Dr Namrata Goswami – America at Cross-Roads?

Profile Dr Namrata Goswami Live Encounters Magazine September 2017Download PDF Here

America at Cross-Roads by Dr Namrata Goswami, Senior Analyst and Minerva Grantee.

David Duke Praises President Trump at White Supremacist Rally Protest in Charlottesville, VirginiaCharlottesville shook America. On August 12, 2017, a “Unite the Right” rally was planned in this university town, basically to protest the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue.[1] These protests were planned and organized by Jasson Kessler, member of the “Proud Boys”, which views itself as an ultra-nationalist group.[2] On the night of August 11, white supremacists’ groups gathered in Charlottesville shouting slogans like “white lives matter” and ‘blood and soil” that is historically connected to the idea of ethnicity and land. On August 12, as the rally started in Emancipation Park, some amongst the ‘Unite the Right’ protestors wore KKK imagery and Nazi paraphernalia, a militia armed with heavy weaponry was in attendance and former KKK Grand Master, David Duke attended the march.[3] They clashed with counter-protestors especially those that call themselves the ‘Antifa’ (short for anti-fascists). Antifa is not an organization but consists of those who protests fascist authoritarianism, and are mostly left leaning.[4] It is however important to note that not everyone protesting that day against the ‘Unite the Right” rally was Antifa. Some were against the idea of white-nationalism and what they interpreted as bigotry and racism. As the rally turned violent, police declared it an unlawful assembly, which led to the protestors marching through Charlottesville shouting slogans such as “one people, one nation, end immigration”.[5]

There are many who believe that white supremacists groups like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, are becoming more visible in almost all avenues of contemporary American life. According to Heidi Beirich, the Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project,[6] “In all of our years of tracking, we’ve never seen this many [hate] groups…We’ve never seen their ideas penetrating the mainstream the way they are. I would say most Americans don’t realize how much of this there is.”[7] According to Matt Heimbacj, a major organizer of the “Unite the Right’, white America is under growing threat, asserting that “I think, because Donald Trump’s election showed that the majority of white American’s social, working class America believes in sovereignty,”.[8] In Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, a counter-protestor, was killed when a car driven by a self-proclaimed fascist, rammed into her and several other counter-protestors. On August 27, violence broke out in a Berkley, California rally between black clad violent left wing and Antifa protestors and peaceful right-wing protestors.[9] This divide and the hate with the increasing use of violent tactics to protest, are on the rise. Several argue that the election of Donald Trump as President has emboldened these ‘alt-right groups’.[10] It is pertinent to note here that many who supported his candidacy seriously believe that white Americans are discriminated against and are losing their cultural, if not economic, influence.[11] Trump’s election rallies addressed and vindicated these cultural anxieties, and portrayed himself as a savior of what they viewed as the traditional American culture.

The question that arises in this context is: is America at Crossroads? What paths lay before this nation? Most importantly, what are the forces at play, that elected Donald Trump, and what does he stand for? How does one reconcile the idea of America as a “melting pot” with one dominant culture, with the idea of America as a ‘salad bowl” with multiculturalism at its core? Significantly, unlike the popular imagination that America was founded on the principles of equality for all and a place open to immigration from across the world, the founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Madison, Daniel Webster, James Monroe and the author of the Star-Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, supported the idea of voluntary emigration of freed African-Americans in 1816 through the “American Colonization Society” or ACS, to Liberia or Haiti.[12] The members of ACS believed “that there is an utter aversion in the public [white majority] mind, to an amalgamation and equalization of the two races: and that any attempt to press such equalization is not only fruitless, but injurious.”[13] The 1790 U.S. Naturalization Act limited citizenship to “ free white persons” as stated “be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That any alien, being a free white person [emphasis added], may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States…[14]and this policy lasted till the mid-20th century. The Immigration Act of 1924 that debarred any immigration from Asian countries was aimed to preserve the ideals of a U.S. homogenous identity.[15] We see outlines of those ideas coming back to the mainstream again in contemporary America.

