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Not Xenophobia, It's Xenonausea
Republicans beware, the people are pushing back…
[by Mac Johnson] 3/14/06
a political junkie, the Dubai ports debacle has been a bit
like the movie “Pulp
Fiction”—just one freaky story inside another, unfolding at a rapid
pace and leading to an unexpected ending that made no darn sense and yet was
really quite satisfying emotionally. I give it two thumbs way up.
for the President, he played the part of “Marcellus Wallace” in “Port
Fiction.” He talked tough at the start of the whole thing,
but really took it hard in the end. (Bada bing!) And along
the way we got to see Chuck Schumer support racial profiling,
Hillary Clinton claim to be concerned about national security,
Lawrence Kudlow play the (Arab) race card, Fred Barnes complain
that some conservatives were too cantankerous, and Rush Limbaugh
congratulate his own audience for defeating him. Now that’s
a movie that should have got an Oscar!
Johnson is a freelance writer and biologist in Cambridge,
Mass. Mr. Johnson holds a Doctorate in Molecular and
Cellular Biology from Baylor College of Medicine. He
is a frequent opinion contributor to Human
Events Online. His website can be found at macjohnson.com [go
to Johnson index]
Two of the
subplots really stood out in my mind though. One was how eagerly
disciples of “free” trade took
to attacking the conservative base as a bunch of xenophobic ignoramuses
storming the harmless castle Globalstein with torches and pitchforks.
That sort of animosity couldn’t be over just one relatively
minor business deal for Dubai. I’m sensing that the Beltway
Boys and the Wall Street Wonks have been entertaining some animosity
against Main Street and the Heartland for some time.
Whatever their motivation,
they came across as nothing less than petty and absurd. The
restructuring of the world economy
and the American legal landscape by the proponents of free trade
over the last two decades has been nothing short of a revolution—and
it was all made possible, ultimately, by the votes of the fly-over
country conservatives with whom Kudlow and company have shared
a big tent for so long.
And yet at the first
sign of hesitation or reluctance to indulge further on mom
and pop’s part, the free trade faithful
turned on them with epithets and disdain. According to some pinstriped
pundits, the most open nation on earth, at the most internationalist
time in its history, is suddenly and dismissively labeled “xenophobic,” “isolationist,” “protectionist,” “nativist,” “racist” and “ignorant” of
the fact that world is global, or some such insight. Given 99%
of everything they want, some free traders turned petulantly
on their enablers over the 1% they didn’t get.
This behavior is very
familiar to anyone who has small children. You can take them
to the park, the mall, the museum, a game,
an arcade, an ice cream shop, McDonald’s and Chuck E Cheese’s,
then after spending the whole day and $200 on them, you tell
them it’s time to go home and they explode into tears and
theatrics while flopping about on the floor calling you “a
meanie,” which is like “xenophobic,” but without
the overeducated pretense.
And what was the tone-deaf
expectation behind conservatives of any stripe, pin or otherwise,
playing the race card in an
internal political debate? Perhaps, like an abused child who
grows up to be a child abuser, the name callers thought that
they might get the same sort of instant capitulation from their
base that they are used to giving to Democrats and the media
when they themselves are accused of racism—or of just having
used the word “niggardly” in a college essay once.
Way to solidify the
base! Why not just say that Republicans are "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same.
They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party," or "The
Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people"?
When some in the party start sounding like Howard Dean while
bashing the rest of it, it could be time to take a deep breath.
The second subplot
that really stood out to me, is how clueless many in the Republican
Party are to the true source of public
misgiving about the port deal. This does not bode well for avoiding
a repeat of the debacle in the near future. I’m going to
go out on a limb here and say that the average voter does not
normally concern himself with the minutiae of cargo management
and port personnel. So why the big opinion all of a sudden over
Dubai Ports World?
Well, in my opinion
this is sort of like an argument in a marriage. It may have
started over a specific incident, but it’s
really about something else and has been building for a long
This minor uprising
was about a general feeling that, whatever merits free trade,
open borders, and corporate globalism may
have financially, they are often not good for the nation in many
ways that fail to be accounted for in the theoretical models
of economists. Free trade fails to take account of cultural consequences,
and it places no value on concepts such as national loyalty.
To the value-free traders, labor is simply a commodity, and people
are interchangeable parts. And they are entirely correct—economically
speaking. A widget is a widget, and the cheaper you can get them
made, the better.
But the problem is
that all nations are more than just economic systems. They
are each somebody’s home. And each has a
culture, and a language, and a set of common ideals that they
want protected—even more than they want another 0.3% added
to next year’s GDP. Some things matter more than the economic
opportunity cost we pay for having them. The American Revolution,
for example, was bad for the economy while it was under way.
But that was not really the point of the whole thing, was it?
The emotion surrounding
the ports deal, and illegal immigration, and outsourcing, and
homeland security and a dozen other aspects
of breakneck international economic integration is no longer
simply a quiet misgiving. It is rapidly being formed into a single
coherent message from average citizens to those in power—both
on the right and on the left- that see it as their job to make
sure the “inevitable” rise of a single world economic
entity actually happens. People are saying, “Stop!
They’re saying “OK, we’ve tried it your way
and it never seems to end. No amount of globalization, tolerance,
equalization, outsourcing, internationalism, interventionism,
human smuggling, and security risk is ever enough. There is always
a push for more—even before the last round has proven itself
wise or foolish. Treaty piles upon treaty, migration upon migration,
integration upon integration. Now people want a break and a reassessment.
They’re not sure they are against it all. They’re
just no longer sure they’re still for it.
It is not Xenophobia.
It is Xenonausea. People are sick of having the whole world
shoved down their throats at once and being told
it tastes like ice cream. They are sick of every street corner
and parking lot being filled with criminal aliens waiting to
work off the books and outside the laws that are applied so enthusiastically
to actual Americans. They are sick of pressing “1” for
English. They are sick of being at war with foreign terrorists
and simultaneously being economically and demographically bound
more tightly to the nations producing these terrorists. They
are sick of being told that the world is global or flat or smaller
or at their doorstep or all coming for dinner on Tuesday.
They are sick of hearing
that America is just an economic opportunity zone and not a
distinct nation, a culture—their home. They
are sick of being told that human beings are interchangeable
parts, that the nation-state is passé, that there are
some jobs that Americans just won’t do, that there are
some contracts that Americans just won’t bid, and that
any cost that cannot be measured in money cannot be very important.
They are sick of having the world purposely knit together in
a tighter tangle everyday and then being told we are so entangled
that America must now run the whole world and solve all its problems.
And they are sick of being called ignorant and racist and xenophobic
just for having the temerity to raise questions when abstract
trade theory conflicts with their common sense.
And they want a break.
They want some breathing room and some limits; and they don’t want to hear elitist children cry
themselves hoarse after all they’ve been given already.
If absolute globalization
really is inevitable, it doesn’t
need such a vociferous lobby. It will happen at its own organic
pace. Trying to force it prematurely will just cause a backlash
here and abroad—as it already has from Van Nuys to Venezuela
And if it is not inevitable, then it needs to be justified beyond
the boardroom and the lecture hall. It may not be something that
everyone wants to pay the costs of, whatever benefits it may
bring to our bank accounts and stock exchanges.
Soon, Congress will consider a new illegal immigration bill.
Failure to acknowledge the new mood in the country could break
the Republican Party. -one-
First appeared at Human Events Online
2006 Mac Johnson