The malignancy of nativism in the U.S. and abroad

In his speeches, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has criticized immigration policy, often saying that officials were making “bad deals.” He has claimed that Americans need to unite behind him to defeat Hillary Clinton and bad leadership. Trump is a textbook case of nativism.

Overseas, Britain’s referendum to leave the European Union came as a surprise to many, but in reality, the anti-EU movement is brewing across Europe. 

With the Syrian refugee crisis, the demand by some European countries to break from the EU — such as conservative parties in Greece — has increased exponentially. Countries perceive the small and rather undemocratic structure of the EU — compounded by the statutes of the Schengen Agreement — as a violation of national sovereignty and border laws. 

This isn’t unique to Britain. In the latest election in Austria, social democrats — oft-cited as an electorate favorite — were upset by right-wing parties. This pattern of political upheaval is emerging in countries such as Denmark and Germany, where the rural, less educated, working class feel marginalized in a global economy that they feel doesn’t favor them. 

For years, rising inequality throughout the world has been at the forefront of economic debates. Though globalization transformed the world economy, it pushed middle- and working-class people away from jobs and prosperity. This resentment is now reflected in voting patterns around the world, with mainstream parties catering to insidious brands of xenophobia and chauvinism.

Trump’s idea to “ban” Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States and his harsh criticism of the U.S.’s allowance of refugees are just fodder for an increasingly global and dangerous anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In Britain, the rage is far more direct. The “Leave” campaign effectively used strong propaganda and the fear of immigrant influxes to garner support. The Muslim Council of Britain compiled a list of 100 hate crimes following the referendum, indicating rising anti-Muslim hostility in Britain. 

Nativist campaigns are rooted in sensationalizing age-old phobias of immigrants as threats to economic sanctity, national security and ancestral purity. And while refugee immigration has resulted in economic challenges for many countries, leaders like Britain’s Boris Johnson thrive on stoking paranoia among Britons.

Across developed countries, inequality continues to mount, and many countries are faced with challenges of hospitality when it comes to immigrants. The solution, though, lies in proper economic policy and integration.

In the United States, and in the EU bloc, governments must devise ways to fairly incorporate immigrants into robust economies without impinging on local markets. 

A good response to native-born resentment is level-headedness and compassion. That is the kind of leadership the U.S., the EU and Britain need.