The American left needs its own nationalism. It would obviously be a nationalism that rejected the racism and corruption of President Trump’s version. But it would still be a coherent story about how progressive policies would protect and promote the interests of Americans above all.
It would be a story about the threats to today’s United States — climate change, global autocracy, a rising China and a plutocratic class trying to dominate the American political and economic systems. This progressive nationalism would promote itself as the antidote to these threats. And I think it would have a much better chance to win over voters than a set of sensible but disjointed economic policies.
The Democratic Party has not offered any such story in this year’s midterms, but that may be O.K. A midterm election is almost unavoidably a referendum on the governing party. A presidential campaign is different, however, and the 2020 campaign will soon be underway.
“The perception of a common national identity is essential to democracies and to the modern welfare state, which depends on the willingness of citizens to pay taxes to aid fellow citizens whom they may never have set eyes upon,” John Judis writes, in a Times op-ed I strongly recommend. “To achieve their historic objectives, liberals and social democrats will have to respond constructively to, rather than dismiss, the nationalist reaction to globalization.”
The Khashoggi case. The most bracing piece I’ve read on the apparent murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi is a Washington Post op-ed by Robert Kagan. “Welcome to the breakdown of the liberal world order the United States once upheld,” Kagan, a hawkish foreign-policy expert, writes. “You’re seeing just the beginning.”
In the story’s latest turn, the Saudi government is reportedly planning to say that rogue agents killed Khashoggi during an interrogation. The Trump administration has given early indications of accepting this hard-to-believe tale.
“More than anything else, Trump’s embrace of implausible deniability (both for himself and those he prefers not to hold accountable) has offered bad actors around the world exactly the kind of fig leaf that emboldens and encourages them to do more and worse,” tweeted the Brookings Institution’s Susan Hennessey.
But Trump is not the entirety of the United States government, and Slate’s Joshua Keating points out that presidents tend to be more protective of the alliance with Saudi Arabia than Congress does. In general, Saudi Arabia is quite unpopular in the United States, including among many members of Congress. The Saudis “may have miscalculated how deep the support is outside the White House,” Keating writes.
The case is the latest misstep by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Those missteps reveal a “headstrong, vengeful, and not very competent leader who has done an impressive job of consolidating power and a miserable job of using it,” writes Harvard’s Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy.
A critic like Khashoggi would have been relatively little threat to a corrupt Saudi regime in a pre-internet age, argues The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum: “The murders are the consequence of the clash between a 21st century technological revolution, which has made it possible to obtain and spread information in new ways, and a 21st century offshore banking revolution, which has made it possible to steal money in new ways, to hide it in new ways and to use it to maintain power.”
In Mother Jones, Russ Choma notes Trump’s many financial ties to Saudi Arabia, including investments in his businesses by the kingdom. “This all raises the question: Are Trump’s personal business interests influencing his handling of the unfolding diplomatic crisis?” writes Choma.