There are, however, several forces at play in the contemporary U.S. and it cannot simply be explained through the prism of one factor; racism. While it is one of the explanatory variables, I identify three clusters of explanatory factors/variables that are visible in the American political, social and economic landscapes. These are Globalists vs. Nationalist Values; Individual vs. Group Rights; Nativist Vs. Cosmopolitan Values.

Globalist vs. Nationalists

The biggest chasm today is between the Globalists and the Nationalists. In an excellent piece in The American Interest,[16] Jonathan Haidt describes Globalists as those who believe in a cosmopolitan world, where universal [emphasis added] individual rights are paramount, where international borders are irrelevant, and where progress and change are cherished values. Globalists, are usually financially secure, have moved away from ‘survival needs’ and the need to protect ones’ own tribe and family to emancipatory values that celebrate a cosmopolitan attitude, connected to a world humanist spirit.[17] They look down on parochial attitudes, and view everyone as ‘fellow citizens of the world”. They are usually in favor of immigration and multiculturalism. Globalists sees themselves as citizens of the world, and that national benefits should be extended to all people and not just citizens.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio youtubeThe Nationalists, on the other hand, see national benefits as extended to an exclusive club, where allegiance and adherence to traditional values, has an entrance fee. Nationalist cherish love of country and the need to preserve a preferred normative way of life. They prioritize a shared sense of identity and history and firmly believe that their government has a duty to protect and preserve them.[18] To be sure, some Nationalists espouse racist beliefs that their race or country is the best, but not all Nationalists harbor such bigotry or beliefs.[19] For the most part, Nationalists firmly believe that citizens should be the priority for their governments. In his speech in the rally at Phoenix, Arizona, on August 22, 2017, President Trump reiterated what Nationalists cherish when he said, “we reaffirm our shared customs, traditions and values. We love our country. We celebrate our troops. We embrace our freedom. We respect our flag. We are proud of our history. We cherish our Constitution, including, by the way, the Second Amendment”.[20] He went on to state that he is for those struggling Americans that are left behind and forgotten and that the government will take care of them, “So to Americans young and old, near and far, in cities small and large, we say these words again tonight: We will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again”.[21] So, his words are basically a communication to the Nationalists that their country is in safe hands. Trump wants to appear strong on immigration and the wall as most Nationalists believe uncontrolled immigration are chipping away at their way of life. Mind you, the Nationalists believe that moderated immigration from countries with similar value systems are welcome as those folks assimilate and cherish the American way of life, but unchecked immigration from places with a different value system will wreak havoc on American culture, especially dominated by Anglo-Saxon values, the Protestant work ethic and the English language.[22] For instance, Nationalists view Islam with its personal laws, as an affront on American values and fear that with the growth of Muslim populations in America, their personal laws to include marriage, divorce, separate facilities for women and body-veiling, will penetrate into American culture.[23] Trump, in a speech in Washington, in April 2016 stated, “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,”.[24] On August 25, 2017, Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, found guilty of using illegal tactics to go after undocumented immigrants. The White House, in a statement, stated “throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”[25] In this, Trump’s attempt is to lock in his Nationalist supporters to his presidency.

Individual Vs. Group Rights

The U.S. Constitution stands for individual rights and liberties. The Bill of Rights moved by James Madison in 1791, ensures freedom of speech, press, religion, the right to bear arms, etc. The ten amendments are the essence of American individual rights.[26] The U.S. Declaration of Independence states that individuals are at liberty to pursue happiness and life goals without the interference of others. Most Americans are uncomfortable with the assertion of group rights and identities, vis-à-vis a citizen’s individual rights. For instance, the famous American author, Ayn Rand, stated “the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought”. [27] Best captured in this description, “Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members”.[28] President Trump is a fan of Ayn Rand stating that her book The Fountainhead, “relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to…everything”. Trump identified with Howard Roark, the main character in the book who stood for fighting against all odds to accomplish his idealistic goals. Trump asserted that the tyranny of group think is what is a bane in the contemporary United States.[29]

