How Important Is the Nation-State?

 

Today I’ve been reading over the first issue of American Affairs, a new intellectual journal that appears to have grown out of the (largely Claremont-based) American Greatness movement. American Affairs seems to understand itself as a possible seed-ground for exploring an intellectual foundation to Trumpism.

I should admit forthrightly that I look on this project as a skeptic, and as one who considers that the founders of this project have taken a large (not to say foolhardy) burden on themselves. I’m not, in general, the sort of person who seeks to shut down ambitious intellectual projects. But to my mind, the trouble with American Greatness was always the extent to which it understood itself in rejectionist terms. The spirit of the thing seemed not to be, “The right could use some fresh ideas around now, so let’s explore,” so much as, “The whole conservative movement is intellectually and (probably) morally bankrupt, so we’re starting over. Sign onto our program or be rendered irrelevant.”

That kind of “convert or die” attitude makes it hard to climb aboard, especially if you think (as I do) that there’s quite a lot of good to be found in the conservative movement from Buckley through the dawn of Trump. I’m in favor of exploring new ideas and making needed adjustments, but I’m also quite opposed to chucking free-market economics and neoconservative geopolitics as though they were groceries past their expiration date. Reading the American Greatness blog, I regularly have the same thought: This is all fine, but apart from the overt belligerence, these arguments could easily have been advanced in the conservative movement of yesteryear. What has your blanket excommunication accomplished, except to insulate yourselves from critique that would likely be quite helpful?

Having said all this, I pulled up the first issue of the new journal resolved to give it a fair shot. I could only read three articles without subscribing, so I haven’t gone through the whole thing. Here’s my reaction thus far: This reads to me like choir-preaching. It’s hard to see how these arguments would be compelling to anyone who wasn’t already deeply sympathetic to the perspective being advanced. Perhaps that’s the idea; after all, if the rest of us anachronisms have already been excommunicated, maybe we’re not worth the trouble. Or we could just say (to put the point less snarkily) that it can be acceptable to have a journal. It still seems a little unfortunate, because after all, Buckleyite conservatism has been developed across many years, and even its origins involved some large and very theoretical brains. If the Great Americans are looking to toss out whole realms of conservative theory (or perhaps I have misunderstood?), they should really be revved to start laying some serious, theoretical foundations. I would have expected that to be the point of starting a journal.

Of course, it’s only the first issue. Maybe they’ll get there. But here’s a concrete example of where the argument seems so thin that I can only suppose that the author is presuming a sympathetic readership. In his opening article, Joshua Mitchell argues that Trumpism is not populist, because it in fact represents a struggle against a real enemy (globalists) on behalf of a real good (national sovereignty). Once we understand the evils of globalism, we will appreciate that Trumpism, as a part of the global war against globalism, is substantive and entirely coherent, and not (as detractors like me suspect) an emotion-driven uprising whose goals mostly boil down to a resentment-and-nostalgia-tinged wish-list. The globalists are deeply wrong, Mitchell argues, because they do not appreciate that national sovereignty is, “the final word on how to order collective life.”

At this point in the 9.000-word article, I was intrigued, presuming that Mitchell would now undertake to argue for the extraordinarily strong privileging of the nation-state that, in his view, is the motivating and justifying principle behind Trumpism. Although I have encountered a great many people who assert the primacy of the nation-state, I have yet to hear a really thorough defense. Here’s what Mitchell gives us to justify his principle:

