COMMENT

Revolt in the West

Flip Buys on the broader trends that propelled Donald Trump to victory in the US

The world recently woke up to a United States where the Republican Party is the strongest it has been since 1922. Not only did 60 million Americans unexpectedly elect Donald Trump as President, but the Republicans are also in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, 33 of the 50 states have Republican Governors and the legislatures of two thirds of the states are controlled by Republicans. In addition, they are now going to appoint conservative judges, which can influence politics for years.

These events form part of a wider political landslide in the West. The first shock for the governing classes was the Brexit result in the United Kingdom. However, this swing to the right has been evident for a long time in Eastern Europe, where conservative parties are governing countries such as Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. And conservative parties are now growing rapidly in liberal countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, France, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, and even Germany.

These leaders are already talking about establishing a kind of European Christian league as a counterbalance to the European Union. This is not merely rumour, as upcoming elections in Austria, the Netherlands and France will show. Nobody can predict whether the European Union is going to survive this political change. More countries may perhaps “take back” their independence à la the United Kingdom.

The question is, what are the underlying reasons for this landslide? Superficial and hostile analyses aimed at downplaying and ridiculing supporters of it as ultra-right racists and unskilled thickheads, simply succeed in boosting the momentum. As it is, many voters feel the liberal elite are wise guys looking down on them and simply abusing them as mindless voters. And it is no use blaming “populist” leaders such as Trump and others who are merely saying what people are thinking. These leaders are simply riding the wave; they did not create it.

The short answer is that this is largely a democratic revolt by ordinary voters against the globalist policies of the established power structure. This was foreseen way back in 2004 by authoritative political scientists, including Professor Samuel Huntington – a Democrat of Harvard – in his book Who Are We.

Division

Huntington warned that Western elites were dangerously losing contact with the public, in particular regarding issues such as patriotism, identity and foreign policy. According to him, the public are concerned about personal safety and community interests such as language, culture, religion and national identity. The elite, on the other hand, advocate policies such as globalisation, open borders, open immigration, liberal social values and the interests of non-Western minorities in Western states.

Therefore, the public’s Western patriotism is in opposition to the elite’s liberal internationalism. The liberal elite is small but powerful because of their overrepresentation in the ruling classes, the media, the business elite and the arts. This denationalised elite see themselves as cosmopolitans. Their values and behaviour differ sharply from the patriotism and national identification of the broader public.

Huntington saw the widening chasm between the groups as the cause of the disturbing decrease in trust in democratic institutions. He therefore warned against the tendency among the political classes to ignore the general public’s preference for national interest, identity and culture.

Anger

Over the course of time, the divide between the ruling liberal internationalist established order and the patriotic Western public became too big. The result was a deep discontent and even anger. A growing section of the public feel that the politicians are serving only their own interests, that the media want to manipulate them, that political correctness wants to prescribe what they may think and say, and that the global economy is impoverishing them.

In the US, people furthermore are beginning to feel that their children are being abused to wage remote wars for the benefit of the elite’s political objectives instead of national interest. The result can now be seen in a West-wide democratic revolt against the liberal agenda of the established order.

The public are finding resonance with the rightist parties’ point of view that the elite are serving international interests rather than their own national interests, that open borders and large-scale immigration are threatening their way of life, and that their rulers are sacrificing Western values for the sake of internationalism. Brexit, the European continent-wide swing to the right, and the Republican victory in the USA are the political revenge on the internationalist elite in politics, state bureaucracy and the media.

What next?

The question is what is going to happen next? It is clear that the credibility of the media and the political established order has suffered a huge blow. Previously reliable opinion polls got it wrong spectacularly with Brexit and the Trump election, possibly because the elite unconsciously tried to reflect their own opinions or began believing themselves. The liberal internationalists will have to start respecting the democratic will of the Western public if they do not want to be pushed aside.

The insulting references to “ultra-right undemocratic populists" the elite use to smear conservative politicians are simply going to increase the anger and alienation. The political classes will have to do the unthinkable: they will have to listen to the dreams and fears of their voters, and they will have to carry out their voters’ democratic will if they do not want to be kicked out. The same goes for the media, who too often want to dictate to their users with political sermons instead of respecting and informing them in a balanced way.

Horizontal alliance

Emerging conservative politicians are already considering a kind of “horizontal alliance” of countries and communities sharing the same values, but without being prescriptive. This is opposed to the “vertical division” between competing power blocks, as in the old and new Cold War. They believe it can transcend political, cultural and religious borders and promote world peace and the international economy. In this way, the USA, the loose “Christian European League” to be established, Russia and even countries such as India and China could co-operate with one another without the arrogant and ethnocentric insistence on the adoption of liberal Western values.

Political leaders in the West will have to take cognizance that the world might be changing under their feet. The liberal elite’s project to “make the world like their countries and their countries like the world” could founder on the rocks of public opinion. Ordinary Westerners desire a moderate Western revival rather than a liberal Western domination, or the self-demolition of Western culture. To the elite, their liberal ideology is of prime importance; to the public, their Western culture and way of life. Thís is the new West.

Flip Buys is chairman of the Solidarity Movement.