Group rights that metamorphoses into group identity and politics is viewed as muddying the paramount undivided loyalty to these United States especially by Nationalists. Consequently, such group-based identities as Asian-American, African-American, Native-American, Jewish-American, Muslim-American, Hindu-American, are viewed as adverse to the idea of being simply an American, which is the only identity that should matter. While some may view this perspective as disrespectful to the histories of African Americans or Native Americans, the politicization of group identities and then utilizing that for social, economic and political gains are viewed as anti-American by Nationalists. Hence, the fear expressed by Nationalists and Trump supporters towards Muslim immigration, who they judge as holding strongly formed group identities where adherence to Islam negates all other loyalties. These Nationalist fears are bolstered by the narratives of the terrorist groups like ISIS who propagate an Islamic Ummah (one nation) and Caliphate by violent means that transcends all kinds of states identities and borders.[30]

Charlotteville ProtestsNativists Vs. Cosmopolitan Values

Nativists vs. Cosmopolitan values is continuing the Globalist vs. Nationalist chasm that was described earlier. Nativists (an American term, first used in the mid-19th century to describe native born Protestants vis-à-vis Catholic immigrants), are ethno-centric ultra-nationalists, who view themselves as original settlers of the country and want to preserve their “demographic predominance in that territory.”[31] Nativists value ‘America first’, that America is for Americans, and that the rights of natural born Americans are higher than immigrants. Trump’s Presidential Inaugural speech of “America First”, in which he categorically states, “we assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First”,[32] reaches out to the Nativists. Reviving the European culture of the U.S., viewed as the native culture, and closed borders are advocated by Nativists. Nativism is opposed to immigration in the belief that immigrants will destroy existing cultural belief systems. There is also the religious belief in the “the Protestant Ethic”, and the fear that illegal immigration threatens a common language (English), as well as the work ethic, and the law (a unified legal framework). Immigration from diverse cultures are viewed as constituting threats to sexual norms regarding women’s dress and freedom.[33] And it critically threatens economic opportunities. Like Nationalists, Nativists believe in the ‘melting pot’ of one American culture, whereas the left is associated with the “salad bowl” of multiculturalism- cosmopolitanism, concerned with symbols that convey a tolerance of diversity or opposition to state sponsorship of anti-cosmopolitanism values. They seek to remove from celebration any national monuments with an association with oppression of minorities or slavery, and that contrasts with a Nativist, who views these as part of American culture. A Nativist does not favor the white-washing of history to remove their importance or positive contribution for some symbolic ends. Nativists also fear the slippery slope; where does it end? Do we tear down Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, or the White House, built by slaves? Difference between Cosmopolitanism and Nativists are that Nativists, not unlike Nationalists, believe that America does have a real moral claim to its past contributions and purpose whereas Cosmopolitanism is more likely to deny an ‘American exceptionalism’ and to be skeptical of America’s moral record and purpose, focusing instead on its shortcomings. Nationalists and Nativists alike consider it a great affront if individuals in American society do not wish to pledge allegiance, take military service or honor the flag and honor those that do. Cosmopolitans may be tolerant or encouraging of believing that Nationalism is an unnecessary source of division and conflict in the world.

Donald Trump youtubeWhere does Donald Trump Stand?

President Donald Trump had famously quipped, “hey, I’m a nationalist and a globalist…I’m both”.[34] Hence, one cannot be too sure where his ideological leanings are though one can safely predict that he likes being unpredictable. That said, President Trump will never loose sight of his base, the voters that made him President, despite opposition to his candidacy from within his own Republican elites. We cannot forget that several top Republican national security officials signed a letter against his candidacy.[35] It is his stance on immigration, calling out Islamic terrorism, building the wall, and ‘America first’ slogans that locked in his base to his candidacy. His recent barring of transgender recruits to the military reaches out to his conservative Christian base, his pardon of Sheriff Arpaio reaches out to support for him within law enforcement agencies and border security unions, and his talks on the wall and strong on immigration reaches out to both his Nationalist and Nativist bases. The Globalists and Cosmopolitan spirited Americans did not vote for Trump. Neither did the left. So, he will waste little time trying to please them or mainstream media which he, reflecting his base’s viewpoint, sees as dishonest and fake. Despite polls that show his support is dwindling,[36] nearly 35 to 38 per cent Americans approve of him still.[37] President Trump will continue to attack the mainstream media, elites, political dynasties and establishment politicians, because that represents the cultural anger of his core base. And most important of all, he will continue to cast himself as the man addressing the biggest desire of his base; eclipsing Obama and undoing all his predecessor’s policies. Petty as that might seem to a liberal audience, it is that kind of politicking that won Donald Trump the most sought-after job in these United States. The Nativists and Nationalists have won for now.