The Peace of Westphalia, which formally inaugurated the modern European system of nation-states, came into effect in 1648. Shortly thereafter, in 1651, Hobbes wrote one of the great works in the history of political philosophy, Leviathan. In a now-common reading of that work, and correct so far as it goes, Hobbes’s Leviathan provides us with the individuated self, oriented by self-interest and the fear of death. These ideas are in Leviathan, but they only scratch the surface of that great work. Hobbes’s deeper concern in Leviathan was the English Civil War, which in no small part was a religious war involving the claims of Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. The doctrinal difference between the Roman Catholics and the Presbyterians need not concern us; what matters is where each of these Christian sects located sovereignty. Hobbes thought that Roman Catholics were guilty of what we might call “false universalism,” because they vested sovereignty at the supra-state level, in Rome. Hobbes thought that the Presbyterians were guilty of what we might call “radical particularism,” because they vested sovereignty at the sub-state level, in private conscience. The English Civil War occurred, on Hobbes’s reading, because of these religious wagers that peace and justice were possible without national sovereignty. In his estimation, these supra- and sub-state alternatives are perennial temptations of the human heart. Their defenders may promise much, but neither “commodious living” nor justice are possible through them. Only by vesting sovereignty in the state can there be improvement for citizens and workable understandings of justice.

The post-1989 experiment with globalism and identity politics demonstrates that Hobbes was correct, so long ago, that supra- and sub-state sovereignty are perennial temptations of the human heart. The post-1989 version of that temptation saw global elites use the apparatus of the state to bolster so-called free trade, international law, global norms, and international accords about “climate change,” the advances towards which purported to demonstrate the impotence of the state itself. In such a world managed from above, the only task left for the Little People was to feel good—or feel permanent shame—about their identities, and perhaps to get involved in a little “political activism” now and again, to show their commitment (on Facebook, of course) to “social justice.” The Little People in such a world were not citizens, they were idle “folks,” incapable of working together, because what really mattered was not rational deliberation with their neighbors, but what they owed, or were owed, by virtue of their identities. Determining the calculus of their debt, in turn, were Very White Progressives in the Democratic Party who cared not a jot about the real outstanding debt of $19 trillion owed by the U.S. treasury. These Very White Progressives sought to adjudicate justice from above, by legal carve-outs or, if necessary, by executive actions pertaining, for example, to transsexual bathrooms, so that all “identities” could have their due. Fortunately, 2016 was year the American electorate decided this ghastly fate was not to be theirs.

That’s it. In two paragraphs, Mitchell dispenses with the absolute prioritizing of national sovereignty, and moves right along to lambasting universities, discussing different possible strains of nationalism, and complaining about the undue influence of European thinkers on Buckleyite conservatives. This is an absolutely crucial piece of his argument (and indeed, in his view, a dividing line so critical that people who fail to side with him should not even be regarded as Americans but rather as “proxies for globalism”). Nevertheless, he evidently regards those two paragraphs as sufficient to establish the point.

This seems to me like a pretty blatant example of what I call “the Fallacy of Confusing Complexity.” Political and moral reasoning are really so much easier and less complicated if we presume that we don’t have significant moral obligations to non-Americans. Once people start thinking they might have obligations that go “above” (cosmopolitanism) or “below” (individual conscience) national boundaries, who knows where we’ll end up?! Probably fighting among ourselves, like the English did! The only solution is to insist that national sovereignty is absolutely primary, and that no other sources of obligation can really count.

As a pragmatic claim it might be true. But of course, life often seems simpler when we dismiss as too messy or complicated obligations that may in fact still exist. I think patriotism and shared nationality mean something, but I don’t they don’t mean everything. I believe that I can have obligations to non-Americans for all sorts of reasons: Because they are my blood relatives or personal friends, or because they are my co-religionists, or because our nations are allies and have assumed obligations towards one another, or possibly just because they are human beings in great need. Any of those might, in some respect, affect my compatriots as well as myself, thus going outside (either above or below) national sovereignty.

In other words, I don’t see how national sovereignty can be the absolute “final word” on collective life. Moral obligation is indeed quite complicated at times! But we aren’t entitled to dismiss moral truths just because they’re complicated and confusing.

What do others think? Is there more to this argument than I have appreciated, or is it really as thin as it seems to me?

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  1. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Just started on the article, which begins with this image:

    I submit that this sort of map has the same value as the popular vote tallies Democrats bandy about: it provides an interesting and, perhaps, instructive perspective but wholly misses the point of the constest.

