Author Archive for
John Fonte

Global Governance vs. Liberal Democracy? We are going to have to choose

by John Fonte

Patriotic Assimilation

by John Fonte

We have talked a little bit about assimilation. What I believe is important for strengthening our democracy is what I call “patriotic assimilation. I’m going to sketch this out a little.

What is “patriotic assimilation”? First, it does not mean giving up all ethnic traditions, customs, cuisine, and birth languages. It has nothing to do with the food one eats, the religion one practices, the affection that one feels for the land of one’s birth, and the second languages that one speaks. Multiethnicity and ethnic subcultures have always been part of our past.

Patriotic assimilation occurs when a newcomer essentially adopts American civic values and the American heritage as his or her own. It occurs, for example, when newcomers and their children begin to think of American history as “our” history not “their” history. To give a hypothetical example, imagine an eight-grade Korean-American female student studying the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Does she think of those events in terms of “they” or “we”? Does she envision the creation of the Constitution in Philadelphia as something that “they” (white males of European descent) were involved in 200 years before her ancestors came to America, or does she imagine the Constitutional Convention as something that “we” Americans did as part of “our” history? Does she think in terms of “we” or “they”? “We” implies patriotic assimilation. If she thinks in terms of “we” she has done what millions of immigrants and immigrant children have done in the past. She has adopted America’s story as her story, and she has adopted America’s Founders—Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Washington—as her ancestors. (This does not mean that she, like other Americans, will not continue to argue about our history and our heritage, nor ignore the times that America has acted ignobly).

Patriotic assimilation does, however, mean exclusive citizenship. One nation’s interests (and values) are the same as another’s. This is true even among democratic nation-states that are very close such as the US and Canada (the World Values Survey shows differences). So, yes, dual allegiance does constitute a major problem for the strength of American democracy. Interestingly I have seen survey data by a major polling company (it will be released in June, I will send it to Peter then) that reveals that 75% of all registered voters believe that newly naturalized American citizens should be required to “give up all allegiance” to their previous nation.

Why go beyond the Constitution?

by John Fonte

One very quick point on Alex’s argument (discussed by Peter in the post,”Translating citizenship outside the State”) that, in effect, “citizenship will move up the territorial chain.” I agree with Alex descriptively that new kinds of post-national citizenship would be established with new political entities, norms, coercive authority and the like. My problem is normative. It has not been explained how these new institutions can be democratic. Why would we want to go beyond the US Constitution for a new system of post-national governance that can not even be fully articulated?

European Union is post-democratic

by John Fonte

A quick point to Cristina. Even strong supporters of the European Union recognize that the institution has a “democracy deficit.” For decades most of the power and authority of the EU has been exercised within the European Commission (EC), the bureaucracy in Brussels. Legislation is initiated by the EC, not the Parliament or the Council of Ministers which can only refuse to accept legislation already developed by the EC (which they almost never do) or amend the legislation through a complicated process.One of Europe’s most prominent sociologists, Ralf Dahrendorf (former commissioner of the EC, current member of the House of Lords) stated that: “It is not just a joke to say that if the EU itself applied for accession to the EU, it could not be admitted because it is insufficiently democratic.” The nation-states of Europe are democratic, but the institution of the EU is, what I would call “post-democratic.” Hence, I don’t believe we have an example of a democracy beyond the nation-state, possibly we have those below the nation (city-states), but not above.

Cristina is right about federalism, many nation-states have federal systems and this is not a problem for liberal democracy, but the supra-national EU is a problem. Christina is also right to suggest that decision-making on illegal immigration is often de-centralized and contradictory. That does not mean, however, that the vast majority of the American people are not right in favoring border and interior (business) enforcement of our immigration laws.

One point on dual citizenship. The empirical work of Jeffrey Staton, Robert Jackson, and Damarys Canache has found that Latinos who are dual nationals or dual citizens are less likely to have “political-connnectedness” (self-identification as Americans, consideration of the US as real homeland, civic duty) and electoral participation than Latinos who are not dual nationals. This appears to me to strengthen Peter’s general point.

