Not wanting to be left out, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated the White House’s view of things during a combative Tuesday speech in Brussels, where he mocked European Union bureaucrats and the multilateralism championed by figures like Macron. “Our mission is to assert our sovereignty before the international order, and we want our friends to help us and to assert their sovereignty as well," Pompeo said, voicing what sounded like a rallying cry for the West’s nationalists. "We aspire to make the international order to serve our citizens, not to control them. America intends to lead now and always.”
Pompeo’s Republican Party would once have been the first to hail free markets, the cross-border reach of American capital, and the laissez faire vision behind an integrated Europe. Now, with Trump in charge, it has wholly retreated under the banner of blood-and-soil nationalism, echoing the politics of Europe’s far right — rather than the continent’s traditional center-right establishment.
In response, centrist Democrats like former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have urged allies in Europe and the United States to hew themselves to the right on immigration in order to not be accused of encouraging mass migration.
Others believe it’s a fool’s game to allow the right to set the terms of the debate. “We must state clearly our belief that our nation has the right to control who comes in and out at our borders,” wrote Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) this week, “and knock down the Republican strawman that any Democrat who believes in fixing the immigration system and calls for humane policies actually believes in ‘open borders.’”
Fernando Haddad, the leftist politician Bolsonaro defeated, told Weigel that Brazil was "harvesting the consequences of the neoliberal project’s failure.” Brazil’s former ruling leftist party was associated with a failing status quo; elsewhere in the West, social democratic parties have slumped in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, their leaders unable to capture the imagination of voters angry about an economic status quo for which the center-left was partially to blame.
That may change. Sanders and his cohort discussed ways to build a populism that doesn’t need to hide behind walls or whip up fear of immigrants.
“We need to demonstrate that the only way the many can regain control of our lives, our communities, our cities and our countries is by coordinating our struggles along the axis of an Internationalist New Deal,” Yannis Varoufakis, a former leftist Greek finance minister who also was in Vermont, wrote in an op-ed earlier this year. “While globalized financial capital can no longer be allowed to tear our societies into shreds, we must explain that no country is an island. Just like climate change demands of us both local and international action, so too does the fight against poverty, private debt and rogue bankers.”
According to Weigel, Varoufakis urged Sanders to run for president. Other prospective 2020 challengers are making similar noises. In a recent speech, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) linked the challenge of inequality with the political struggle against corruption and authoritarian governments elsewhere.
"This combination of authoritarianism and corrupt capitalism is a fundamental threat to democracy, both here in the United States and around the world,” Warren said. “It is a threat because economic corruption knows no borders ― and in a global economy, corruption can provide a strategic advantage.”
Like Varoufakis and Sanders, she called for a revamping of globalization, where trade deals are negotiated more in the interests of workers. She rooted a “defense of democracy” in strengthening international labor rights, closing tax havens for the mega-rich and breaking up the brewing monopolies of the world’s most powerful multinational companies.
But Trump remains staunchly backed by a vociferous base. And far-right parties may be on the cusp of major wins in European parliamentary elections next year. In the wake of the protests in France, Macron’s centrist ruling party slumped further in the polls against the far right.
“Right now the racist, violent, homophobic and sexist far right is organizing,” said Ada Colau, the left-wing mayor of Barcelona, at the summit in Vermont. “We need to amplify all the alternatives we are building out in the world.”