    It’s like two rival baseball fans who only want to talk about the statistics that make each of their teams seem best — “We had more strike-outs than you!”; “Yeah, but your OBP was sad compared to ours!” — but who have to be cajoled into talking about the damn score.

    • #61
  2. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    Once we understand the evils of globalism, we will appreciate that Trumpism, as a part of the global war against globalism, is substantive and entirely coherent, and not (as detractors like me suspect) an emotion-driven uprising …

    “Trumpism”? “Emotionally driven uprising?” No. It was a thumb in the eye of the complacent powers that be. You’re trying to trivialize people who have a point of view different from your own, as if the only possible explanation for not seeing things the way you do is that they’re the Great Unwashed with the average IQ of a houseplant.

    I have some bad news for you. Not everyone who voted for Trump is, as you imply, an uneducated yahoo whose parents are probably first cousins. Some of us might even be better educated than you. We might even have higher IQs than you do. People voted for Trump for different reasons, chief among them:

    1. He wasn’t Hillary

    2. To send a message to the establishment GOP who wasted the majority we gave them

    3. To send a message to both sides that we want our borders secured, and that we are not apologetic about it.

    The globalist “Family of Man, who needs borders, we’re all brothers” view of the world is naive and childish. Those of us who are actual adults can see this. Trying to insult us into seeing things your way will not work. It says a lot more about you than it does about us.

    That isn’t the point of this piece or the point Rachel was making in the part you quoted.

    • #62
  3. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Tom Meyer, Ed. (View Comment):
    Just started on the article, which begins with this image:

    I submit that this sort of map has the same value as the popular vote tallies Democrats bandy about: it provides an interesting and, perhaps, instructive perspective but wholly misses the point of the constest.

    It’s like two rival baseball fans who only want to talk about the statistics that make each of their teams seem best — “We had more strike-outs than you!”; “Yeah, but your OBP was sad compared to ours!” — but who have to be cajoled into talking about the damn score.

    I also don’t understand what that imagine tells us about what Trumpism is. Lots of things are popular, that doesn’t make them correct.

    • #63
  4. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    You discarded quite a bit here but to my thinking you retained the single piece that is significant to this entire discussion, the American Constitutional system. I, personally, include this as the most important element in a civil compact uniting more than 300 million people of diverse backgrounds, including cultural attributes that vary greatly. These I must classify as sub-cultures within our diverse society but any sub-culture intent on undermining our constitutional crown jewel is unwelcome. I think we have this right and the numbers of those who choose to join us confirms that. Much of the rest of the world does not have it right and although we should make an effort to move them in the right direction, care must be taken to defend what we have and insure its survival.

    I agree it is the most important thing because it defines the nature of our State. Our country is that State, a commitment to that State and its organizing principles is what allows disparate groups to integrate into a single culture. All you need to be American is be committed to the preservation of the American constitutional order. You don’t need to be part of a specific religion, ethnicity, or even speak the same language as everyone else. This creates a highly flexible society that can be culturally homogeneous in discreet areas, but more broadly be very heterogeneous.

    • #64
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Tom Meyer, Ed. (View Comment):
    Just started on the article, which begins with this image:

    I submit that this sort of map has the same value as the popular vote tallies Democrats bandy about: it provides an interesting and, perhaps, instructive perspective but wholly misses the point of the constest.

    It’s like two rival baseball fans who only want to talk about the statistics that make each of their teams seem best — “We had more strike-outs than you!”; “Yeah, but your OBP was sad compared to ours!” — but who have to be cajoled into talking about the damn score.

    I also don’t understand what that imagine tells us about what Trumpism is. Lots of things are popular, that doesn’t make them correct.

