post-WWII world order. Politicians no longer divide between right and left, but between open and closed.
While authoritarian regimes have routinely used protectionist policy, industrialized powers have prided themselves on the benefits from the free movement of people, trade, and ideas. The United States has been dedicated to geopolitics since it emerged a superpower in the 20th century. Since its birth, America was a country of immigrants founded upon French Revolution ideology with aspiring economic freedom that would carry wealth across the world .
At the turn of the 21st century, the US had formed an asserting security alliance in NATO, spread economic cooperation through the Bretton Woods monetary system and GATT, and fostered healthy immigration within its own borders: from 1990 t0 2000 job growth was 22 million as 13.2 million immigrants arrived. The US-hegemonic order was international, classically liberal, and flourishing. What happened?
Today a different image appears. Donald Trump attacks Syrian war refugees as war , Bernie Sanders slams the TPP free trade agreement as a corporate scheme, and the military has become overextended and expensive, in 2011 it’s spending was more than the next 13 countries combined ($711 bn). Yet NATO was meek and the UN dysfunctional when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Be warned! The status quo is crumbling.
Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Netanyahu has moved Israel far away from the tolerant democracy it once was. Trump in America, Le Pen in France, Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands, and many more have rallied people to fanatically disregard the very tenants of Western liberalism that bore the geopolitical order that has kept peace since WWII.
Poland illustrates the new partition separating politicians, “The old left-right divide in this country has gone” bemoans Rafal Trzaskowski, the country’s former Secretary of State. Poland’s leadership revere the Catholic Church, fulminating against “gender ideology”; yet, the ruling party offers budget-busting handouts to parents of multiple children with climbing taxes to accommodate. There’s a splash of right and left. Although, the Party’s stronghold lies in its scrutiny of foreign-owned businesses and staunch rejection of Muslim refugees. It is closed-sided.
The debates between tax cutting conservatives and free spending social democrats still exist, but other questions have become more potent. Should we welcome immigrants or keep them out? Open up to foreign trade or protect our workers? Allow cultural change or resist it?
The phenomenon with Brexit should not be ignored, “Right wing Brexiteers who saw the EU as a socialist superstate joined forces with left-wingers who saw it as a tool of global capitalism.”
This is how Bernie and Trump could be stationed on the same end of the open-closed spectrum. Both decry the TPP, both are anti-immigration, and both rail against the nation’s elite. Thus, both are riding the “closed” populism wave that has swept the world.
The rise of populism is harmful to the stability of democracy in the world. Free markets, the Rule of Law, civil liberties, and many more American values that Republicans and Democrats champion have created a web of US-led stability through neoliberal institutions. These institutions may come and go with different Presidents in the White House, but the bipartisan values of classical liberalism stay the same. Globalism is Americanism Mr. Trump.
Freedom House reports we are in the midst of the worst decline in democracy around the world in the last 40 years. To reverse the tide, closed-sided populists must be stopped. Conservative politicians in the US have an opportunity to lead the charge by emphasizing the value of free markets, healthy immigration, and military strength through allegiances.