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From Zakaria and Clinton: smart takes on nationalism and asylum

Fareed Zakaria had a very strong “GPS” show Sunday, from his own opening, chilling, editorial about the meaning and dark power of nationalism to a long interview with Hillary Clinton in which she told us a number of things — including what a rational U.S. leader might do about the immigration issue.

I’ll just pass along a taste of both.

I’m afraid I’ve clung to an overly lexicological understanding of the word “nationalism.” Because of its root (“nation”), I’ve tended to think of it as an extreme devotion to one’s own country and its interests. (In fact, Dictionary.com backs me up on this, giving five straight definitions that reflect the simple meaning of nationalists as sort of super-patriots.)

But, obviously, when one hear terms like “white nationalism,” it’s about race, not country. And this is the form of “nationalism” that is relied upon by some to explain the appeal of Donald Trump, which is, fundamentally, to whites, and especially to angry white males who, we are told, are angry about the decline in the standing of their demographic relative to, not only immigrants and those who cross the border without papers, but uppity women and (non-immigrant) people of color in general.

I suppose, to get hep with the way the word is now used, we have to accept that in an ethnically diverse nation like ours, “nationalism” refers to both nation and ethnicity.

Before showing an interview he had done on April 12 with Clinton, Zakaria sat in his studio and opened with this:

“In 1972, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote that ‘Nationalism … expresses the inflamed desire of the insufficiently regarded to count for something among the cultures of the world.’

“The sentiment – a kind of victim mentality – can be found in almost all modern versions (of nationalism), even among rich and powerful nations.” Zakaria said, then ran through examples of nationalism as the key to political success in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, and several other places.

“In fact, despite the pose of victimhood adopted by most of these populists, nationalism is probably the most widely held ideology in the world today. Which American politician today does not speak up for America?

“The danger for liberals is that they underestimate the power of these raw emotional appeals. For centuries, liberals have assumed that nationalism was a kind of irrational attachment that would grow weaker as people became more rational, connected and worldly. …

“Meanwhile, liberals in America still don’t seem to get it. The Democratic Party continues to think the solution to its woes is to keep moving leftward economically. … This week Bernie Sanders revealed his Medicare for All plan, which four other presidential candidates cosponsored immediately. The plan will probably require two to three trillion dollars in additional annual tax revenues. At the same time, Donald Trump tweets about the Democrats’ love of open borders, and insists that he and he alone will protect the country and enforce its laws. What if Trump understands the mood of our times better than Bernie Sanders?”

I’m terrified that he might be right, or even half-right. I didn’t seriously believe Donald Trump could be elected once, so how confident can I be that he won’t be elected twice?

Zakaria said all of the above alone in his studio. Then the show aired his  interview with Clinton, recorded April 12 at the 10th annual Women in the World summit at Lincoln Center in New York.

Clinton has kept an understandably low profile since November of 2016, but she looked and sounded and seemed great, and immediately made a case for the opposite of Trumpism: analyzing problems calmly and rationally and proposing actual approaches rather than bombast and nationalist/racist dog whistles. Here’s a taste of that:

Zakaria: “When you look at the crisis in immigration, and there is a crisis in terms of all these asylum seekers, is President Trump right in saying, essentially, ‘Look, we can’t take everyone in. We have to be tough on this issue — otherwise we will be overwhelmed. And, again, is there a danger that the Democrats will cede the issue to him?”

Clinton: “Well, if that were true. But it’s not. Here’s why. If you really were serious about dealing with immigration, which I am and believe we must be, we must not and cannot have open borders. That is not in anybody’s interest. But we also can’t demagogue the issue and expect to solve the problem.

“And so, for people who want to deny there’s a problem, or people who don’t want to solve the problem but want to use it as a political issue, they’re both, in my view, failing.

“So here’s what we could be doing, and should be doing, if the president wanted to solve the problem, as opposed to keep beating it like a political drum to try to rally his supporters.

