Multiculturalism: The New Bipartisan Mirage

Ben Shapiro recently wrote a piece admonishing the displays of fake bipartisan unity at John McCain’s funeral. He argued there are still divisions in our country between the center right and the center left, calling the bipartisan alliance on display against President Trump a “false facade of unity.” But although Shapiro may have been correct in this assessment 3 years ago, he isn’t now. And this is a good thing for conservatism.

Shapiro failed to capture the pivot Americans have made against globalization and multiculturalism, forces that dominated American politics until Donald Trump’s election. His deriding President Trump as a mere “populist” or  “reactionary” neglects the new American debate between globalism and the nation-state, traditionalism and secularism.

President Trump is under-appreciated as a force for conservatism because so-called “conservatives” like John McCain ruined the brand. Since the French Revolution, Conservatives have believed that any state beyond the nation-state, be it global politics or other multicultural practices, are the daydreams of our modern age. Rather, a people are defined by a context of particulars: their language, their traditions, and the political habits that emerge through generations of struggle and compromise. These things naturally develop a political process that is difficult to apply anywhere else. Like the first men in the Tower of Babel,  mankind is forever scattered into particular nations, while any attempt to unite them is sure to topple.

Yet the ideology of multiculturalism and globalism, always purported by those on the center -right and the left, challenged this notion. Multiculturalism dictates that western democratic processes, and a whole host of other human rights, can naturally confer to whatever people in whatever place. It derides the traditions and customs of a particular nation as archaic pieces of a tribal past. It even seeks to displace observable trends that are “cross cultural,” meaning same-sex marriage, female “liberation,” and fluid notions of gender are always colliding with traditionalist communities. Often, the next set of racists, sexists, or homophobes, are merely traditional communities attempting to keep their customs and political systems intact. They are then derided until they repent of their sins and emancipate groups that are, or have been, “oppressed.” This attempt to strip a nation state of the pride it has in its own practices is the first step to universalizing a broad-band construction of human rights for all.

Globalists found much to be bipartisan about in the wake of President Trump. Barack Obama, a self-professed “citizen of the world,” was clear in his eulogy that he and John McCain understood America in the same way as he. Obama praised McCain’s “capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values…Like rule of law and human rights,” and he maintained this was the essence of McCain’s “patriotism.” Whatever their differences, Obama mused, they both saw politics as “an opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals at home and do our best to advance them around the world.”

Obama saw McCain as an ally in a broader mission they both were a part of, namely democratic globalization.  What may have been former rivalry in 2008, was really a disagreement in means, not ends. And this did not stop with foreign policy. Just like Obama, McCain had an ever-evolving relationship to LGBT rights and affirmative action, was always a supporter of amnesty programs, and was, with force, the first to export democratic values to countries with no prior democratic traditions.The differences between Obama and McCain were more about temperament than actual policy.

Meanwhile, as the advocates of globalization mourn the passing of their maverick, President Trump’s refusal to start any more wars in the middle east shows a healthy suspicion of America’s ability to export democracy and human rights abroad. His social conservatism (even more uncompromising than President Reagan), has provided traditional and religious norms a new awakening. His focus on illegal immigration is part of an agenda to benefit all Americans, including minorities. McCain’s worldview, in so far as it was coherent to himself, instinctively recoiled from all of these trends. False unity or not, the new lines that are being drawn, which ally so-called conservatives and the left against Trump’s movement of the nation state and traditionalism, should be welcomed as a return from the clouds to a more conservative politics.