    Technically this map does not actually judge popularity. The popular vote judges popularity. The county result map show you the location of where the fans live. kind of. Really the non-binary map is more informative since many counties are not all that strongly red or blue. Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

    • #65
  6. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins
    @MichaelCollins

    Herbert E. Meyer (View Comment):
    And all of us put “American First.” But surely we’ve learned from history that while we can turn our backs on the world, the world doesn’t turn its back on us. As we should have learned from Pearl Harbor and, much later, from 9-11, ignoring the world doesn’t always work out well. I’ve yet to hear the American Greatness people talk about this.

    Isolationism worked well as a strategy for the United States while Great Britain controlled the seas, since their interests were compatible with ours.   When they lost complete control (during the world wars) despite efforts to keep out, we got sucked in.

    If I’m walking down Pennsylvania Avenue one afternoon and I happen to see you being mugged, should I run to help you out because you’re a fellow human being in trouble? Or should I think like you, and first calculate what possible benefit would accrue to me for coming to your rescue?

    The example isn’t completely analogous to relations between nation-states, but still a good point.   A somewhat related point: If we don’t respond when an ally is attacked we shouldn’t be surprised to be left without allies in a hostile world. If the “mugged” country is not an ally getting involved should not be automatic.  But we should remember the “sucked in” principle.   Morality ultimately makes us safer, -in foreign affairs as in other departments of life.

    • #66
  7. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Tom Meyer, Ed. (View Comment):
    Just started on the article, which begins with this image:

    I submit that this sort of map has the same value as the popular vote tallies Democrats bandy about: it provides an interesting and, perhaps, instructive perspective but wholly misses the point of the constest.

    It’s like two rival baseball fans who only want to talk about the statistics that make each of their teams seem best — “We had more strike-outs than you!”; “Yeah, but your OBP was sad compared to ours!” — but who have to be cajoled into talking about the damn score.

    Just responding to your comment not the article. A difference that is important in your comparison. When the state outlines are visible this map gives a picture of the constitutional basis for the election result where a count of the popular vote summed over all the states has no constitutional meaning. Same reason I don’t typically watch American League baseball.

    • #67
  8. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Well, the map does tell you one thing: if it comes to armed insurrection, the red people will have a lot more territory, along with (one presumes) a lot more firearms. Then again, the “proxies of globalism” would probably have a lot more wealth and foreign connections, so nobody should get overconfident.

    • #68
  9. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Haven’t responded to everything here, but I just wanted to say quickly that this has really been a delightful and enlightening thread for me, so many thanks to all contributors.

    • #69
  10. Trinity Waters Inactive
    Trinity Waters
    @TrinityWaters

    I noticed that Trumpism has been bandied about.  Victor Davis Hanson has penned a good summary of what it is and isn’t.  It’s not pejorative and it’s not anti-intellectual, points addressed by RightAngles a bit earlier.

    • #70
  11. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Rachel Lu: At this point in the 9.000-word article, I was intrigued, presuming that Mitchell would now undertake to argue for the extraordinarily strong privileging of the nation-state that, in his view, is the motivating and justifying principle behind Trumpism. Although I have encountered a great many people who assert the primacy of the nation-state, I have yet to hear a really thorough defense. Here’s what Mitchell gives us to justify his principle:

    Now that I’ve read (or at least made my eyes look at all the words) in Mitchell’s article, @rachellu, I’m less sure that this is being entirely fair to Mitchell:

    Mitchell, later in his article, does make a valiant effort to distinguish between three flavors of nationalism: liberal nationalism, ethnic nationalism, and covenantal nationalism. Am I sure I wholly buy or understand the importance he attached to these three different flavors of nationalism? No. Not at first reading. But I believe he is sincere in making these distinctions. Moreover, only one of these flavors of nationalism, ethnic nationalism, which he decries as problematic, seems to be real nation-state-ism (one people, one state; one state, one people).

    Of course, the truth is, when I hear “nationalism”, I think “nation-state-ism”, too. Indeed, my whole understanding of nationalism as a concept is bound up with its asserting the primacy of the nation-state. And I think this is normal. When we want a word for attachment to a state or nation that isn’t about nation-states, the word “patriotism” seems perfectly adequate. Nationalism is a label that arose in the time of nation-states. Of course many of us think nation-state-ism when we hear “nationalism”.

