Americanism versus globalism

There are many ways to describe US politics. Donald Trump would probably describe it as a corrupt game, Hillary Clinton would most likely reference the ideal of democratic decision making. The most common way of framing American politics is to make a distinction between Democrats and Republicans. Another traditional characterization is to distinguish between liberal and conservative values and economic policies. However, as Saska Saarikoski points out in his recent Helsingin Sanomat editorial, these conventional distinctions have been turned upside down in the current presidential race.

In this context, it is interesting to look at the US elections by using a different kind of analytical framework. During Miltton’s inspiration trip to Washington D.C., the idea of using the distinction between local and global outlooks to compare the two candidates sparked some thoughts that I would like to share with you.

If we think about the local-global divide, it would seem intuitive to position Donald Trump on the local side and Hillary Clinton on the global side of the spectrum. Trump is using strong rhetoric against trade liberalization, free trade agreements, free movement of people, the United Nations, multiculturalism, and the cultivation of bilateral relationships. When accepting his official nomination as the GOP candidate to be the next President of the United States, Trump summed up his position as follows: “Americanism, not globalization will be our credo”.

There seems to be a parallel here between Trumps opposition to globalization and the arguments that many populist movements are currently using in Europe. Furthermore, with the UK’s decision to exit the EU, we have only recently witnessed the power that nationalistic and inward looking arguments can have in politics. Distrust of globalization seems to be on the rise and it is winning a lot of votes for its advocates – in Europe and in the United States.

In Europe, anti-globalization advocates have forced the topic onto the agenda of all political parties. Similarly, in the US Trump’s anti-globalization arguments have forced Clinton to back down on some of her opinions regarding free-trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Instead of focusing on how the US can contribute to global prosperity and security, debates have centered on the negative impact that the outside world has on the US. In Trump’s point of view, America’s problems come largely from outside its borders.

When visiting Washington, I was reminded of how proud Americans are of their country and their political system. And there is no doubt that they have a lot to be proud of! However, I can’t help but wonder what will happen, if the American political debate continues to become more inward looking. Furthermore, what happens if the same trend continues in Europe? Are we facing an era of isolationism more widely?

Whoever wins the White House in November will have to manage the sentiments of anti-globalism that have been stirred up during the presidential campaign. The main challenge will be to create a political culture that does not leave voters feeling that there are losers and winners in globalization – and this goes for both sides of the Atlantic.


Jussi Kekkonen
MD of Miltton Networks