All views expressed in this article are solely that of the author.

End Notes

[1] Libby Nelson and Dara Lind, “Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally: What’s Happened so Far?, Vox, August 12, 2017 at  https://www.vox.com/2017/8/12/16138460/charlottesville-unite-right-rally-violence-protests (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[2] “Charlottesville Attack: What, Where and How?”, Al Jazeera, August 17, 2017 at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/charlottesville-attack-170813081045115.html (Accessed on August 25, 2017).

[3] Nelson and Lind, n.1.

[4]  For more on Antifa, please see Michael Edison Hayden, “ Explaining Antifa Protests in the Wake of Charlottesville”, ABC, August 24, 2017 at http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/explaining-antifa-protests-wake-charlottesville/story?id=49249602 (Accessed on August 25, 2017).

[5] Nelson and Lind, n.1. Also see VICE NEWS Documentary titled “Charlottesville: Race and Terror”, Vice News, August 21, 2017 at https://news.vice.com/story/vice-news-tonight-full-episode-charlottesville-race-and-terror (Accessed on August 29, 2017).

[6] See Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that documents and monitors Hate Groups in the U.S. at https://www.splcenter.org/ (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[7] Lauren Meltzer and Tony Dokoupil, “Hate Rising: White Supremacy’s Rise in the U.S.”, CBS News, August 21, 2017 at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hate-rising-cbsn-on-assignment/ (Accessed on August 25, 2017).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Kyle Swenson, “Black Clad Antifa Members Attack Peaceful Right-Wing Demonstrators in Berkeley”, The Washington Post, August 28, 2017 at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/28/black-clad-antifa-attack-right-wing-demonstrators-in-berkeley/?utm_term=.87913c269dc4 (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[10] Emily Shugerman, “Majority of Americans Say Trump Has Encouraged White Supremacists”, The Independent, August 25, 2017 at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-white-supremacists-poll-latest-charlottesville-response-encouraging-racism-a7910861.html (Accessed on August 25, 2017).

[11] Derek Thompson, “Who are Donald Trump’s Supporters, Really? The Atlantic, March 1, 2016 at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/who-are-donald-trumps-supporters-really/471714/ (Accessed on August 28, 2017). See Emma Green, “It was Cultural Anxiety that Drove White, Working Class Voters to Trump”, The Atlantic, May 9, 2017 at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/white-working-class-trump-cultural-anxiety/525771/ (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[12] Please see Michael Lind, “How to Fix America’s Identity Crisis”, Politico Magazine, July 04, 2016 at http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/a-new-american-melting-pot-214011 (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[13] “Colonization: the “respectable” way to be anti-slavery in early New England” at http://www.teachushistory.org/second-great-awakening-age-reform/articles/colonization-respectable-way-be-anti-slavery-early-new-en (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[14] “Federal Naturalization Law (1790, 1795)”, at http://www.indiana.edu/~kdhist/H105-documents-web/week08/naturalization1790.html (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[15] “The Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act), at https://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/immigration-act (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[16] Jonathan Haidt, “When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism”, The American Thinker, 12/1, July 10, 2016 at https://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/07/10/when-and-why-nationalism-beats-globalism/ (Accessed on August 25, 2017).

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Conversations with an American political analyst on American nationalism, August 25, 2017, Montgomery, Alabama. Name not revealed at request of interviewee.

[21] Transcript of President Trump’s speech at Phoenix, Arizona, August 22, 2017 at http://time.com/4912055/donald-trump-phoenix-arizona-transcript/ (Accessed on August 25, 2017).

[22] See Samuel Huntington, Who are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004) Huntington argues that culture is about “a people’s language, religious beliefs, social and political values, assumptions as to what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate…and…the objective institutions and behavioral patterns that reflect these subjective elements”, pp. 30-31.

[23] Conversations with an American political analyst on American nationalism, n.20.