“What is asylum? Asylum is a request by a person who, under our law, has the right to come and say: ‘There are reasons why I cannot stay in my home country. I am seeking asylum.’

“Now how do you resolve asylum cases? You resolve them by, eventually, having somebody appear before an immigration judge to have their case heard.

“Now, if you really wanted to solve this problem, you would double, you would quadruple the number of immigration judges. You would hire more people, you would send them to the border, you would begin to organize a system so that people could be quickly processed in a legal  and humane way. You would not be separating families and putting babies in cages.

“Y’know, we’re really good about doing things if we decide we want to do them.

“You would have enough decent, humane housing; you would have people who were in a system – one of the worst things this administration has done is to separate these children and have no system that would tell you where they are.

“I would go to the big tech companies and say: ‘OK, you’ve got 15 days, give me a system so I can keep track of everyone. I’m not gonna lose anyone: no baby, no older person. Everybody is going to be in the system.

“And we’re gonna have enough judges down there. We’re gonna have decent housing conditions and we’re gonna start hearing those cases. That is what someone who wanted to solve the problem would do, as opposed to either denying it or politicizing it. And that’s what I hope, eventually, will be done.”

Almost kinda makes a person wish the candidate who got the most votes had won that election.

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Comments (36)

  1. Submitted by cory johnson on 04/15/2019 - 10:28 am.

    Not really. Her “solution” would still let in way too many people. We can’t take in everyone from every country just because they have kids. Even Bernie admits we need a limit. Our laws need to be changed to actually solve the problem because right now it’s way too easy to get in by land.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/15/2019 - 11:17 am.

      She didn’t say anything about taking in “everyone from every country just because they have kids.” She said we need to add immigration judges so that asylum seekers can all get a fair and timely hearing. That is not the same thing as saying they all need to get let in, and she never said they should all get let in.

      She specifically said we should NOT have open borders.

      She also said we should have an organized system for keeping track of these people. Not just separate them and later realize you have no way of getting families reunited because you failed to establish adequate recordkeeping at the outset.

      It might help if you read what she actually said rather than what you’ve already decided she must have said.

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 04/15/2019 - 07:44 pm.

        Correct. She didn’t say let everyone in but her “solution” would have that effect based on current law. Our current law provides allows for people with kids who cross the border to come in. Having more judges doesn’t solve the problem.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/16/2019 - 10:24 am.

          “Our current law provides allows for people with kids who cross the border to come in. ”

          No, it doesn’t. Admission to the U.S. is not automatic for adults accompanied by children, even if those children are U.S. citizens.

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/15/2019 - 11:54 am.

      For two years the Republicans had total control of the government. They had the chance to fix the immigration system they complain about, but did nothing. They don’t want it fixed because it makes a wedge issue for elections. Politicians love wedge issues so they can use people as pawns in their political dealings. Immigration is a perfect wedge for them because It doesn’t directly harm US citizens, but it does, it impacts America’s image in the world.

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 04/15/2019 - 07:47 pm.

        Trump wants it fixed. Many Republicans in Congress do not because their donors want cheap labor.

        • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/16/2019 - 01:40 pm.

          Trump, if you remember, hires undocumented workers for cheap labor, until he gets caught. Quite ironic from a billionaire. Darn, Trump messed up your rational.

        • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 04/19/2019 - 09:18 am.

          I doubt Trump wants it fixed. Without an immigration “crisis” there is no reason to have Donald Trump as the president. Every change he has proposed has the result of making the problem worse, especially ending foreign aid to the countries of asylum seekers.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/15/2019 - 11:55 am.

      Our population was 327.2 million in 2018.
      We could certainly accommodate 1% of that (about 3.3 million). That’s about the number of Central European immigrants in 2018.
      We typically take in about 5 million a year.
      The ‘immigrant caravan’ from Central America to Mexico is at most 50,000; a very small fraction of this.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/15/2019 - 01:24 pm.

        That should be Central -American-.
        We took in hundreds of millions of Central Europeans a century ago when our population was far smaller.

