THE LEFT HAS YIELDED LAN­GUAGE TO THE RIGHT

StarMetro Halifax - - BIG OPINIONS - Thomas Walkom

The right has seized the lan­guage of so­cial change. The left has al­lowed this to hap­pen.

Words like pop­ulism, which just a few years ago had neu­tral or even left­ish con­no­ta­tions, are now as­so­ci­ated ex­clu­sively with Don­ald Trump. Even the no­tion of na­tion­al­ism has been sur­ren­dered to the right.

Once Trump de­scribed him­self as a na­tion­al­ist, his crit­ics be­gan to de­mean the word.

“A glob­al­ist is a per­son that wants the globe to do well, frankly not car­ing about our coun­try,” the U.S. pres­i­dent said in Texas re­cently. “And you know what? We can’t have that … I’m a na­tion­al­ist, OK?”

Writ­ing in Esquire af­ter that speech, jour­nal­ist Jack

Holmes noted, cor­rectly, that U.S. and global aims are not nec­es­sar­ily at odds with one an­other.

But then he went on to dis­par­age na­tion­al­ism it­self, say­ing that in Trump’s Amer­ica it rep­re­sented sex­ism, racism and the at­tempt to pre­serve white priv­i­lege.

It was not an un­com­mon re­ac­tion among pro­gres­sives. But it had the prac­ti­cal ef­fect

of al­low­ing Trump’s ap­pro­pri­a­tion of “na­tion­al­ism” — a word with gen­er­ally pos­i­tive con­no­ta­tions in the U.S. — to stand.

Right-wingers, such as for­mer Trump ad­viser Steve Ban­non, have also taken over the term “eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism” to de­scribe their ap­proach. In Canada, where eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism has a long and ven­er­a­ble his­tory, this seems par­tic­u­larly odd.

Here, eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism is as­so­ci­ated with the left and lib­eral left. For­mer Lib­eral fi­nance min­is­ter Wal­ter Gor­don was an eco­nomic na­tion­al­ist de­ter­mined to de­crease the power of the U.S. over Canada. Dur­ing the free-trade elec­tion cam­paign of 1988, so was for­mer Lib­eral prime min­is­ter John Turner.

The Cana­dian Auto Work­ers, now Uni­for, cited eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism as one of the key rea­sons for break­ing from its U.S. par­ent union. Un­der the ban­ner of eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism, the New Democrats forced Pierre Trudeau’s mi­nor­ity Lib­eral gov­ern­ment to set up a pub­licly owned Cana­dian oil com­pany.

In those days, eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism was seen as a check on what used to be called Amer­i­can im­pe­ri­al­ism.

Now the word has been ap­pro­pri­ated by those who would ex­pand that im­pe­rial reach un­der the slo­gan “Make Amer­ica great again.”

But the big­gest rhetor­i­cal vic­tory of the right has been its cap­ture of the term “pop­ulist.” Hover your cam­era app over this code to con­tinue read­ing at THES­TAR.COM/OPIN­IONS

WORDS LIKE POP­ULISM ... ARE NOW AS­SO­CI­ATED EX­CLU­SIVELY WITH DON­ALD TRUMP.

AN­DREW HARNIK/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Once Trump de­scribed him­self as a na­tion­al­ist, his crit­ics be­gan to de­mean the word, Thomas Walkom writes.

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