The molten core of right-wing nationalism is the furious denial of America’s unalterably multiracial, multicultural national character.

Will Wilkinson

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

 
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Can the Republican cult persist without its presidential personality?CreditCreditKerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Republican Party under Donald Trump has devolved into a populist cult of personality. But Mr. Trump won’t be president forever. Can the cult persist without its personality? Does Trumpist nationalism contain a kernel of coherent ideology that can outlast the Trump presidency?

At a recent conference in Washington, a group of conservatives did their level best to promote Trumpism without Trump (rebranded as “national conservatism”) as a cure for all that ails our frayed and faltering republic. But the exclusive Foggy Bottom confab served only to clarify that “national conservatism” is an abortive monstrosity, neither conservative nor national. Its animating principle is contempt for the actually existing United States of America, and the nation it proposes is not ours.

Bitter cultural and political division inevitably leads to calls for healing reconciliation under the banner of shared citizenship and national identity. After all, we’re all Americans, and our fortunes are bound together, like it or not.

Yet the question of who “we” are as “a people” is the central question on which we’re polarized. High-minded calls to reunite under the flag therefore tend to take a side and amount to little more than a demand for the other side’s unconditional surrender. “Agree with me, and then we won’t disagree” is more a threat than an argument.

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The way the nationalist sees it, liberals always throw the first punch by “changing things.” When members of the “Great American Middle” (to use the artfully coded phrase of Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri to refer to nonurban whites) lash out in response to the provocations of progressive social change, they see themselves as patriots defending their America from internal attack.

The attackers — the nature-denying feminists, ungrateful blacks, babbling immigrants, ostentatiously wedded gays — bear full responsibility for any damage wrought by populist backlash, because they incited it by demanding and claiming a measure of equal freedom. But they aren’t entitled to it, because the conservative denizens of the fruited plain are entitled first to a country that feels like home to them. That’s what America is. So the blame for polarizing mutual animosity must always fall on those who fought for, or failed to prevent, the developments that made America into something else — a country “real Americans” find hard to recognize or love.

 
 

The practical implication of the nationalist’s entitled perspective is that unifying social reconciliation requires submission to a vision of national identity flatly incompatible with the existence and political equality of America’s urban multicultural majority. That’s a recipe for civil war, not social cohesion.

Yoram Hazony, author of “The Virtue of Nationalism” and impresario of the “national conservatism” conference, argued that America’s loss of social cohesion is because of secularization and egalitarian social change that began in the 1960s. “You throw out Christianity, you throw out the Torah, you throw out God,” Mr. Hazony warned, “and within two generations people can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman. They can’t tell the difference between a foreigner and a citizen. They can’t tell the difference between this side of the border and the other side of the border.”

“The only way to save this country, to bring it back to cohesion,” he added, “is going to be to restore those traditions.”

The incoherence of an American nationalism meant to “conserve” an imaginary past was not lost on everyone at the conference.Patrick Deneen, a political theorist at Notre Dame, pointed out that American nationalism has historically been a progressive project. The nationalism of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he noted, arose as the United States began to establish itself as an imperial power of global reach. Building nations has always been about building armies, regimenting the population and centralizing political control.

Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, similarly observed that nationalist projects meant to unite the diverse tribes and cultures of large territories generally involve a program of political mythmaking and the state-backed suppression of ancestral ethnic and community identities.

Mr. Levin suggested that a genuinely conservative nationalism, in the context of a vast national territory with an immense multiethnic population, would refrain from uprooting these traditions and communities and seek instead to preserve them in a vision of the nation as “the sum of various uneven, ancient, lovable elements,” because we are “prepared for love of country by a love of home.”

But what, today, do Americans call “home”? The next logical step would be to observe that the contemporary sum of rooted, lovable American elements includes the black culture of Compton, the Mexican culture of Albuquerque, the Indian culture of suburban Houston, the Chinese culture of San Francisco, the Orthodox Jewish culture of Brooklyn, the Cuban culture of Miami and the “woke” progressive culture of the college town archipelago, as well as the conservative culture of the white small town. But Mr. Levin, a gifted rhetorician who knew his audience, did not hazard this step.

Barack Obama claimed resounding victory in two presidential elections on the strength of a genuinely conservative conception of pluralistic American identity that embraced and celebrated America as it exists. Yet this unifying vision, from the mouth of a black president, primed the ethnonationalist backlash that put Mr. Trump in the White House.