        • Submitted by cory johnson on 04/15/2019 - 07:51 pm.

          That was then. I think many of the sanctuary cities howling about having to accommodate them would disagree.

          • Submitted by kurt nelson on 04/16/2019 - 04:32 pm.

            I think you’re confusing sanctuary cities, with constitutional cities. Police are state actors, and have no authority to enforce federal law, unless of course you also want the local law enforcement to say, collect taxes too.
            That darn 10thA, confusing folks like you – but you might want to check out Printz v. United States. Justice Scalia’s majority opinion using the 10thA to stop local law enforcement from conducting background checks for firearm purchases. Local police cannot conduct federal background checks, and they cannot enforce immigration. Pretty simple really.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/16/2019 - 03:15 pm.

          Don’t think the country was any more welcoming then. The immigration laws were amended to limit the number of central and southern Europeans coming in.

          The real difference is that, back then, people were indiscreet enough to admit it was about ethnicity. They hadn’t learned to make their comments about employment or, for the more brute elements, about terrorism and crime.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/15/2019 - 12:07 pm.

      Not sure what “way too many” is defined as but with 60,000+ emergency H2B visa’s requested by the Trump administration for this summer the required number is obviously non-zero.

      By the way, what is a serious GOP proposal on immigration? Given that there was two years of GOP control of the government, what was proposed in that time ? Wasn’t there a proposal that was variously approved and then shot-down by Trump?

      How is the anti-immigrant strategy doing?

      Seems to me that this is an unprecedented rapid rise (the biggest ever!!).
      in immigrants crossing the southern border. Don’t you think that that is an indication of an exceedingly flawed approach to immigration?
      https://www.motherjones.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/blog_sw_border_apprehensions_obama_trump.gif

      It’s hard to sidestep the responsibility when you’re the one in charge.

      To me, if you really wanted to deal with illegal immigration, you address the demand–steeply rising progressive fines and even jail sentences for those doing the hiring. Who then would be calling for a loosening on the amount of immigrants?

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 04/15/2019 - 07:55 pm.

        Being against illegal activities is not the same as being against immigration. H2B immigrants actually contribute to society in many positive ways. Lots of educated people with intact families. Quality over quantity.

    • Submitted by Brian Simon on 04/15/2019 - 02:08 pm.

      The proposed solution said nothing about changing the criteria for admission. So how do you conclude it would let in “too many?” Or, perhaps your next sentence provides the answer, that it’s “too easy” to get in. Again, which criteria are too lax? How should they change? What is the expected impact on immigration?

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/15/2019 - 11:00 am.

    The ONLY thing the 2020 election is going to be about is the “Conscience of America”.

    What and who does America want to be? Right now we are flailing around trying to find ourselves. Trump is doing his best to rip us apart. The NRA debate is ripping us apart as well and has been going on too long. Immigration is ripping us apart. It is ironic that our nations heritage is based on hard working, productive, immigrants, but now we have been turned off from immigration by fear mongering based in myth. We can’t gather the willpower to maintain the infrastructure we have, which was made from tax dollars. Now the word “Tax” paralyzes us. The Democrats and the Republicans seem to think the only way to survive is if the other party is for it, we must be against it. Poison pill politics has poisoned and corrupted our politics. Many of our politicians have lost their spine and can no longer speak truth to power. We have lost our way. Once considered a respected world leader, we can no longer claim that title because we don’t know who we are or what we want to be. To be a leader you need to be trusted. The rest of the world has already told us “We can no longer “TRUST” the US.” For the last 30 years we have been on a downward slide. Our politics, our immigration policy, our vision, our truth, our respect, our civility, our language, our competence, our environment, our pay inequity, and our leadership have all been on a downward slide. We can’t even be leaders among ourselves, much less the world. Corruption is widespread and wasting America’s talents.

    The Republicans are caught in their rhetoric of “The Mexicans Will Pay for the Wall”, “Repeal and Replace Obamacare”, “Trade Wars are Easy to WIN”. It is all political claptrap, as we have seen, backed up with NOTHING. Republicans are languishing in their own stupidity because they can’t speak truth to power. The coward at the top has turned them into cowards.

