WASHINGTON, DC – The Dutch election was the first bright spot in a while for people in Europe and the United States who are deeply worried that the backlash against globalization will bring even more white “Judeo-Christian” nationalist parties to power. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte defeated the anti-Islam candidate Geert Wilders, who has called for closing Dutch borders, shutting mosques, and banning the Koran.
The standard way of describing political forces ranging from Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party in Hungary to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France to Donald Trump’s supporters in the United States is “populist.” Populism means a politics of the people, juxtaposed against a politics of the elites. But in the US at least, Trump’s ideology – which has little to do with traditional Republican conservatism – frames the axis of division not as the many versus the few, but as nationalists versus globalists.
In the first issue of American Affairs, a new conservative journal dedicated to “exploring the true content of our common citizenship,” Georgetown University Professor Joshua Mitchell writes that for “several generations conservatives have thought that the domestic enemy was progressivism. Now they imagine they face a new problem: populism.”
In fact, Mitchell argues, what is really happening is not a mass movement of the people, but a “revolt in the name of national sovereignty.”A revolt in the name of a connected nation, of citizens connected to one another, to their “towns, cities, states, and nation.” As Mitchell depicts it, theirs is a grounded nationalism, rooted in the wealth of voluntary associations that Alexis de Tocqueville identified as the American antidote to the abstract rational universalism of both the French and the American revolutions.