Paul, this is a real misunderstanding of the nature of democracy. People as you point out are conflicted because “Hitler” was considered a populist. The confusion is between two ideas of Nationalism or populism.
- Nationalism: believing your country is the best in the world and should beat all other countries.
- Nationalism: believing in the interests of your country and wishing not to be discriminated against by others. Proud of your country. Trying to be the best country you can be and looking out for yourself.
I believe Trump is saying the latter. He has talked mainly about fairer, better deals for America because we are being screwed.
The fact is we are being screwed. After WWII the US took major responsibility for defense of the free world, the majority of the aid given to the world, we rebuilt Europe and then helped everybody else including lifting 1 billion people in China from poverty. We continue to take the blunt end of every deal. It’s time to reset a bunch of things.
Democracies are by definition run by majority opinion. Nations stand up for themselves as every individual must stand up for themselves. That doesn’t mean they can’t stand up for others too or recognize what is fair or right and stand up for that too.
A democracy must do right by the majority of its citizens. That is the definition of democracy and if the country doesn’t stand up for the majority of its people it is a defective democracy.
Some people assume that “standing up” for the majority necessarily means opposing minorities and some kind of racist intention. Whether or not a country is racist and the extent to which it is racist is not helped or made worse by nationalism.
One question people have asked is why won’t people in a democracy simply vote themselves the wealth of the rich minority? It is the opposite concern of the majority oppressing the minorities such as Hitler did.
Democratic people’s can make long term decisions which seem opposed to the majority interest in the short term if it is perceived that it is in the long term interests of the country. So there is nothing that says that simply being nationalistic implies a country is being oppressive or stupid.
We accept certain inequality in the US because it gives us mobility and greater overall growth which results ultimately in the middle class being better off.
What has broken in America is that we have sacrificed our middle class to support third world countries. We are generous people. We want to help everyone but not to the extent it impoverishes us or destroys our future of our country or values.
I have been proud that the US has helped China rise from the ashes. For 5 centuries Chinese have been oppressed and held back by their government. Finally in the very last of the 20th century the Chinese arose from their poverty and became part of the world through the example of Hong Kong. They discovered the flaws of communism and opened themselves to the idea of capitalism. The result has been to lift a billion people from poverty. This is goodness.
However, capitalism isn’t rape. Capitalism doesn’t mean that China gets to just sell and never buy. It doesn’t mean they can steal billions from us. China steals 50 billion in IP every year as estimated by government agencies. They only sell and don’t buy from America. The resulting unfairness has meant probably a trillion or more in lost income to Americans.
Trade is the process by which you buy from me what I do good and I buy from you what you do good. The Chinese have not bought from the US but prefer to just steal everything and never buy. This is hollowing out the US.
We buy their cheap goods and they never buy our goods or services which means we lose all those jobs and never gain new ones. We simply get cheap goods and some investment dollars which is useful but not the same as actual jobs.
We need a new definition of Free Trade. We need to enforce IP laws and to demand the Chinese and other countries buy our services fairly.
Most of the world imposes a 20% fee on US imports. Most American goods sold throughout the world have a fee or tax imposed. This is true even with countries that supposedly are “free trade” partners. Trump has suggested an import tax similar to them.
That’s not the ideal solution. Ideally we would use such a tax to argue that THEY remove their fees and taxes. That is what Trump wants to do. He wants to be able to go to the EU and say your 20% import fees and taxes need to go or we put on 20% tab on everything from Europe.
The world isn’t fair to the US. That is something we’ve always just accepted being the generous people. However, we are now in a position where we have sustained 8%-12% unemployment for a decade and our people are hurting. Our middle class is being crushed.
We need to help the middle class because that’s what democracies do. The middle class needs to be given opportunity. We need to get things back into balance. Other countries are much richer than they were 50 years ago. The agreements of those days don’t make sense anymore.
The EU and NATO spend a much much smaller fraction of their wealth on defense. We support all of them to ridiculous extents. It’s unfair.
The US isn’t asking for unfair things. We want them to pay more because THEY OWE us that. We have held and helped this world get to where it is. They’ve grown up and they need to stop being children and recognize responsibility and to act fairly to us.