    But “American nationalism” can’t be nation-state-ism, because of who we are. I think Mitchell sees this, and writes about it later in his article. Hence his need for terms like “liberal nationalism” and “covenantal nationalism” to distinguish “American nationalism” from “ethnic nationalism” or nation-state-ism – the nationalism which so many of us are used to simply calling “nationalism”.

    • #71
  12. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Rachel Lu (View Comment):
    James, are you a fan of Hobbesean theology? How interesting!

    No, he’s a forerunner of enlightenment Protestantism, but just because someone’s theology is wrong doesn’t make it materialistic. Hobbes doesn’t even think his theology is all that great, though. Part of the reason that he’s happy to defer to others if they proclaim his errors is because he has a humility about it that strikes me as profoundly impressive. Richard Hooker’s On The Laws Of Ecclesiastical Polity is about as good as political theology gets (which is to say, very good indeed), and was profoundly influenced by Hobbes.

    In general academic philosophers will tell you that no one reads the later sections of Leviathan. I have read those sections, but not for a long time. I read it cover to cover as an undergraduate and again in the Peace Corps. I have a sort of “fondness” of Leviathan because when I was applying for graduate school, I looked through my files and decided that none of us undergraduate papers were quite suitable to use as a writing sample. Since Leviathan was one of few philosophical works I had in its entirety in my apartment in Uzbekistan, and since I had always thought it provokingly wrong, I set to and wrote up something (likely similar to the above argument) and sent it out with my applications. Academic friends later laughed at me for being such a rube, just writing up an argument straight from my brain, not using any secondary literature or even consulting anyone. But I guess the result wasn’t too bad, since I did get in.

    At this point my memory of the late sections is faint, but I know the early quite well because they were part of the general ethics course that I taught for several years. I do recall that religion, like everything else, was subject to the Sovereign’s decision (can’t have pluralism or you might get civil unrest) but Hobbes does have rather detailed views on what correct theology should be. Some of your Straussean types argue that the whole theological segment was basically a cover to deflect heat and give Hobbes plausible deniability against the charge that he was an atheist. I don’t know if that’s right; I vaguely recall MacIntryre being quite skeptical of that view… but I don’t remember his reasons.

    It’s possible that Leviathan falsely claiming religion, although…. ugh. I don’t think it’s possible that Leviathan is materialistic; even if Leviathan was a front, the dress worn to disguise the gender of its male wearer is still a dress.

    The thing is, the early sections just lay out such very strong claims. The brutally atomistic view of human nature, leveling Aristotle and the Scholastics with a bare insistence that human beings might potentially want anything, and considered pre-politically, we have no grounds on which to say that they are wrong either to desire or to act in whatever way suits them. I mean he’s pretty much gutting teleological ethics right there. And then of course all the absolute submission stuff. Do you think the later stuff softens that? Walks it back in any way?

    I should clarify my lack of support for Hobbes’ theology; it’s better than Plato or Aristotle’s, who completely ignore scripture. God’s plan is at the center of Leviathan. Christ preaches submission to the law, including to unjust laws, while making it clear that unjust laws exist. Peter and Paul each add more to that, including the Hobbesian claim that the Divine motive for instituting government is to punish bad actors.

    Obviously, Hobbes goes too far; he wasn’t exactly standing on the shoulders of giants. Both the excessive belief in reason that was just beginning to be popular when he was writing and the excessive belief in the scope of the depravity of man that Calvin helped popularize have important roles in his thought. Nonetheless, he captures important theological truths and appears to me to earnestly attempt to work through the implications, in large part driven by a genuine piety.

