There is context. The “nation state” is a nineteenth-century European development – a country where a distinct cultural or ethnic group inhabits a territory and has formed a state that it predominantly governs. This is more than a “country” – a country doesn’t need to have a predominant ethnic group. This is a state linked by blood and soil. Napoleon’s conquests of the German and Italian states kicked this off. In reaction to his moves soon everyone wanted to defend their pure blood and sacred soil. There were revolutions all across Europe, until, finally, everyone settled into their place of nationalistic pride, with “their” people, and armed to the teeth to defend their pure blood and sacred soil. That made World War I inevitable. That made World War II inevitable. The “nation state” and “nationalism” came close to destroying the world.
Someone had to step in and stop this nonsense. Claire Berlinski has noted that we stepped in:
Modern Europe – liberal, democratic Europe – is a creation of the United States… The United States built the modern order upon an architecture of specific institutions, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the International Court of Justice. In Europe, it built NATO and the European Union. This global order is in many respects an empire – a Pax Americana – but it is far more humane (in Europe, at least) than the European empires that preceded it.
The statesmen who built this global order were animated by two beliefs, one idealistic, the other realistic. The first belief: certain moral values are universal and liberal democracies best reflect and cultivate those values. The second: in international affairs, anarchy reigns. Power is the only coin that matters.
But that power wasn’t going to be blood and soil nationalism:
Post-World War II Europe was designed by the United States to be the other half of the West, and Europe’s success since 1945 has been a global advertisement for liberal democracy. The collapse of liberal democracy in Europe would represent the failure of our own ideals. The collapse of European security would mean the end of liberal democracy.
Today, neither Europe nor the United States are wealthy or powerful enough, alone, to sustain and expand liberal democracy in a world increasingly dominated by China, Russia, and anarchy. No European country alone, nor any of the American states alone, can maintain the liberal global order. A United Europe, however, and the United States, are together strong enough to sustain and expand the liberal tradition and democratic values.
This was a better idea:
Americans died, suffered, and labored assiduously for generations to make of Europe what it had never been before: a united zone of peaceful, prosperous, liberal democracies – and the other half of the West. The rescue and reconstruction of Europe was our greatest moral and political accomplishment, towering above any other in our country’s short history. Our grandparents destroyed the most monstrous and tyrannical regimes humanity has known and then proved that our system of governance, or something much like it, could be built and made to work on that very soil.
That is, this could work if everyone worked together – thus the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the International Court of Justice, and NATO and the European Union. NAFTA is the same sort of thing. All trade agreements are. Nationalism had ruined everything. The UN Charter was drafted at a conference in 1945 in San Francisco and was signed at the conclusion of that conference – our idea. The UN now meets in Manhattan. The United States had stepped in. Nationalism had been poison.
Donald Trump is not a student of history, and two weeks before the midterm elections, Politico reports that he decided his base would love this:
President Donald Trump on Monday evening proudly asserted that he was a “nationalist” – a designation some of his fiercest critics have previously wielded against him as an attack on what they deem nativist policy pursuits by his administration.
“You know, they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist,” Trump said at a campaign event in Houston, where he rallied voters to support Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in November’s midterm elections.
“And I say, ‘Really? We’re not supposed to use that word,'” Trump continued. “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. Okay? I’m a nationalist.”
As the crowd in the Houston Toyota Center roared with applause, the president continued: “Use that word. Use that word.”
It was blood and soil time:
Trump’s remarks followed a rebuke of “globalists” whom he accused of putting other nations’ interests ahead of those of the United States.
“Radical Democrats want to turn back the clock. Restore the rule of corrupt, power-hungry globalists,” Trump said. “You know what a globalist is, right?”
He explained: “A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about our country so much. And, you know what? We can’t have that.”
We are not “citizens of the world” after all, and Politico notes that the words “nationalist” and “globalist” carry extra weight now:
The former can refer to the promotion of self-governance and one country’s interests. But it has also been associated with the alt-right movement, which is broadly supportive of the president’s agenda but has occasionally been accused of harboring white supremacist tendencies. And the latter label, which can imply a more economically connected world of multinational alliances, is sometimes employed by racist commentators on the Internet in a conspiratorial sense as a euphemism for Jewish people.
But here Trump wasn’t concerned with the Rothschild family or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
In his frequent campaign trail stops for Republican congressional candidates ahead of the midterm elections, the president has repeatedly emphasized the national security risks posed by illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, and warned of violent gangs and drug runners who he claims threaten American communities.
