President Biden spoke to the nation last week from Philadelphia in what he deemed a warning to the threat of the nation’s soul. In what seemed to be political base bashing versus a national address, Biden generalized Trump supporting Republicans as violent threats to democracy and the minority amongst Americans.
Understandably, Trump’s base is more outraged than ever, and even right of center Democrats are steering clear of what many are calling the most divisive speech given by a president in American history.
We know that MAGA is an acronym for “make American great again,” once used by Reagan and repurposed by Donald Trump’s presidential run. But besides being a political slogan, MAGA represents a movement. Although the MAGA movement’s overall goal may be to make America great, how the movement works towards that goal is most important.
Although there are a multitude of agenda items within the MAGA movement, the biggest piece – which is also the most criticized – is a laser-like focus on nationalism. Often conservatives refer nationalism as an ‘America first’ agenda. After decades of globalism where countries around the world have benefited from our free, capitalistic, and democratic system with nothing in return, the America first and Trump opinion is that our globalism policy of engagement has run its course and it’s time to bring everything back. From troops to jobs, the primary goal is to keep as much industry, economy, and investments in the U.S.
The fear around nationalism exists because the media perpetuates the idea that nationalism is the same as racism, anti-semitism, and hate. Often you will hear critics of nationalism refer to Hitler or Mussolini, both of which used nationalism to bolster the legitimacy of their crimes and didn’t truly embrace a nation-first policy. In fact, history teaches us, that the so-called nationalist policies of Hitler or Mussolini were actually dictator-first policies and had little to do with making their countries better.
Nationalism is not an ‘extreme MAGA’ phenomenon and our policies of global engagement, especially with China and the Middle East, have been criticized widely for years by some of the leading experts on international relations like John Mearsheimer. The other piece of the nationalism myth is that it’s an “American only” phenomenon and the rest of the world sees it as a threat when in fact the nationalist ‘phenomenon’ is happening all over the world.
If we look to political happenings around the world there are several large indicators that other major countries are following suit. The biggest and most obvious example is Brexit. The people and government of the UK were tired of footing the bill for the other EU countries that hardly contribute. An overwhelming majority of British citizens voted to bring everything back home.
In the same part of the world, Scotland has been trying to secede from the UK for several years to be independent and self-governed. In the most recent election in France, the nationalist conservative candidate Marine LePen lost to Emmanuel Macron by a hair but demonstrated that a huge population of French citizens would like to revive French nationalism versus European loyalty.
The globalist expansion post-Cold War was based on the idea that the United States and other western countries could use economic power within the global market to influence the political landscape of other countries around the world. However, as we’ve learned the hard way with China and Russia, using investment and trade to influence democracy doesn’t work. In fact, other than driving down the cost of some items, the foreign policy of engagement has done little to help America prosper and left us on the hook to support other countries.
The easy access to information and more focus on international policy these days have driven people around the world to re-embrace nationalism as the effects of globalism are now severely impacting Americans at home.
Understanding the global wave of nationalism we must ask – why do American politicians insist on pushing the narrative that it's extreme and dangerous? The MAGA movement and supporters are no different than the Scottish secession supporters, the pro-Brexit British, and half of France who voted for LePen. Not to mention the dozens of examples not mentioned here.
Maybe American politicians are so used to flying in private jets that they have forgotten the number one rule aboard an airplane- always put your own mask on before assisting others. That is what nationalism is, and that is what millions of Americans want to see. There is nothing extreme, dangerous, or violent about pushing to prioritize America over global engagement.
Sadly, the future of a nationalist America first policy shift in Washington is unlikely. Some blame sinister behavior and fraudulent personal financial practices by politicians overseas. More reasonably, Capitol Hill is filled with politicians who lived the Cold War and the necessary globalism that followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall and simply are too lazy or too uneducated to understand what moving from a global to a national focus would entail.
One thing is for sure, looking at the entire picture reaffirms why our Founding Fathers included Article V in our Constitution. Our government has become so large that American people and domestic improvements take a back seat to global initiatives that only help the political and global elite. The politicians on Capitol Hill with one foot in the grave continue to govern with the same pre- and post-Cold War policies that no longer work. Without term limits it is unlikely for anything to change.
In other words, without a Convention of States, the United States of America will continue to lose while helping other countries win in the global arena.