The former president said the “us vs. them” mentality is “taking us to the edge of our destruction.”
By EMMA STEFANSKY
Bill Clinton doesn‘t buy this whole “nationalism” thing. In his first major public appearance since the inauguration of Donald Trump, Clinton delivered a keynote speech at a Brookings Institute event. The former president cautioned against nation-state psychology and warned that this mentality will only further divide the world.
“People who claim to want the nation-state are actually trying to have a pan-national movement to institutionalize separatism and division within borders all over the world,” Clinton said, via Politico. “It’s like we’re all having an identity crisis at once—and it is an inevitable consequence of the economic and social changes that have occurred at an increasingly rapid pace.”
Though not explicitly about Trump or his chief counselor Stephen Bannon, Clinton’s comments offer a rebuke of the Trump-ian form of nationalist populism. Trump’s over-arching, “America First” message is built on the primacy of domestic American interests over those of the world. (Bannon refers to himself as an “economic nationalist,” and, as the head of Breitbart, stoked resentment of immigrants and racial and religious minorities in the United States.)
After a brief period out of the spotlight following Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the November election, the Clinton family has emerged as a set of reliable critics of the Trump administration. Chelsea Clinton has tweeted negatively about the administration, and Hillary herself has given a number of speeches since the election.
Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an extremist. Rabin’s platform during his terms as Prime Minister embraced the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and his efforts for unity won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. Then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would deal with Rabin based on trust alone. Citing this, Clinton said, “We have to find a way to bring simple, personal decency and trust back to our politics.”
“The whole history of humankind is basically the definition of who is us and who is them, and the question of whether we should all live under the same set of rules,” Bill Clinton said. He added that sometimes people “have found more political success and met the deep psychic needs people have had to feel that their identity requires them to be juxtaposed against someone else.”
“This is a very old story” Clinton said. “It’s as old as the Holy Land, and much older. Ever since the first people stood up on the East African savanna, ever since the first families and clans, ever since people encountered the other. It is a very old story. And it always comes down to two things—are we going to live in an us-and-them world, or a world that we live in together?”
Clinton concluded by saying that we should live by Rabin’s model of negotiation and compromise. “If you got that, in every age and time, the challenges we face can be resolved in a way to keep us going forward, instead of taking us to the edge of our destruction.”