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The Rise of Ethno-nationalism Around the World

Pretend you're a Trump supporter for a second. Which of these scenarios is more comforting?

--Since the last time a Republican was President, the United States has been living under a popular black, Democratic leader. The nation has shifted ever more liberal in just a decade with men now marrying men, women fighting in battle, Christianity declining as the default assumption, and your neighbor is now possibly a foreigner with a very different culture. Despite your inability to put the social genie back in the bottle, your candidate in the election managed to squeak out a few thousand votes in key states to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote by over 3 million. He does not have a mandate for change and your party's backward attitudes are leading the public to think that you're painfully, perhaps antagonistically out of touch with the majority of Americans. The country has, perhaps, been lost forever as a white, conservative Christian nation.

--After living under a black Democratic President who was not even born here, millions of illegal votes were cast to undermine a sweeping vote for conservative change. An authoritarian figure seems best able to get the momentum up to slow or stop the leftward tilt in American ideals. We must do everything possible to try to reverse the decline of white, Protestant America that has been thrown away in favor of chaos and disturbing new roles, beliefs, and values. The instinct of self-preservation is key.

Trump's America is scared. In just a few short years America has changed under their feet into something they do not understand, recognize, or want. They're now a minority and feel like visitors. They want it back to how it used to be. I'm not saying this to excuse it, simply understand it.

There is a movement rising around the world (a reactionary one and it's actually several different movements who share attitudes) that sees the progress of globalism, multiculturalism, internationalism, pluralism--basically, the hallmarks of modernity--and wants to turn back the clock. If you're an academic follower of religion around the world, this shift towards fundamentalism in many religions shouldn't be unfamiliar. Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims alike have been trying to fight off modernity for decades. Much of it is leftovers from colonialism and the Euro-centric days of empire and imperialism. Muslims seem to be much more willing to engage in violence over holding on to traditional beliefs.

What's surprising, perhaps, about this latest incarnation is that the backlash has taken on a decidedly less religious tone in the US. Outright appeals to Christianity haven't worked. But Christian-backed appeals to white-centric nationhood are doing a bit better. That goes for here in the United States and in Germany, France, England. Engagement with the outside world in terms of free trade, free movement of people, and secularism correlates to these ethno-nationalists as a way to congeal around ideas of the nation-state as a cultural and political body that can better maintain safety and identity as the world becomes more homogeneous.

In other words, people in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles probably have more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, or Tokyo than they have in common with some of their own citizens. Cosmopolitan values in Boston look a lot like cosmopolitan values in Berlin. The white supremacist in Germany looks a lot like the white supremacist in Missouri.

The most powerful motivation behind the white supremacy of England and the white supremacy of Indiana is protection. The same attitudes criticizing migration of Muslims into Europe is the same attitude criticizing the migration of Muslims and Mexicans in the US. Immigrants are not seen as bonus resources to help move the American or European project forward, they're seen as undermining jobs, the economy, security, and even the traditional white historical culture itself. Forget that both Europe and the US have birthrate problems already leading to a decline in whites. Outside peoples are easily blamed rather than recognized.

Yes, the cosmopolitan cities are more liberal and tolerant. And, yes, the cosmopolitan cities are more likely to live side-by-side with migrants and other cultures. But the nature of cosmopolitan living itself forces globalists to see immigration and pluralism for what it truly is--a powerful addition. Which is not to claim that there is no friction between cultures in cities. And I'm certainly not saying that cities are safer because of their cosmopolitanism. To the contrary, we make a shared sacrifice of living in greater danger because of the economic and social gains that happen under multiculturalism/pluralism, etc..

Cities are vibrant money hubs because of globalist attitudes towards both trade and religion. The reason people live in the city is that's where the jobs are and the opportunities are. That was true of historical Venice. That was true of industrialization 100 years ago. Money drives the mixing of culture. There is a reason you can get Thai food at midnight in a city and not in rural Alabama. And too many less educated white people fail to understand this complicated interplay of how economics drive culture. And, in turn, how the situation of white rural resentment cannot be reversed by a leader who appeals to them--authoritarian or otherwise. The very success that ethno-nationalists want to wall off and "protect" is driven by the multiculturalism and globalization they hate.

Our politics right now is failing to contend with this. While it may be true that non-urban and non-educated voters haven't shared in the riches of cosmopolitanism (inequality actually drives pretty deep into urban areas as well), the answer is not to attack multicultural pluralism to elevate the hinterlands. At the same time, urban globalists need to come to terms with this resentment over jobs and opportunities staying in cities and try to leverage a more equitable sharing of wealth with farms and small towns. The real question: are small towns willing to pay the "price" of admission to gain that benefit? That remains to be seen.