Trump divides US over what it means to be American

时间:2018-11-03 单词数:8360

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Nations, as the scholar Benedict Anderson put it, are “imagined communities”. America’s crisis is that its imagination is breaking into two. On the one hand there are Donald Trump’s nationalists. On the other are the globalists. These are people who want “the globe to do well, frankly not caring about our country so much”, in Mr Trump’s words. His definition is both offensive and ingenious. It also plays with fire. The improvised explosive devices mailed this week to George Soros, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton might as well have been addressed “globalist”.

正如学者本尼迪克特·安德森(Benedict Anderson)所言,国家是“想象的共同体”。美国的危机在于它的想象正在一分为二。一边是唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)的民族主义者,另一边是全球主义者。用特朗普的话来说,后者希望“全球都过得好,坦率地说,他们不那么关心我们的国家”。他的定义既无礼又巧妙,同时也是在玩火。上周邮寄给乔治·索罗斯(George Soros)、巴拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)和希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)的简易爆炸装置,也可以说是针对“全球主义者”的。

The looming midterm elections are a custody battle over which side owns the American creed. Mr Trump’s critics embrace the term patriotism but declare nationalism taboo. Yet there is nothing inherently racist — or violent — about being a nationalist. Ask most people in India, or Ireland, and they will unashamedly own the label “nationalist”. Their republics were forged after the word was coined. The US republic was born earlier. In the late 18th century nationalists called themselves patriots. In fact, most American liberals are nationalists. They believe their country’s creed is better than others. It is thus worth fighting for. Splitting semantic hairs is no answer to Mr Trump’s challenge.


Nor is it much use pointing out his factual errors. Mr Trump says that the 7,000-strong caravan of central Americans heading to the US border is riddled with Middle Eastern terrorists and members of drug gangs. Moreover, the caravan is being led by Democrats. People such as Mr Soros are funding the advancing mob. They are trying to stage a globalist takeover, which makes them un-American. Each of Mr Trump’s claims is disprovable. But that is not the point. They play into his base’s imagination. Mr Trump’s nationalism is not gentle. But even the mildest sort requires some suspension of disbelief. As Anderson put it: “Members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the mind of each lives the image of their communion”.


Mr Trump’s skill is that he is driving the Democratic imagination further into a globalist corner. The caravan’s slogan is “people without borders”. Any Democratic attempt to meet Mr Trump halfway — by saying US borders should be enforced — risks being branded as a sellout to a racist policy. Yet that was what Mr Obama did. More illegal immigrants were deported during Mr Obama’s administration — more than 2m — than all his predecessors combined. Today that stance would be untenable. Mr Trump has succeeded in turning immigration, a core part of the American story, into a question of theology. Republicans believe in jobs for people from somewhere. Democrats support mob rights for people from anywhere.


It is a contest of faiths over the essence of what it is to be American. It cannot be won by facts and figures. The Democratic hope is that Mr Trump will be repudiated at the ballot box next month. In the meantime, they would prefer the conversation to go away. That cannot work for long. Whether Republicans lose or retain the House of Representatives on November 6, Mr Trump is running a dress rehearsal of his 2020 re-election campaign, which will be about culture, not fiscal policy. As the US economy slows down, Mr Trump will only step up his attacks on globalists. They will need a better story than they offer today.


People often wonder why Mr Trump bears particular animus towards Germany’s Angela Merkel. The answer is that Germany’s chancellor is what Mr Trump would like the Democrats to be. Ms Merkel’s career has never recovered from her decision to allow in roughly 1m Syrian refugees in 2015. Her move was textbook globalist. It implied the German government cared as much about people from far away as their own. Mr Obama let in fewer than 20,000 Syrian refugees. Even that was too much for Mr Trump. His vice-president, Mike Pence, when governor of Indiana, said he would not let a single Syrian family enter the state. The next two years are only likely to be uglier.

人们常常想知道,为什么特朗普对德国总理安格拉·默克尔(Angela Merkel)怀有特别的敌意。答案是,这位德国总理恰好是特朗普希望民主党人成为的样子。在2015年决定允许约100万叙利亚难民入境之后,默克尔的政治生涯一直尚未从中恢复过来。她的举动是标准的全球主义。这意味着,德国政府对遥远地方的人和对本国国民一样关心。奥巴马只接纳了不到2万名叙利亚难民。即便这个数字,特朗普也觉得太高了。他的副总统迈克·彭斯(Mike Pence)担任印第安纳州州长时曾说,他不会让一个叙利亚家庭进入该州。接下来的两年只可能会更丑陋。

Democrats reacted badly to Mr Trump’s ownership of the word “nationalist” because it hinted at a silent “white”. Mr Trump is corralling Democrats into a Merkel trap. The Democratic instinct is to say that the American creed welcomes all-comers of any faith and colour. At its best that is what America stands for. The same is true of Ms Merkel’s Germany. But it comes at a steep political cost nowadays. Democrats will need to reach deeper into their imagination than she did.