What we are seeing is the rise of the nation-state against the will of multinational organizations and agreements. There are serious questions about membership in the EU, NATO and trade agreements, and equally about the right to control borders. Reasonable people can disagree, and it is the political process of each nation that retains the power to determine shifts in policy. There is no guarantee that the citizenry will be wise, but that cuts both ways and in every direction.
The current rise of nationalism in Europe is the result of European institutions’ failure to function effectively. Eight years after 2008, Europe still has not solved its economic problems. A year after the massive influx of refugees in Europe, there is still no coherent and effective policy to address the issue. Given this, it would be irresponsible for citizens and leaders not to raise questions as to whether they should remain in the EU or follow its dictates. Similarly, there is no reason for Donald Trump not to challenge the idea that free trade is always advantageous, or to question NATO. However obnoxious his style and however confusing his presentation, he is asking questions that must be asked.
In the 1950s, the McCarthyites charged anyone they didn’t like with being communists. Today, those who disapprove of the challengers of the current system call them fascists. Now, some of the opponents of the EU or immigration may really be fascists. But the hurdle for being a fascist is quite high. Fascism is far more than racism, tinkering with the judiciary, or staging a violent demonstration. Real fascism is Nazi Germany’s “leader principle” – which dictated absolute obedience to the Führer, whose authority was understood to be above the law.