Earlier Monday, Trump took to Twitter to proclaim that a caravan of migrants en route to the southern U.S. border was a “National Emergency,” writing online that “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.”
That’s just good politics:
On Monday, Trump launched a fresh attempt to deflect blame for the more than 5,000 migrants from Honduras who were making their way north through Mexico. The president and his top aides say the rising number of Central Americans attempting to enter the United States without authorization presents a winning campaign issue, by showing Trump is right to call for stronger border control.
Trump sought to fan public fears on Twitter, suggesting without evidence that the caravan contains gang members and terrorists from the Middle East.
“Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!” Trump tweeted. “Remember the Midterms!”
Gang members and terrorists from the Middle East are terrifying, even if they’re not there. Can anyone prove they’re NOT there? That works:
Republicans trying to preserve the party’s 51-49 Senate majority said they were thrilled to see Trump lead the charge on immigration, an issue they say could be a powerful motivator in the conservative states dominating this year’s map.
“Democratic opposition to strong immigration security has been a very effective issue for us in Senate races this year,” said Steven Law, head of the Senate Leadership Fund, a conservative super PAC. “I don’t see how the spectacle of a massive horde trying to bust our borders on the brink of a national election remotely helps Democrats.”
There’s no response:
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement over the weekend saying Trump was “desperate to change the subject from health care to immigration because he knows that health care is the number one issue Americans care about.”
That’s lame but there is this:
Some Democratic strategists and former congressional aides said the party was missing a chance to pin the rising border numbers on Trump and hold him accountable for falsehoods he has promoted about the issue.
The president, in his tweets Monday, said the caravan from Honduras was a national emergency, and he told USA Today that he would send troops to the border: “As many as necessary.” He also tweeted that aid would be cut to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, from which a record number of families have traveled to the United States.
However, officials from the Pentagon and State Department said they had received no new directives from the president.
Trump is not sending in the AC-130 gunships and the A-10 “Warthogs” to mow them down from the sky and kill them all, and the State Department can do nothing:
President Trump vowed Monday to cut off or “substantially” reduce aid to three Latin American nations, voicing fresh frustration as a growing caravan of migrants that originated in Honduras continued to make its way toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S.,” Trump said in one of a string of morning tweets on the subject. “We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.”
It was not immediately clear what payments Trump was referring to or the extent to which he could act without congressional approval.
And they already acted:
In 2014, when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol stations, Congress authorized a $750 million aid package to the Northern Triangle countries to boost economic growth and improve public safety to help create conditions that would prevent the exodus of migrants.
That hasn’t worked, but experts said the strategy would take up to a decade and require continued investment and oversight under a coordinated strategy that was upended when Trump succeeded President Barack Obama.
Now that can never work, because Trump is a nationalist:
Asked about his claim that the caravan includes “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners,” Trump told reporters to go look for themselves.
“Go into the middle of the caravan; take your cameras and search, okay?” Trump said. “You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Eastern – you’re going to find everything. And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country. We want safety.”
In his morning tweets, Trump also expressed frustration with Mexico’s military and police, saying they appear “unable to stop the Caravan” and that he has alerted the U.S. Border Patrol and military to what he termed a national emergency.
An “alert” is not action. He has no authority to act anyway. Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey sum up the situation:
President Trump has settled on a strategy of fear – laced with falsehoods and racially tinged rhetoric – to help lift his party to victory in the coming midterms, part of a broader effort to energize Republican voters with two weeks left until the Nov. 6 elections.
Trump’s messaging – on display in his regular campaign rallies, tweets and press statements – largely avoids much talk of his achievements and instead offers an apocalyptic vision of the country, which he warns will only get worse if Democrats retake control of Congress…
The approach in many ways seeks to re-create the 2016 playbook that lifted Trump to the presidency, in which cultural flash points and controversies, like the specter of mass illegal migration, helped energize Trump’s supporters.
That’s the plan:
The overall strategy, Trump advisers and political operatives said, is to paint a portrait of a chaotic, dangerous world – with Trump and Republicans as the panacea.
“Voter satisfaction is the enemy of voter turnout,” said Bill Stepien, the White House political director. “What’s changed is that while voters are still happy in the direction the president is leading the country, they’re angry at the way Democrats treated Justice Kavanaugh, they’re scared when they hear Democrat after Democrat talking about socializing medicine and Medicare-for-All, and voters are plugged in as the president spends more and more time on the campaign trail.”