The molten core of right-wing nationalism is the furious denial of America’s unalterably multiracial, multicultural national character. This denialism is the crux of the new nationalism’s disloyal contempt for the United States of America. The struggle to make good on the founding promise of equal freedom is the dark but hopeful thread that runs through our national story and defines our national character. It’s a noble, inspiring story, but the conservative nationalist rejects it, because it casts Robert E. Lee, and the modern defenders of his monuments, as the bad guys — the obstacles we must overcome to make our nation more fully, more truly American.

 

Without obstacles, there is no story. The rise of Trumpist ethnonationalism opened a new chapter, a new variation on the primal American theme, and its outcome will again define us. We must remember that it’s our story, that we write it — with our bodies, our money, our voices, our votes. And we must never lose the thread.

To reject pluralism and liberalizing progress is to reject the United States of America as it is, to heap contempt upon American heroes who shed blood and tears fighting for the liberty and equality of their compatriots. The nationalist’s nostalgic whitewashed fantasy vision of American national identity cannot be restored, because it never existed. What they seek to impose is fundamentally hostile to a nation forged in the defining American struggle for equal freedom, and we become who we are as we struggle against them.

Whether couched in vulgarities or professorial prose, reactionary nationalism is seditious, anti-patriotic loathing of America hiding behind a flag — our flag. We won’t allow it, because we know how to build a nation. We know how the American story goes: We fight; we take it back.

Original Post

The nationalist’s nostalgic whitewashed fantasy vision of American national identity cannot be restored, because it never existed. What they seek to impose is fundamentally hostile to a nation forged in the defining American struggle for equal freedom, and we become who we are as we struggle against them.

No doubt we are experiencing some real challenges lately but the freedoms we enjoy as US immigrants is by far greater than what we had even in our countries of birth. We can still  virtually criticize the president to his face which may earn you a coffin in Guyana. I think there are many factors in play now and it is not all nationalism although nationalism is grabbed on to because it is the easiest to handle. I believe that the bigger factor is economics and the continually shipping of American jobs overseas over the past 30 years. The level of damage that did to the middle class (the largest segment of American society) was bound to show up in peoples behavior. While white Americas were probably longing for a purely white America, they were outwardly fine with its changing demographics until they suddenly had no food on their tables. A hungry man is after all an angry man. Trump is just the vehicle by which they get to express that anger. The failure of the Democrats have also assisted as their ideas and governance have been marred by corruption also. I have no idea when the city of Opalocka will get a city government that is not corrupted but no matter how many of them are jailed, the new ones seem to follow in their footsteps. The US congress would have been more Democrat leaning if so many Democrats did not separate themselves from Obama during the 2010 mid terms elections. They just didn't have the courage to fight. That lack of courage has made room for Republicans lacking in substance but still full of courage to control Congress.

And we have to also consider the over the top bombastic attitudes of some of the newer immigrants who seem unwilling infuse into the American society. Many are coming and loudly criticizing America and Americans and many Americans don't appreciate it and one cannot blame them for it. Trump's statement that if you don't like our country, you can go back to your own is not so egregious as it ended up except that it was uttered by him. The statement in itself is very reasonable. There is a reason we end up leaving Guyana just like there is a reason many from other parts of the world end up leaving their homeland and the one common factor is that the countries we left was for lack of a better word, shithole countries.

Rain threatening so I put off my walk.

The idea of white people defining what it is to be american is long gone. The reality is that changing demographics is to a more multicultural identity and that makes many afraid. 

There is white nationalism and it is almost completely what makes up the Trump core support. This is mainly white men, older white women and an insular cadre of bigots in guise of neo Nazis and so called proud boys. They represent what was at the birth of america and what as recent as a hundred years saw native Americans as vermin and blacks as chattel. They latch on to Trump and he accommodate them because he lack the capacity or it is not in his nature to accept a changing america.

ronan posted:
Stormborn posted:

will comment later...gotta go on a morning hike through the trails.

shortest “hike through the trails” on record, eh? senor lifestyle

lol

I said it is threatening to rain! But I can make my mind if I want to walk or not. I do it every day for 2 to five miles. A record on map my ride exist for that going back many years! I bike, ride and walk my dogs...senior life style...call it that if you wish but at almost 60 I look good.