    Do we, as a country, want to be an honest, trustworthy, compassionate, fair, reliable country or do we want to be a corrupt, unreliable, dishonest, racist, xenophobic, incompetent country? Vote your conscience, not your party in 2020.

    The 2020 election is going to determine the “Conscience of America”. What and who do we want to be? The rest of the world is NOT waiting for us while we try to figure this out.

  3. Submitted by Misty Martin on 04/15/2019 - 11:58 am.

    Eric: I love your last sentence in this piece. Doesn’t Hillary sound like so very . . . rational and intelligent? I am SO tired of hearing all of the lies and excuses and insults coming out of the White House and the evangelicals that are in my personal space constantly defending President Trump and his administration, NO matter what they say or do. I also didn’t believe that Trump would be elected the first time, but I am almost certain he will be elected again, and it TERRIFIES me!!!!

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/15/2019 - 12:09 pm.

    Still trying to marginalize Sanders? Seriously? Still trying to make or keep Clinton relevant? Seriously? Will you people never learn?

    Is the need to keep Clinton and “centrism” relevant so strong that you’re willing to legitimize a manufactured crises?

    We should create a more efficient immigration system for people who want to enter and live in the US… WOW, pure genius that. And who ever said Clinton doesn’t have any original ideas?

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/15/2019 - 12:21 pm.

    “When you look at the crisis in immigration, and there is a crisis in terms of all these asylum seekers….”

    We have been told by the “news media” and the “Leftist politicians” that there is “no immigration crisis.” It was an “manufactured crisis.” This phrase has been repeated multiple times.

    However – the same playbook will be used in the coming years. “We cannot possible ship these people out of the country.” Then “legal status” and ultimately citizenship to follow.

  6. Submitted by John Evans on 04/15/2019 - 01:25 pm.

    You really must examine Zakaria’s rhetoric more carefully, because he performs a some very clever and very dishonest propaganda maneuvers here. Let’s look at the quote that makes up the 11th paragraph of your story. Bear with me, because this is really breathtaking.

    First, Zakaria says, “…liberals in America still don’t seem to get it. The Democratic Party continues to think the solution to its woes is to keep moving leftward economically.”

    In reality, polling shows a large majority is solidly in favor of much more liberal economic policies. But you know who’s against that? Wealthy media people like Zakaria and his employers, CNN, WarnerMedia and AT&T, and their corporate sponsors.

    In this sideways crack, he paints the ascendant party as somehow clueless and helpless, but rather than make any forthright assertion, he pivots immediately from the economic to a social issue and casually repeats Trump’s lie that Democrats “love” open borders.

    Has any Democratic candidate advocated open borders? Sanders certainly does not, and Zakaria knows it. Yet he slyly creates this straw man, then implicitly smears Sanders in the next sentence.

    This looks more like right-wing talk radio than journalism, and you do a real disservice by promoting it.

    • Submitted by Steven Bailey on 04/15/2019 - 06:50 pm.

      Very well said! HRC gave us Trump and with her DNC and DCCC super friends they could do it again. What they are calling leftward is 60’s centrism.

  7. Submitted by JUDITH MONSON on 04/15/2019 - 01:42 pm.

    “Almost kinda makes you wish. . .” You’ve got to be kidding! Anyone with a 3rd grade education would tell you what a wonderfully articulate and “knowing” woman Hillary Clinton is. Listen to Fareed’s interview. If you didn’t vote for her, or if (worse!) you didn’t vote at all, shame on you. This country got exactly what Trump promised — the stirring of the pot of anger and resentment and prejudice and mistrust. And I helped elect him too. I too was entertained on TV by his outrageous behavior, not unlike as a child we went to the county fair to see the grotesque display of the lamb with two heads. As Hillary Clinton said, this isn’t about our electing the right leader. This is about each one of us doing what we can to further democracy and human rights and decency on our very own doorsteps. I plan to do better the next 2 years and beyond. I may limp and walk with a cane but I don’t intend to stay on my couch and bemoan and blame others the way I did 4 years ago. If we can’t vote for our own leadership of ourselves personally, each one of us — on a daily basis — what else is there? As Henry David Thoreau once said (and I paraphrase), “be a majority of one!”