Over the past several weeks, the president has begun focusing on a “Jobs Not Mobs” message – portraying Democrats as “too dangerous to govern,” a threat to Medicare and Social Security, supporters of voter fraud, and funders of caravans of migrants.
That may be a misreading of things, not that it matters now:
Many of the president’s assertions are false or clear distortions of the facts. Trump is incorrect, for example, in his claim that Democrats will “destroy” both Medicare and Social Security, while he has made both programs “stronger.” There is also no evidence that Democrats are paying for the migrant caravan snaking its way north toward the southern border, while voter fraud remains exceedingly rare.
But that has not stopped the president from repeating such false or misleading claims, in part because advisers say his key midterm strategy is to fuel Republican turnout by riling up his most avid supporters, often through frightening and emotional appeals.
Maybe so, but there’s this:
“As Election Day approaches, the president is running the only play he knows: fear,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). “He’s seeking to suppress the vote of those who oppose him with the threat of prosecution and trying to motivate his supporters with round-the-clock talk of the caravan. This strategy reflects Trump’s bankruptcy of ideas and a realization that it’s not mobs going to the polls, but moms – lots of moms.”
But then there’s this:
Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally and former House speaker, has begun calling the caravans “an invasion,” and hosted a Facebook Live chat Monday under the headline “the #caravan attack on America.”
“Voters are motivated by fear and they’re also motivated by anger,” Gingrich said in an interview with The Washington Post. “When I see 7,000 people marching toward my border carrying Honduran flags and arrogantly demanding that we allow them to cross, the first reaction I feel is anger. They are trying to invade my home.”
That would be the Fatherland of course. It’s that blood and soil thing again, and there’s this:
At last Thursday’s rally in Missoula, Mont., Trump alleged without evidence that Democrats were paying migrants to enter the United States so that they could vote for Democratic candidates.
“A lot of money’s been passing to people to come up and try to get to the border by Election Day, because they think that’s a negative for us,” Trump said. He added that Democrats like “the illegal immigration onslaught” because “everybody coming in is going to vote Democrat.”
George Soros is paying these folks to get to the border by Election Day so they can immediately vote for Democrats?
That’s the word, and don’t argue with any of this:
The president went on to posit that some of the migrants attempting to cross the border into the United States were “hardened criminals” and “bad people,” but again declined to cite any evidence.
When a reporter asked him for an example, he dismissed her question with, “Oh, please, please, don’t be a baby.”
And don’t argue with this:
In an Oct. 19 rally in Mesa, Ariz., Trump said, “Democrats want to give illegal aliens free welfare, free health care, and free education. Give them a driver’s license. Give them a driver’s license. Next thing you know, they want to buy them a car. Then they’ll say the car’s not good enough, how about a Rolls-Royce?”
The hypothetical morphed into something more the following day at a rally in Elko, Nev. No longer was this idea simply the “next thing” Democrats were going to dream up – by then, the Democratic proposal he mentioned had purportedly already surfaced.
Referring to Democrats, Trump said, “They want to take away your Second Amendment. They want to raise your taxes. They want to open your borders – let people in, illegally. And then they want to pay for those people for health care, for education. They want to give them cars. They want to give them driver’s licenses. I said last night – we did a great, great rally in Arizona last night – and I said last night, what kind of car will they supply them? Will it be a Rolls-Royce?”
Do you think that’s just not true? Don’t be a baby, but Kevin Sieff and Joshua Partlow report from the real world:
As thousands of Central American migrants continue their long walk to the U.S. border, prompting daily condemnations from President Trump, the Mexican government has had to decide: Are Trump’s threats enough to trigger an intervention?
For now, Mexican police have merely stepped aside as the caravan has passed, watching first as migrants took rafts across the river that separates the country from Guatemala, and then as they continued by foot along the main highway, chanting, “Si, se pudo!” or “Yes, we could!”
That response appears to have been conveyed to the White House, and now, once again, Mexico’s most important bilateral relationship appears to be on shaky ground.
“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States,” Trump tweeted. He later said on Fox News, “I don’t know what’s going on with Mexico. It looks like the people are walking right through the middle of Mexico. So I’m not exactly thrilled there either!”
But the issue here is whether Mexico should support what now seems like Aryan nationalism from Trump and about half of America:
Detaining or deporting the caravan’s members would certainly please Trump, but it would flout Mexican immigration laws and further the impression that the government is taking orders from a hostile White House.