    • #72
  13. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Just responding to your comment not the article. A difference that is important in your comparison. When the state outlines are visible this map gives a picture of the constitutional basis for the election result…

    Not really, as (Maine and Nebraska aside) it’s the popular vote within each state that determines its electors’ election. This map gives the impression that large, empty counties are as determinative of state elections as major population centers.

    • #73
  14. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    As an addendum to the above, this map is closer to what you want, as congressional districts are determined by population size:

    And yes, I realize that it: 1) does not include the two-votes-per-state and 2) is from Kos.

    • #74
  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Tom Meyer, Ed. (View Comment):
    Just started on the article, which begins with this image:

    I submit that this sort of map has the same value as the popular vote tallies Democrats bandy about: it provides an interesting and, perhaps, instructive perspective but wholly misses the point of the constest.

    It’s like two rival baseball fans who only want to talk about the statistics that make each of their teams seem best — “We had more strike-outs than you!”; “Yeah, but your OBP was sad compared to ours!” — but who have to be cajoled into talking about the damn score.

    Just responding to your comment not the article. A difference that is important in your comparison. When the state outlines are visible this map gives a picture of the constitutional basis for the election result where a count of the popular vote summed over all the states has no constitutional meaning. Same reason I don’t typically watch American League baseball.

    The popular vote will give you an accurate reading of the election result more often than a land mass count, even showing the state lines. Dole, McCain, Romney, Bush ’92, Ford, and Nixon ’60 all won the majority of land in states with 270 votes. Postwar, it’s only Dewey and Goldwater who would still have given the White House to a Democrat. The popular vote, on the other hand, will tell you the winner of all postwar elections except Bush ’00 and Trump.

    • #75
  16. Quake Voter Inactive
    Quake Voter
    @QuakeVoter

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    Now that I’ve read (or at least made my eyes look at all the words) in Mitchell’s article, @rachellu, I’m less sure that this is being entirely fair to Mitchell:

    Thanks MFR, I just finished making my eyes look at all the words and agree that Ms. Lu is being less than fair to Mitchell, whose views are far more complex and frustratingly esoteric than the PowerPoint Hobbesian framework Lu throws a disproportion of her considerable intellect upon.  Lu wins the argument the same way Stonewall Jackson did:  throwing all her resources on the periphery of the argument and trying to roll it up.

    But at least she read the article!

    This entire comments string has been an exercise of throwing out and rehashing priors, whether NeverTrump or not.   We read like a class of bright students who just haven’t done the reading.

    I’ll admit that being called nostalgic by people who insist the Articles of Confederation are a founding national document is entertaining.

    I found Mitchell’s peroration to be rather inspiring and far from call to a great leaderism.

     

     

    • #76
  17. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    James Of England (View Comment):
    Both the excessive belief in reason that was just beginning to be popular when he was writing and the excessive belief in the scope of the depravity of man that Calvin helped popularize have important roles in his thought. Nonetheless, he captures important theological truths and appears to me to earnestly attempt to work through the implications, in large part driven by a genuine piety.

    As does the civil war through which he lived. Many of the flaws in Hobbes’ thinking are due to his having attempted to organize his political philosophy around a physical/chemical concept of what a human being is.

    • #77
  18. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Tom Meyer, Ed. (View Comment):
    As an addendum to the above, this map is closer to what you want, as congressional districts are determined by population size:

    And yes, I realize that it: 1) does not include the two-votes-per-state and 2) is from Kos.

    Thanks. I didn’t reflect enough on the actual map displayed. This one is more appropriate. One additional point though, those missing 2 votes per state is a big indicator that we don’t rely on a national popular vote for anything.