Is Democracy Possible Beyond the State?

by John Fonte

Just returned from Peter’s talk at the Woman’s National Democratic Club. Peter gave a fine talk and it was a very enjoyable event. The questions were submitted in writing and my question wasn’t asked, so I will ask it now.

Is it possible to have democratic self-government without a nation-state or some other entity like a city-state, that has restrictions between who is and who is not a citizen: between “us” and “them” as you put it in your talk? It has nevered happened in history that democracy has extended beyond the state. Marc Plattner has a fine new book out, Democracy Without Borders: Global Challenges to Liberal Democracy. As Plattner states on the page 3, “Very crudely stated, the contention of this book is that we cannot hope to enjoy liberalism (at least in today’s world) unless it is accompanied by democracy, and we cannot enjoy liberal democracy outside the framework of the nation-state.”

Later in the book on Page 107, Plattner quotes political scientists Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan as follows: “Without a state, they argue, “no modern democracy is possible….Modern democratic government is inevitably linkned to stateness. Without a state, there can be no citizenship, without citizenship, there can be no democracy.”

I agree with Plattner, Stephan, and Linz. Please explain how it is possible to have liberal democracy without a nation-state composed of citizens or is what you are talking about in the book (as I stated in my first post) a new type of political regime that is “post-democratic.” That is the regime comes in the historical period “after democracy.”

One other question. The tone of your book appears to be a little “determinist” to me. You are saying certain trends are inevitable and there is nothing that we can do about it. This sounds like a negation of free will and democratic self-government. You appear to be saying that there is nothing that a free people (who would be upset) by the decline in the meaning of citizenship can do about reversing this negative trend. We are not free, we can not exercise democratic self-government appears to be the message. This is the opposite message of Federalist No 1, which says our government is based not on “accident and force” but on “reflection and choice.” We just had lunch at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, isn’t the slogan of one of the Democratic candidates “yes we can.” Which appears to be an affirmation of free self-government. Suggesting that if there are negative trends on the significance of citizenship or anything else, “we the people” can get together and fix the problem? According to this view, no political policy or trend is inevitable and the final decision is made by “we the people,” not impersonal forces of history. A related question would be can’t “we the people” determine our immigration policy and decide who ought and ought not to enter and remain in the United States. In this sense, people who are here illegally are here without the “consent of the governed.” Surely we can take measures to redress this situation, including deporation policies decided by the political branches of the government. It is an issue of democratic self-government.

What do think Peter? Good seeing you today.

The Normativity of Political Transnationalism

by John Fonte

[John Fonte is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for American Common Culture at the Hudson Institute.]

Thanks to Peter for inviting me to participate. I am off to see Peter speak here in Washington at the Woman’s National Democratic Club in about thirty minutes and will comment more when I come back. But first let me put forward a very broad issue/question. It seems to me that what Peter is suggesting is the replacement of liberal democracy as it has been traditionally understood with a new type of political regime (whatever name one wants to use). The issue is both descriptive and normative. The future is hard to predict, so I’m more interested in the normative question: Is political transnationalism a good thing or a bad thing.

It seems to me that the American people have a Constitution, judicial institutions, and a democratic political system. Poltical Transnational (such as appealing to foreign courts) is not part of the institutional authority and accountability inherent in the meaning of the phrase: “We the People of the United States.” The transnationalism suggested by Peter is something “outside” of the “People of the United States” and “beyond” the Constitution and our democratic process. Therefore, it could be characterized as extra-constitutional, post-constitutional, or post-democratic. In effect, this transnationalism seeks to achieve results that could not necessarily be achieved through the regular process of American democracy. This clearly raises the core “regime” questions of what constitutes legitimate political authority and who is responsible to whom in a democracy.

I would be interested in hearing Peter’s thought’s (both normative and descriptive) on the issue of whether the polticial transnationalism that he describes will replace (ought to replace) liberal democracy, which has only existed within the institution of the liberal democratic nation-state