Donald Trump’s brand of “nativist populism” is prefigured very clearly in the 1925 classic American novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the subject of several film adaptations. The anxiety in the Trump movement is called “The Great Replacement” (i.e., white people supplanted by minorities—American non-whites will “link up” with Mexicans and Chinese, stealing the place, property and role of white people). It has never occurred to these people that most of the world’s population is non-white. In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband, represents this anxiety.
He links these fears to the anxiety that “the sun is getting hotter.” (That is, he’s being threatened cosmically too, not only by racial demography.) His fears are not of “climate change,” based on something rational, but obsessive and maniacal “threat assessments.” They mirror the “irrational clusters of threats” of Trump and his voters, who “want to be paid in advance forever for their being white, Christian and American.” They demand “racial tenure.” This Tom Buchanan syndrome may be considered a type of “globalization backlash.”
Tom Buchanan lays it out in the novel:
“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard?…Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be — will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved…This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or those other races will have control of things…The idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?”(The Great Gatsby, Chapter 1)
“…Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have marriage between black and white.”
Flushed with his impassioned gibberish, he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.
“We’re all white here,” murmured Jordan.
Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he opened his mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete.(The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7)