“Nationalism” is a dirty word in the modern American lexicon.
As with many neutral concepts in the English language, leftists have manipulated its meaning to cast any critique of globalism as regressive and belligerent, even fascistic. But historical “progress” is far from guaranteed. A common-sense nationalism would go a long way toward bringing American life back to the realm of sanity.
While once liberalism and nationalism went hand in hand, that is no longer possible for today’s left. The shift began after the end of World War II. Western leaders saw what could happen with unbridled nationalism in Nazi Germany, and the world’s elite embraced global governance more seriously than ever before. (RECENT: The Top 2024 GOP Candidates Prove The Trump-Fueled Republican Realignment Is Real)
Another key moment came with the publication of Benedict Anderson’s book “Imagined Communities” in 1983. Described as the “most influential book on the origins of nationalism,” the title refers to the idea that nations are not objective entities, but merely an artificially induced sense of connection. Anderson, a Marxist, argued that the rise of capitalism led to common language, stories and culture which were then mass-marketed in print, creating an “imagined community” between total strangers.
Now “cited more often than any other English-language work in the human sciences,” it helps explain why liberal elites are so quick to sneer at American patriotism. Like Anderson, they think people who “cling” to the virtues of nationhood are rubes who just never got the message. The enlightened corollary to his work is of course a borderless world.
Yet scholars have also long differentiated between two forms of nationalism: benign and malignant. Benign nationalism seeks to foster national unity, and cultural preservation and pride, while not seeking to dominate other nations.
Alternatively, malignant nationalism fosters extreme chauvinism and a sense of superiority, often resulting in violent hostility toward other nations. While Nazi Germany is the classic example, it is no surprise that the left also tries to link mainstream conservatives with this dark side of nationalism. They sometimes go so far as to suggest that even the benign forms of nationalism are a slippery slope to Nazism.
The very framing of the issue makes nationalism out to be a type of cancer: one does not wait around for a benign tumor to metastasize, but cuts it out before it turns malignant. This is precisely how the modern left now views benign, traditional American nationalism. It is not only something to scoff at, but an insidious threat that must be thwarted.
Understanding this view helps expose it in several key policy arenas pursued by the Biden administration and allows us to chart a path back to sanity:
With the rise of Critical Race Theory in schools, children are now routinely taught that there is nothing special about America.
This sort of education indoctrinates children rather than instructing them. It aims to ensure that the scourge of nationalism is bred out of the new generation. But by subordinating practical skills and knowledge to ideological purity, the left is fostering incompetence and weakness.
Everyone in the school community should feel valued for who they are & free to be their authentic self.
— U.S. Department of Education (@usedgov) June 1, 2023
A nationalist education would put a quick end to this. It would emphasize American history, culture and identity to instill a sense of national pride and loyalty among students.
When students are taught these values, they develop a sense of civic duty and strive to become virtuous citizens. They would learn to appreciate American principles like hard work, persistence and self-reliance. They would feel an obligation to the generations past who cultivated these virtues and prospered because of them. (RECENT: Oregon School Gave Elementary School Kids Sex Ed Lesson Pushing Puberty Blockers: REPORT)
A nationalist approach would not just teach students the good parts of American history, but the bad parts as well. Students would come to understand what is worth preserving and why, but also what needs improvement. They will be inspired to excel as students to eventually so they could improve the society for which they are already grateful.
This approach to education would not only help restore the critical thinking skills the left has tried to abolish, but also give children the tools to resist the left’s endless ideological push.
If the nation is imaginary, then borders aren’t real and America has no right to differentiate between citizens and non-citizens. If championing American values can lead to chauvinism, then immigrants should not be expected to assimilate.
A benign nationalism would quickly reform American immigration policy to be consistent with the rule of law. It would prioritize the interest and well-being of American citizens rather than the interest of migrants.
To protect its economic interests, America should only accept an appropriate level of immigration that would not harm wages or undermine the ability of average Americans to afford a home.
Immigration should not rise to the extent that it overwhelms the ability of border patrol officers to do their jobs, or local governments to provide necessary services to their communities.
Nationalist immigration polices would also account for social and cultural interests. Legal immigration should be maintained at a level that enables and encourages migrants to assimilate over time.
The exceptional aspect of American nationalism is that it is not limited to national or ethnic identity. Anyone who immigrates here can become an American patriot. A nationalist immigration policy would encourage this process through civic education programs that teach the language skills, history and values to help migrants become better engaged in American life.
Trade and Diplomacy
America’s representatives abroad routinely come out of elite institutions that teach them to be ashamed of their country. They learn that the only way to ensure global stability is for America to subordinate its own interests – security, economic or cultural — to the development of other countries. They sacrificed American prosperity in the name of international stability.
A nationalist approach would re-center the American national interest.
It would seek to re-balance the trade relationship with China with the American worker in mind. It would tackle the rampant intellectual property theft China has used to gut American industry, and would provide new incentives to bring American businesses back home. It would aim to promote fair practices that reduce the trade deficit, but not back away from tariffs when necessary to protect American interests. (RECENT: Biden Admin Flies Pride Flag At US Embassy In The Vatican)
China is but the worst example, but this trade re-alignment would apply to all countries that have taken advantage of America’s liberal trade policy.
A nationalist approach would also improve diplomacy by putting American security at the forefront.
Rather than “leading from behind,” America would not allow other countries to dictate its national interest. Diplomats would seek to strengthen national sovereignty through bilateral agreements instead of agreeing to multilateral constraints from the “international community.” They would also pursue military alliances and partnerships narrowly tailored to achieve American objectives, deter potential adversaries and project strength and influence globally.
Perhaps most importantly, foreign representatives proud of their country would return to championing American values like freedom and equality instead of raising Pride flags at the Vatican.
The struggle to end violence, discrimination, criminalization, and stigma against LGBTQI+ persons is a global challenge that remains central to our commitment to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people. pic.twitter.com/xQQrnPjGrr
— Department of State (@StateDept) June 1, 2023
Understanding the modern leftist’s view of nationalism helps to explain why the Biden administration’s policies seem to be “failing” on almost every front. They are not really failing, but designed with a hostile view of nationalism as a backwards phenomenon based on an illusion. The silver lining is that a traditional, benign nationalism also offers a way back out of the abyss.