Why has Trump never been a postmodern candidate?

TEHRAN, Sep. 15 (MNA) – In some articles about Donald J. Trump's controversial stances on various issues during his presidential campaign speeches, a few analysts have been arguing for months that Trump is a postmodern candidate, since he rejects all norms and rules of politics.

For instance, owing to the fact that he has not raised almost any money or he would like to ignore being endorsed by GOP leaders and so on. These are few of many examples that have led a number of analysts to come to the conclusion that Trump is a post-modern candidate. But, what do these positions and statements really describe? Modernism, postmodernism, or neither? Can showcasing the kids instead of Republican Party's big names, be regarded as a postmodern approach? Is insulting rival presidential campaign nominee - by using taboo words like "world-class liar" and "crooked" - during a presidential debate in accordance with post-modernist rationality? What should a person like this be called, while he is mocking and scoffing at all political norms and rules?

It seems, for a more detailed study of the issue, we first need a more precise definition of both modernism and postmodernism. As a matter of fact, the emergence of modernism can be traced back to religious wars of Reformation and Counter-Reformation in the 16th-17th centuries that paved the way for ratification of the Peace of Westphalia signed on 24 October 1648, which brought to an end thirty years of war between Catholicism and Protestantism. Some characteristics of modernism in conformity with the Westphalian paradigm include: Nation-state building and the fact that every state has sovereignty over its territory and other states have to respect the principle of territorial integrity. Self-sufficiency is the second one that modernist rationality proponents are trying to achieve. National security is the third characteristic and according to modernistic approach, a broad set of threats has surrounded national security. Frankly speaking, national security is a concept which developed mainly in the U.S. immediately following World War II, and generally means "the ability of a nation to protect its internal values from external threats." That is to say, national security is the protection of the state and citizens through different means: militarily, economically, and diplomatically. In short, in the realm of modernism, the strategy of national security becomes more and more a threat-based strategy.

The other cornerstone of the modernistic approach is so-called "controlled border" and border restrictions. Indeed, in accordance with modernism, every sovereign state has intended to impose harsh immigration restrictions on geographical boundaries. Strictly speaking, in modernism, we are facing harsh immigration policies and a severe treatment by the border patrol members, which makes border crossing very difficult. Therefore, in modernism, the rules of geographical boundaries are drafted in such a way that are not in line with "free migration policy" and the "open border" idea. Truth be told, modernist rationality regards both "open border" and "free migration" policies as gravest threats to security and public safety. Nationalism is the next product of modernism. In actuality, the creation of modern societies and Nation-State based on Westphalian model, has led to nationalism and formation of a kind of social solidarity, which promotes national unity and patriotism among the given members of a specific territory.

We have seen unique heritage and culture of different ethnic groups within distinguished geographical boundaries, in view of the fact that, the idea of nationalism advocates controlled borders and territorial integrity. Literally, nationalism has the power to keep the people of one nation together and draw a red line between dissimilar nationalities. In a modern world, we have seen, clear national borders alongside strong traditional and national sentiments among the people of one nation. Based on nationalist approach, every real nation must have precise and controlled borders, otherwise, it cannot be called a nation. Moreover, nationalists believe that more safeguards are needed for a nation's cultural heritage, which is sacred and whose safety cannot be guaranteed except by controlled borders. Likewise, they consider floods of mass immigration from other countries as a great menace to society's sacred cultural heritage.

After studying modernism and its various aspects, now it's time to analyze postmodernism and its distinguished characteristics. Globalization is one of the prominent aspects of postmodernism. According to Anthony Giddens, a British sociologist who is famous for his "structuration theory" and his holistic view of modern societies, "globalization is identified as the intensification of worldwide social relations which links distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa." Globalization has become a familiar enough word and its meaning has been discussed as the elimination of barriers, particularly geographical barriers to trade, communication, and culture exchange. So, in this framework, globalization can be considered a threatening factor to nationalism, because this approach doesn’t care about borders and regards nationalism as the manifestation of the greed of individuals. Globalists believe the nation-state is an invalid and outdated phenomenon as well, owing to the fact that it has been found inefficient and left from an antique Westphalia order that no longer works. In truth, they dismiss Westphalia as an inadequate system and obsolete world order that has tried to interrupt or obstruct the formation of any integrated and interdependent world for centuries.

In a postmodern world, nationalism and the sense of belonging to a specific country have dwindled and as such, through increased interdependence, national and territorial barriers would be weakened between countries. In this regard, the founder of China Pro-Democracy Support Network, John Kusumi, argues that, "globalization is the anti-thesis of nationalism as it suggests that there are no boundaries, just one globe." That is, in the wake of diminishing borders and growing interaction between people of different regions, postmodern citizens will be able to see a more integrated, more interdependent, and more troubled and conflicted world. For this reason, when more people of disparate nationalities come together and commence interactions, this eventually would lead to more disputes. With the blurring of borders, in addition to the easy movement of people around the globe, mixed cultures would rise instead of national cultures.

Furthermore, by implementing "open borders policy", wealthy countries would be flooded by immigrants from poorer countries and this policy's unintended consequences most likely will introduce many risks and security challenges to postmodern citizens. In such a world, everything becomes interdependent and all human beings will share the same fate, because the fate of one nation is linked to the fate of other nations.

Now, it's time to answer why Donald J. Trump has never been a postmodernist presidential candidate. As we discussed above, postmodernism challenges the existence of borders between countries, in particular geographical boundaries, which according to modernist rationality, should be strictly controlled. Donald Trump believes that "a nation without borders is not a nation”, and subsequently suggests that "there must be a wall across the southern border". In actuality, according to Max Weber argument, which implies politics as an isolated world of rational top-down decision making that exclusively belongs to the political sector, Donald J. Trump eyes politics as a square of modernist top-down decision making process as well. Trump's eighteenth-century style mentality on nationalism, leads him towards strictly controlled borders with its neighbors and far-flung immigrants. He argues that "we are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own" and "that must change." In other words, Trump's conservative viewpoints on nationalism, gender, race, immigration, culture, and border security, recall the eighteenth-century America of White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP) founding fathers. And for this reason, Trump's white Anglo-Saxon Protestant model of behavior sets up a framework within which all the new immigrants have to be assimilated into the eighteenth-century style America.

Therefore, when we think of Donald J. Trump and his call for demonizing immigrants and their families, deportation of undocumented Hispanics, and building a wall along the border with Mexico, we find out that all of these perceptions have nothing to do with postmodernism and can actually be explained perfectly by Tharailath Koshy Oommen, Indian Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, who said "the rise and fall, the construction and destruction of various types of boundaries is the very story of human civilization." Likewise, his emphasize on "mono-cultural" nationalism, by threatening to ban Muslims, Cubans, and Mexicans entering the U.S. alongside his presidential campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" – which has been derived from Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign slogan "Let's Make America Great Again" – all of this is a sign of his hyper-nationalism and his most conservative attitudes that proceeds from old-school modernism. In this sense, Donald Trump, as an ultra-conservative, not only doesn't believe in multi-culturalism and recognition of ethnic, linguistic, and cultural minorities' rights, but also he wants to go back to the days of pre-multicultural America, to a time prior to identity politics and political correctness. Additionally, if we focus on Trump's presidential campaign programs, for instance, his immigration project, it is revealed that his favorite immigration scheme is a plan which "must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans" because in his viewpoints "a nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation." Now, following these explanations, we have come to realize that all Donald Trump talks about are to some extent modernistic-oriented issues without any mention of postmodernist issues.

Abbas Torabi has done his MA in North American Studies in Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran.

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