Like many other people, I have played the game of comparing America’s current travails to those of Russia, under communism and after communism. However, today I have a new sort of analogy to present: America as developing country. Election 2016 was a choice between “India” and “Brazil”, and “Brazil” won.
The germ of this thought came from my readings of “race realists” and “white nationalists” – the real samizdat of multicultural America. Those people have been especially agitated by the globalized character of post-1960s immigration. Immigration from South America is said to be turning the United States into another Brazil – a country of massive economic inequality, with a mostly white and Jewish elite living in gated communities, and lording it over a multiracial mass of techno-peasants. And America as another India is a vision of where a truly open borders policy would lead: a billion immigrants living in poverty within the territory of the old United States, eclipsing its Christian and European patrimony, and divided into political blocs defined by religious, linguistic, and ethnic affiliation.
So the thesis is simple. A Clinton victory would have been a step towards “India”; but the Trump victory instead gives us “Brazil”.
One should not take these analogies too literally. They are crude symbols meant to characterize an America that could have been, under Clinton, or the new America that is still taking shape under Trump. More than anything, they are meant to characterize culture. America should be envisioned as still having its technology companies, its spy satellites, its global archipelago of military bases. This is about the sensibility existing within that framework of national power.
Hillary Clinton’s America was to be the continuation of Barack Obama’s. Obama’s America was feminist, Muslim-friendly, LGBT-friendly, immigrant-friendly. Its strategic conception was to agitate for democracy around the world, in order to undermine the club of authoritarian states like Russia and China. It had a nomenklatura of journalists, professors, and progressive CEOs, and a ruling class drawn from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the military-intelligence complex.
Trump’s America rejects almost all of that. America is not for “everyone”, it’s for existing Americans. Its power exists to defend American interests, not to pursue a quixotic global crusade for democracy, free trade, and human rights. Islam is an alien culture and political Islam is an enemy. The way to approach the other great powers is via negotiation, not secular evangelism. The ordinary American has been ignored and oppressed by coastal cosmopolitans, and that ends now.
Returning to the analogies: India – the real India – does not presently claim leadership of the world, but its national self-image puts it at the center of things. It was the birthplace of Buddhism, which became the religion of the east, and it experienced conquest by Islam, the most vigorous religion of the west. Modern India has a space program, a nuclear deterrent, a functioning polity, a booming economy, and a large population of restless young people. It is entirely conceivable that one day it will be the world’s major power.
Meanwhile, America already has been the world’s major power, twice. First in 1945, when it found itself occupying Japan and Germany, sole possessor of the atomic bomb, and heir to the British empire’s control of the seas; and then in 1991, when its great ideological rival gave up under the dual pressures of western economic and cultural vitality, and western military strength as displayed in Iraq.
That second American apogee produced an economic new world order run by the G-7 states, but it has been eroding for a generation now. Trump was the first serious candidate to run against it. He won, and now we see him wrestling with the legacy power structures even as he attempts to govern; but what if he had lost?
It would have been a world of Russia and China against India and America; with America still claiming to be a model for all the nations of the world, Russia claiming to defend the right of each country to decide its own path, China continuing to build its expanding sphere of influence, and India happy to partner with America for the sake of its own ongoing rise. And the Muslim world would have remained the chief strategic battleground.
America would have presented itself, not as a powerful nation defending its own existence and economic interests, but as the unique guarantor of a virtuous world order. With Hillary as president, we surely would have seen America posture as protector and liberator of the world’s women, in particular; providing a rationale for continued state-sponsored meddling in every other society on Earth, attempting to universalize the progressive social experimentation taking place within its own borders.
This would have been accompanied internally by a further move away from the traditional America of white Christian patriarchy. What would have replaced it? I think a sort of racial caste society, with a pseudoscientific metaphysic and a new-left ideology. Thus, not Hinduism, and not the Indian castes, but an American equivalent; with Hillary as America’s Indira Gandhi.
But instead – we have Brazilian America. A populist celebrity leader, speaking directly to the people from his Twitter balcony, telling them of their own greatness and how it was stolen from them by a traitorous elite. Nothing about America as the nucleus of a new world order, just plain old national pride. Again, think of the differences between real India and real Brazil. India is the homeland of Hinduism; but the only world religion with its center in Brazil is soccer.
(to be continued…?)