[24] “Donald Trump: False Song of Globalism”, You Tube, April 27, 2016 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2QmClRt9AQ (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[25] “President Trump Pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio”, The White House, August 25, 2017 at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/08/25/president-trump-pardons-sheriff-joe-arpaio (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[26] “The Bill of Rights”, at http://www.ushistory.org/us/18a.asp (Accessed on August 27, 2017).

[27]  “Individualism”, at http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/individualism.html (Accessed on August 27, 2017).

[28] Ibid.

[29] Kirsten Powers, “Donald Trump’s Kinder, Gentler, Version”, USA Today, April 11, 2016 at https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/04/11/donald-trump-interview-elections-2016-ayn-rand-vp-pick-politics-column/82899566/ (Accessed on August 27, 2017). For an interesting analysis, please see Jonathan Freedland, “The New Age of Ayn Rand: How She Won Over Trump and Silicon Valley”, The Guardian, April 10, 2017 at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/10/new-age-ayn-rand-conquered-trump-white-house-silicon-valley (Accessed on August 27, 2017).

[30] For more on Islam and violence, see Fathima Imra Nazeer, “Does Islamic State Brutality Really Have Nothing to do with Religion?”, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fathima-imra-nazeer/isis-islam-quran-literalism_b_5737388.html (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[31] As quoted in Uri Friedman, “Who is a Nativist?”, The Atlantic, April 11, 2017 at https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/what-is-nativist-trump/521355/ (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[32] “The Inaugural Address”, January 20, 2017 at https://www.whitehouse.gov/inaugural-address (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[33] Conversations with an American political analyst on American nationalism, August 25, 2017, Montgomery, Alabama. Name not revealed at request of interviewee.

[34] Penny Starr, “Trump: I am a Nationalist and a Globalist”, Breitbart News, April 28, 2017 at http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/04/28/trump-im-a-nationalist-and-a-globalist/ (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[35] “A Letter from G.O.P National Security Officials Opposing Donald Trump”, The New York Times, August 8, 2016 at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/08/us/politics/national-security-letter-trump.html?mcubz=1 (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[36] Henry C. Jackson, “Poll: Trump Support Eroding with his Base”, Politico, August 8, 2017 at http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/07/trump-support-base-republicans-241393 (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

[37] Katty Kay, “Why Trump Supporters Will Never Abandon Him?”, BBC, August 23, 2017 at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41028733 (Accessed on August 28, 2017).

Dr. Namrata Goswami is one of the foremost Indian thinkers on long-term global trends, emerging security challenges, and scenario building. Dr. Goswami is currently a Senior Analyst and Minerva Grantee. She regularly consults with Wikistrat,, and is associated with NATO Partnership for Peace (PfPC) “Emerging Security Challenges” working group.She was formerly Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi where she specialized on ethnic conflicts, insurgency, counter-insurgency and conflict resolution. She has been a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the Congressionally Funded United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington DC, where she explored long-term India-China-US scenarios in order to craft sustainable security frameworks to enable unimpeded human development and security. She was co-lead and editor of two IDSA sponsored works on long-term trends, Imagining Asia in 2030, and Asia 2030 The Unfolding Future.


Her latest book published by Pentagon Press, New Delhi is on India’s Approach to Asia, Strategy, Geopolitics and Responsibility, 2016.  In 2015, she published with Routledge, London and New York, her book on Indian National Security and Counterinsurgency: The Use of Force Vs. Non Violent Response in which she explored the contrasting influence of Kautilya, India’s classical realist thinker vis-a-vis Gandhi’s prohibition on a violent response.  In 2012-2013, Dr, Goswami received the Fulbright-Nehru Senior Fellowship supporting her work on China-India border. She also received the “Executive Leadership Certificate” sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the National Defense University, Washington DC, and the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, Hawaii in 2013. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway, the La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia and the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Dr. Goswami is part of a renowned group of international experts exploring emerging security challenges such as 3-D printing, human self-modification and longevity, trans-national insurgencies, combating violent extremism, hybrid war and asteroid threats in the NATO sponsored “Partnership for Peace Consortium”. Her philosophy for life is one of the immortal quotes of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

© Dr Namrata Goswami