Nationalist movements today are remarkable for how international they seem to be — with their power factions attracting fans and allies not just across borders, but across oceans.
For example, France’s rightist leader, Marine Le Pen, who has a very good chance to become her country’s next president, speaks with fealty to American and Russian presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. And her National Front gets millions of dollars in key loans from a Moscow-based bank.
She also backs the United Kingdom shunning the European Union. “I support Brexit with all my strength and all my heart,” Le Pen has said, “as a free French woman.”
Here at home, British anti-Brexit politician Nigel Farage became a political celebrity, appearing with Trump at rallies. He’s described as an unofficial adviser to the president, who ran on the slogan “America First.”
Recently, Farage told the recent Conservative Political Action Conference: “What happened in 2016 is the beginning of a great global revolution.”
For perspective: All the big democratic, communist, fascist, royalist, ethnic, religious and anti-colonialist movements of the last century featured outside alliances. Earlier, France’s role was a big deal in the first years of the American republic.
But nationalism itself — which for a long time simply served as a synonym for patriotism — now is usually identified narrowly in mainstream parlance with right-wing ideology.
Targets of its slogans include globally based economics and the semi-sovereignty of multinational corporations. These days, national movements win their popular support by opposing unfettered immigration, focusing on Muslim extremism, and inveighing against big government.
The question is how America First fits in with a stronger France, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, India, Britain or the Philippines.
There are tactical overlaps. Cambridge Analytica, a privately held company heavily funded by Long Island billionaire and Trump ally Robert Mercer, also mined data and spread messages on behalf of last year’s successful pro-Brexit campaign.
Last week, former President Bill Clinton — a lightning rod for attacks on globalism because of his trade deals such as NAFTA — spoke publicly about the new nationalism.
Clinton made this pitch before a Brookings Institution audience: “People who claim to want the nation-state are actually trying to have a pan-national movement to institutionalize separatism and division within borders all over the world.
“It’s like we’re all having an identity crisis at once — and it is an inevitable consequence of the economic and social changes that have occurred at an increasingly rapid pace.”
Trends that made the Clintons seem to have come and gone. Watch Europe for the next phase of the Trump-Putin-Le Pen-Farage story as elections there proceed.