Well there you have it. After almost two weeks of braying and spluttering about Donald Trump’s immigration plan, it turns out the public supports the proposed visa ban after all. Here in the United States, a poll by Morning Consult and Politico last week revealed that 55 per cent of voters back Trump’s executive order, while only 38 per cent oppose it. In Europe, the results are even more jarring: when asked whether immigration from mainly Muslim countries should be halted entirely, 55 per cent of the 10,000 people asked by Chatham House agreed. Davos folk might have taken umbrage at Trump’s executive order, yet compared to the type of policy that voters think should be implemented, the Donald’s plans suddenly look like a halfway house. Europeans have seen Trump’s notorious seven-country list and raised him Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan.
In Poland, this sentiment runs especially hot. Voters in France and Belgium, sites of recent attacks by Islamic terrorists, are also much more likely to back a punitive immigration policy. While in Germany, 53 per cent of people want an end to all further immigration from mainly Muslim countries – a striking rebuke to Angela Merkel’s policy of refugee absorption en masse. This is a mutiny against the left’s code of manners, which falsely conflates Trump’s order with a Muslim ban and from there claims it is not just wrong but such an affront to Western values as to be virtually unspeakable. Yet it turns out most people of the West don’t really mind that much. Far from being his most scandalous policy yet, Trump’s executive order is more popular than Trump himself.
Count me as among the out-of-touch Acela Corridor dwellers over here: I oppose the immigration pause, which seems designed more as political kerosene than effective policy, but I must admit I didn’t spew my craft beer all over my gluten-free locavore charcuterie when I read about these polls last night. Political observers in America have taken to treating the election of Trump as a crazed bacchanalia. After it, Trump voters were supposed to have woken up aching and realised the error of their ways. Not so. The West’s nationalist fever has yet to break. Americans and Europeans alike have assessed the current political consensus, rejected it, and set about electing lawmakers who are more heedful of national identity and sceptical of immigration.
In the West, the gulf between people and their political leaders has grown dangerously wide. This divide between governors and governed isn’t just a quibble over policy; it’s a clash of moralities, a fundamental disagreement over what the West is to be. National sovereignty is the fulcrum issue here, but immigration is its most visible expression, one that’s deeply impassioning and affects us all.
The people don’t always get what they want, of course. My country is not a democracy but a constitutional republic in which democracy is only a single and necessarily limited component. Still, the American people have plenty of ways to overhaul their government, and indeed they already have. That the political class’s opinions remain unchanged only guarantees that more disruption is on the way. The most stunning omen of this came out of the European Union last month, when President Donald Tusk penned a letter to his colleagues warning of the threats conspiring against the EU, among them many of his own citizens, whom he accused of suffering from ‘national egoism’. The EU knows an inflated ego when it sees one so Tusk may have a point. Either way, one of the most powerful men in Europe now regards his own voters as a sort of enemy within. In doing so, he’ll only widen the political chasm further.
Matt Purple is the deputy editor for Rare Politics