The Biden administration claims to have many priorities:

1. Addressing global warming
2. Strengthening our alliances in the China region
3. Mercantilist policies aimed at domestic job creation

In fact, not everything can be a priority. Based on their actions, it appears the administration has one overriding priority—domestic jobs. The Inflation Reduction Act has been much less effective in addressing global warming than had been hoped, partly due to protectionist provisions that have sharply raised the cost of clean energy.

Now we see evidence that building an alliance of democratic East Asian nations is less important than protecting jobs in Pennsylvania. Here’s the FT:

Nippon Steel announced the controversial acquisition in December, leading Biden to pick a side between a powerful union and its voters, and a critical American ally. The president has invested heavily in shoring up alliances, particularly with Japan.

The White House asked US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel to make the problem go away, putting him in a tough position after he had publicly welcomed the deal as “historic”. Emanuel did not respond to a request for comment.

One person familiar with the deliberations said it was “embarrassing” for an administration that talks about the importance of allies and particularly the US-Japan alliance to “send a signal of distrust regarding Japanese ownership of US companies” as Kishida prepares to visit.

“The president knows all this, but sadly it looks like election year politics will win out,” the person said.

I certainly understand the politics of the situation.  But I also believe that these examples demonstrate the internal contradictions of nationalism.  The Biden administration seems to wish to embrace both nationalism and globalism (i.e. international cooperation.)  That’s not possible—you cannot prioritize everything.  

PS.  I suspect that a future Trump administration would drop the globalism, and go all in for nationalism.

PPS.  Below is a picture of the US Steel plant in Gary, taken in 1959.  We drove through Gary in 1959, on the way to visit my grandparents.  Its population was 178,000 (similar to Austin or Nashville).  Today, it’s 69,000.  I still recall the smell from the air pollution.