Donald Trump as a post-loyalty candidate

It’s getting closer. The moment when the subject of loyalty reemerges in the US national discourse/political shoutfest. Between IS recruiting and sympathizing, armed militias and Russian propaganda designed to exploit legitimate differences within open democracies, you can only expect the issue of loyalty to return. I don’t know if the US in for a round for McCarthyism Part II, but spasms of national paranoia can come on suddenly.

In a way, it sort of makes sense too.

There was a gasp when candidate Donald Trump brushed off concerns about the targeting of journalists in Russia in his praise of Vladimir Putin. It’s a mini-reality check for how far domestic politics have drifted in the US and Europe.

Donald Trump (WikiCommons: Photo Michael Vadon)

In the past 30 years, Western society has embraced globalization – borderlessness, which is being exploited by transnational terror groups; the internet, which facilitates the spread of ideology regardless of location; and even a post-Cold War complacency about geopolitical challengers, which has seen governments let their guard down to those risks. That’s part of a broad trend.

Soon voters may want to know there is a border, whether political, ideological, or otherwise, between themselves and the outside world. Playing up loyalty to one’s country would also be a way for elites to show their allegiance to the public, rather than to their global peers, which has been a challenge for some.

So there may be a renewed emphasis on national loyalty as an actual issue, especially if there is the sense that the openness of society is being exploited by outside, unfriendly governments and organizations.

The worry is that it manifests itself in outbursts of xenophobia and racism.

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A word on China’s South China Sea shoal visit

China’s Navy has travelled to the James Shoal, 50km from Malaysia in the South China Sea, the southernmost claim by China in that body of water. China had planted a monument on the shoal in 2010, declaring it Chinese territory. The AP report said it’s 1800km from China.

The four-ship task force is headed next to the Pacific Ocean for deep-sea exercises via the Bashi Channel separating Taiwan and the Philippines, Xinhua said.

This action is against a backdrop of increasing tensions in the region. But the line I find most intriguing is this:

Sailors gathered on the ship’s helicopter deck declared their loyalty to the ruling Communist Party and vowed to “struggle arduously to realize the dream of a powerful nation,” Xinhua said.

Just to put it in context, let’s imagine how strange this would sound if another nation’s Navy did the same thing….e.g. The US Navy travels to a disputed shoal, whereupon arrival, US sailors declared loyalty to the Republican Party.

The oddness of action suggests – and suggests is a key word – that it’s intended to send a message back to China, that the new leadership has the full support and confidence of the PLA Navy. That in turn, shows how unsettled the power of the Communist Party in general and its new leaders are. Otherwise, why drag internal politics 1800ks from the people who it mosts affects? Needing to go international to show loyalty conveys the sense the loyalty may not be so assured.

Closer to China, the week, a Chinese boat fired flares at a Vietnamese fishing boat, setting the cabin ablaze.