Stormborn posted:
ronan posted:
Stormborn posted:

will comment later...gotta go on a morning hike through the trails.

shortest “hike through the trails” on record, eh? senor lifestyle

lol

I said it is threatening to rain! But I can make my mind if I want to walk or not. I do it every day for 2 to five miles. A record on map my ride exist for that going back many years! I bike, ride and walk my dogs...senior life style...call it that if you wish but at almost 60 I look good.

it’s “señor” stupid, not “senior”

i can’t believe omitting the tilde would occasion such an insecure rant

smh

ronan posted:
Stormborn posted:
ronan posted:
Stormborn posted:

will comment later...gotta go on a morning hike through the trails.

shortest “hike through the trails” on record, eh? senor lifestyle

lol

I said it is threatening to rain! But I can make my mind if I want to walk or not. I do it every day for 2 to five miles. A record on map my ride exist for that going back many years! I bike, ride and walk my dogs...senior life style...call it that if you wish but at almost 60 I look good.

it’s “señor” stupid, not “senior”

i can’t believe omitting the tilde would occasion such an insecure rant

smh

Cant tell with you. Thought it was an spelling glitch.  Omitting diacriticals has nothing to do with it

Stormborn posted:
ronan posted:
Stormborn posted:

will comment later...gotta go on a morning hike through the trails.

shortest “hike through the trails” on record, eh? senor lifestyle

lol

I said it is threatening to rain! But I can make my mind if I want to walk or not. I do it every day for 2 to five miles. A record on map my ride exist for that going back many years! I bike, ride and walk my dogs...senior life style...call it that if you wish but at almost 60 I look good.

Who seying you look good? Not even sixty yet and yuh self analyzing, sixty ain old. You should be hustling some 30 years old.

seignet posted:
Stormborn posted:
I said it is threatening to rain! But I can make my mind if I want to walk or not. I do it every day for 2 to five miles. A record on map my ride exist for that going back many years! I bike, ride and walk my dogs...senior life style...call it that if you wish but at almost 60 I look good.

Who seying you look good? Not even sixty yet and yuh self analyzing, sixty ain old. You should be hustling some 30 years old.

Siggy, he's hoping to catch chicks on the biking and walking trails. Walking the dogs -- major chick magnet, the girls will pet up the dogs. Just kidding, Storm. 

Stormborn posted:

Rain threatening so I put off my walk.

The idea of white people defining what it is to be american is long gone. The reality is that changing demographics is to a more multicultural identity and that makes many afraid. 

There is white nationalism and it is almost completely what makes up the Trump core support. This is mainly white men, older white women and an insular cadre of bigots in guise of neo Nazis and so called proud boys. They represent what was at the birth of america and what as recent as a hundred years saw native Americans as vermin and blacks as chattel. They latch on to Trump and he accommodate them because he lack the capacity or it is not in his nature to accept a changing america.

Yuh know it took only a few whitemen to dominate the whole of Africa, the New World and Asia. Do you really believe, the White ppl in America going to allow themselves to be overruled. Even, if they were only 100 remaining they would devise ways and means to defeat all those ppl of color. Ppl of color doan know how to win anything, they depend on the white man, for EVERYTHING. Tek note on how dey displaced the Red Indian. Play de azz over there and they will displaced you baxside like they do at the Southern Border. I doan love the whiteman but reality is reality.

ksazma posted:

I believe that the bigger factor is economics and the continually shipping of American jobs overseas over the past 30 years. The level of damage that did to the middle class (the largest segment of American society) was bound to show up in peoples behavior. While white Americas were probably longing for a purely white America, they were outwardly fine with its changing demographics until they suddenly had no food on their tables. A hungry man is after all an angry man.leaving Guyana just like there is a reason many from other parts of the world end up leaving their homeland and the one common factor is that the countries we left was for lack of a better word, shithole countries.

That is a pathetic excuse and a lie.  This country was a good deal more racist in the 80s than it is today.  Then  bashing black people and calling us welfare criminals poured out of Ronald Reagan's mouth.  George HW Bush's campaign was such that the Indo KKK would have been proud as it criminalized all black men.  Blacks were seen as subhuman.  Open racial jokes were perfectly OK in offices/

Almost NOTHING was said about this and when blacks complained we were accused of having a chip on our shoulder.  Even as people boasted about their right to exclude blacks.

Now "nonracist" white people are running around trying hard not to look racist.  Thank you Donald Trump.  Your vulgarity and that of your core base has forced the USA to look at itself in the mirror and stop pretending that it isn't what it is.  They are actually now looking around their offices and wondering how come it looks like Helsinki instead of NYC.

Last edited by caribny
seignet posted:
 

Yuh know it took only a few whitemen to dominate the whole of Africa, the New World and Asia. Do you really believe, the White ppl in America going to allow themselves to be overruled. Even, if they were only 100 remaining they would devise ways and means to defeat all those ppl of color. Ppl of color doan know how to win anything, they depend on the white man, for EVERYTHING. Tek note on how dey displaced the Red Indian. Play de azz over there and they will displaced you baxside like they do at the Southern Border. I doan love the whiteman but reality is reality.

Siggy I see you are still begging for a white man to buy you so that you can be his loyal slave.  Trump will do that so go to DC and beg him.  His sons will gladly whip you every morning and every night.

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