So far, the Mexican police appear to be conscious of that tension and the perception of their presence. Riot police have stopped to pose for pictures in their gear, as if ready to combat the migrants, letting international television crews film them before retreating.
Maybe the pictures will do, but this is a high-stakes gamble:
The caravan risks a wider confrontation with Washington if Trump threatens to cut off aid to Mexico, as he has threatened to do in Central America, or attempts to seal the border with the U.S. military. Every day, billions of dollars in trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border, and any attempt to block those flows could inflict serious economic harm on Mexico. The newly renegotiated North American trade agreement hangs in the balance as it has yet to be ratified by lawmakers.
We could cut off all trade and travel and ruin their economy – we sell them nothing at all and we buy nothing at all from them. Our exporters could take the hit. Some farms and corporations would go under, but they’d understand. Mexico supplies forty percent of our produce, but who needs fruits and vegetables, and who really likes salads? Trump could shut it all down, to keep those seeking asylum out of our Fatherland.
But not everyone thinks like Trump:
The Mexican government’s dilemma is worsened by the fact that the incoming government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned on a gentler approach to migration, saying it would not hunt down migrants as if they were criminals.
“You have Trump’s government pressing Mr. Peña Nieto’s government to deter or stop the flows, but on the other hand, you have the pressure of public opinion and the new government saying you should treat the newcomers with dignity,” said Daniel Millan, a former spokesman in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government who is now a political consultant. “They are walking a tightrope.”
And they are going to do what Trump thinks is wrong:
Mexico’s incoming foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Monday on Mexican radio that it would be a “big mistake” for the Mexican government to use its armed forces to try to stop the caravan.
“It would be inadmissible in Mexico to use the army against these people,” he said, adding that he didn’t think Peña Nieto’s government was considering that step. “We would not be in agreement with that at all.”
After a meeting Monday with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa, he added that his administration would offer more work visas for Central Americans. “We are going to invest in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” he said.
At least someone wants to make the larger world a better place, for the good of everyone concerned, but it’s best to humor the Aryan nationalists up north while doing that:
Peña Nieto addressed the caravan on Friday when he said, “Mexico does not allow people to enter our territory illegally and much less so violently.”
That day, on the bridge connecting Mexico and Guatemala, Mexican police fired tear gas at the migrants, closing the official border as television crews and photographers captured their actions. But just next to the bridge, police watched as thousands of migrants crossed the border illegally by raft, settling for the night in the main plaza of the border city of Ciudad Hidalgo.
Still, the images on the bridge, at least for that moment, appeared to impress conservatives in the United States.
“I want to thank the Mexican officials and the Mexican police for putting their lives on the line,” said conservative commentator Laura Ingraham on Fox News on Friday night.
Laura Ingraham got played. Her white nationalism is her problem, and then there’s Donald Trump’s favorite news show:
Fox & Friends interviewed a panel of independent voters on Monday morning, and asked them about the caravan of Honduran immigrants that has been turned into a political issue ahead of the midterm elections. The caravan has been a fixture on Fox & Friends this month…
“How big a problem is that, that the United States has uneven immigration laws?” Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy first asked.
“I think uneven immigration laws are a problem for any country,” the first independent voter replied. “And I think our immigration laws need to be modernized and updated. But this country is founded on immigration. And all of us come from immigrants.”
Doocy warned that the caravan could reach 20,000 people by the time it gets to the border, asking what the U.S. should do about it.
“This is the mightiest country on the planet, I think we can handle a caravan of people, unarmed, coming to this country,” the man replied.
“So let them in?” Doocy asked.
“Well, I’m saying to process them properly,” he said.
This was not going well:
The woman on the panel added the immigration crisis is the result of the failure of the two parties to engage in the issue and stop treating it like a “political football.”
“There’s a humanitarian crisis taking place in Central America,” another independent voter said. “And yet, this issue gets turned into a complete political football. There’s very little honest discussion about what’s actually happening, it gets turned into talking points.”
Another independent agreed: “Treating this as an ‘invasion’ is a bad idea and it’s going to end horribly.”
“People have to realize these are human beings coming here, and there needs to be a real solution offered in dealing with it.”
Where have all the pure-blood and scared-soil nationalists gone? They’re in the White House, but they may be nowhere else. Some people understand history. For almost two centuries, nationalism was poison. It still is.