Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama and a professor at Stanford University, wrote: “Does Trump know the historical baggage associated with this word, or is he ignorant? Honest question.”
The embrace of the nationalist label comes during a midterm election season in which Mr. Trump has returned to some of his favorite hard-edged themes, particularly inveighing against immigration, both legal and illegal. At one campaign rally after another, he invokes the menace of a caravan of Central American refugees and accuses Democrats of supporting “open borders,” protecting MS-13 gang members from deportation and wanting to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He has also increasingly framed the choice facing voters in two weeks as continued prosperity or a turn to socialism. The White House Council of Economic Advisers, usually a sober, policy-oriented body, even released a report on Tuesday outlining what it called the opportunity costs of socialism because “socialism is making a comeback in American political discourse.”
This is not the first time Mr. Trump has adopted the nationalist label, but rarely has he been as full throated. “You know, somebody said, ‘Oh, maybe he’s a total nationalist,’” he said at the White House in February 2017. “Which I am in a true sense.” A couple of months later, he tried to soften the edges of that. “Hey, I’m a nationalist and a globalist,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “I’m both.”
When he visited Davos, Switzerland, this year to attend the annual World Economic Forum, the ground zero of globalism, he sought to reassure the international business and political titans that he was not rejecting the rest of the planet. “America first does not mean America alone,” he told them. “When the United States grows, so does the world.”
On the campaign trail, however, globalists have become the enemy again, the ones who want to sell American sovereignty to other countries, let in dangerous migrants and make bad trade deals that result in shuttered manufacturing plants.
“For years, you watched as your leaders apologized for America,” he said in Houston. “They apologized. Now you have a president who is standing up for America.”