    • Submitted by Steven Bailey on 04/15/2019 - 07:26 pm.

      HRC in an interview on the murder of Momar Kadafi ” we came , we saw, he died!”. this is still on youtube. Kadafi was not on any security list according to our own CIA and NSA. The complete destabilization of Libya which happened under Obama at the direct intervention of Secretary of State Clinton is on of the major causes of historic refugee crisis in Europe.

  8. Submitted by Tim Smith on 04/15/2019 - 02:27 pm.

    So nationalism vs pc, identity politickers who embrace shame and class warfare and America as back seat to the world? Nice battle for sure.

  9. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 04/15/2019 - 07:05 pm.

    The latest wave of economic hardship and violence making people leave Central America has a lot to do with HRC’s actions in Central America as Secretary of State. They seemed to leave that out of the interview.

  10. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 04/16/2019 - 08:07 am.

    Clinton loved the idea of open borders before she lost the presidency. Like a great many liberal politicians, loose borders make for labor arbitrage, lower wages for working people, which brings more money to industrialists, corporate executives and shareholders, and billionaires, so more money for liberal politicians.

    So it’s either nationalism, or selling out to a neoliberal global corporatist state where locals don’t get to make local decisions about the air or land or water? I will take my chances with nationalism before I side with neoliberals selling out the American people and the land to big global money.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2019 - 09:22 am.

      I’m not fan of Clinton but she never advocated “open” borders. Everyone has always advocated a controlled immigration regime. The difference with Republicans and Trump is that they actually don’t want ANY immigration regime, they just want to seal the borders.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 04/17/2019 - 08:13 am.

        When she was advocating for Obama’s TPP etc trade agreements she openly dreamed about a Western hemisphere without borders. Great for capital, great for corporations, insecurity for working people.

        As for Trump and his supporters, they mostly want to put an end to illegal immigration, not immigration generally.

        The fact that for many liberals, any attempt to stop illegal immigration gets treated like it is racist, is one more reason I cannot support dems generally.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/17/2019 - 11:00 am.

          Dude, NAFTA was about opening the borders to trade, not unrestricted immigration. And Republicans voted for all of those deals.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/17/2019 - 11:10 am.

          And by the way, no one condemns ANY or EVERY attempt at controlling immigration as “racist” and if you think they do your voting rationale is seriously flawed. Again, no one anywhere is saying that we shouldn’t control immigration. Read this article, as inane as it may be, this is an entire discussion about controlling immigration, sure you can see that? Where in the this interview do you see Clinton suggesting we dismantle the borders and go home?

          Those of us who condemn racism when see it, are condemning racism when we see it. Trump’s anti immigrant rhetoric as been couched in a variety of different types of bigotry and racism.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/18/2019 - 09:55 am.

            It is important to remember, however, that laws regulating immigration in this country have long been racially motivated. The Hart-Cellar Act, which was intended in part to remove racially discrimination from the immigration laws, is still attacked for letting in too many (more than one, probably) people from the “wrong” countries.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2019 - 09:36 am.

    I guess I just don’t see anything remotely interesting in this interview. To the extent they discuss “solutions” its a mundane list of progressive ideas that people like Clinton have been blocking for decades. And as Mr. Evans pointed out the interview itself is framed in a disingenuous narrative that actually legitimizes Trumps rhetoric.

    I would point out that it was Al Gore and his “reinventing government” project back the 90s that privatized many of the then INS responsibilities and functions. That project added so many layers of complication and expense to the immigration regime that undocumented immigration became the only option for millions.

    I mean, if all these ideas are so “smart”, why haven’t Democrats been fighting to implement them for decades?

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