    • #78
  19. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    @valiuth

    I would like to offer the example of the movie Drumline as a showcase for American culture. It is a movie about a young African-American man with exceptional talent for percussion trying to learn of himself and his place in society. He is trying to manage his urge to “keep it real” and still excell within a team setting where his contributions can make the whole better than the sum of parts. The band director is also trying to sort out bringing the old and the new together to produce quality that advances the band to a previously unknown height. Although the movie is almost exclusively African-American. The values realized struck me as inclusively and uniquely American, culturally

    • #79
  20. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    Now that I’ve read (or at least made my eyes look at all the words) in Mitchell’s article, @rachellu, I’m less sure that this is being entirely fair to Mitchell:

    Thanks MFR, I just finished making my eyes look at all the words and agree that Ms. Lu is being less than fair to Mitchell, whose views are far more complex and frustratingly esoteric than the PowerPoint Hobbesian framework Lu throws a disproportion of her considerable intellect upon…

    Although to be fair to Rachel, associating nationalism with promotion of the nation-state is hardly weird, either.

    I think Mitchell, and others in this Claremont-based movement, are attempting some reappropriation here. Just as slut-walks, etc, attempt to reclaim words like “slut” (and maybe others, like the one that rhymes with “punt”) from their pejorative use and “take them back” to make them non-pejorative and perhaps even words of pride, this movement aims to reclaim phrases like “nationalism” and “America first” from their historical baggage. Maybe this falls under using the left’s tactics against itself. Maybe this falls under, “Could we just clear away some baggage so that we have short, familiar words for what we want to call opposition to globalism?” Maybe both.

    Even when the case for reappropriation is good, it is bound to confuse decent people along the way. In the case of a word like “slut”, I think most of us would agree that it’s normal for decent people to take the attitude, “What do you mean you want to reclaim the word from its shameful baggage? The baggage is there.” On the other hand, it’s also clear that many normal, decent Americans want to use “nationalism” (or “America first”), free from its baggage, as a shorthand for re-asserting American sovereignty. I think normal, decent Americans may simply be divided on how easy it is to free words like “nationalism” from the baggage they’ve accumulated: I don’t think doubting it can be done, or thinking it can (and perhaps must) be done, marks someone out as separate from normal America at this point.

    • #80
  21. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    I am fascinated by the people who think the essay is marvelous in content, style, and conclusions.

    Let me boil it down.

    I am a Never Trumper. Some Trumpers have a venue where they explain Trump philosophy. This philosophy seems to think I don’t matter. I will cherry pick some stuff and put up some straw men to whack down while whispering fascism. I will list a few philosophers. I am a Never Trumper and I was never wrong.

    I don’t think you actually read the piece. Rachel goes on at length to explain what she found wanting in the essay. Having read the essay myself I find it wanting too. There is no value in a journal that seeks to present Trumpism to the public if they don’t actually seek to explain Trumpism.

    I read it last night.   There’s no value in a critique from some people either, particularly those unwilling to reflect on pre-conceived ideas they are out to prove.

    • #81
  22. Matt Y. Inactive
    Matt Y.
    @MattY

    RightAngles (View Comment):“Trumpism”? “Emotionally driven uprising?” No. It was a thumb in the eye of the complacent powers that be. You’re trying to trivialize people who have a point of view different from your own, as if the only possible explanation for not seeing things the way you do is that they’re the Great Unwashed with the average IQ of a houseplant.

     

    [snip]The globalist “Family of Man, who needs borders, we’re all brothers” view of the world is naive and childish. Those of us who are actual adults can see this. [snip]

    (1) The desire to give someone a thumb in the eye – that’s the emotion. Anger. If that is the desire, it is emotion-driven.

    Plenty of people (not me, to be clear) voted for Trump for unemotional reasons (the belief that Hillary was clearly worse and therefore that justified voting for Trump, or because of the Supreme Court). There are also intelligent people who sincerely believe Trump’s ideas and vision are best. I don’t believe Rachel denied that – her objections seem more nuanced than that. So you’re attacking a straw man.

    (2) Another straw man – your description of any view outside of Trumpism. To quote from Tom’s comment earlier: [This straw man] presumes that globalism and nationalism come in only one flavor each, and that it’s impossible to favor a mixture of internationalism and political sovereignty.

    • #82
  23. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    DocJay (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    I am fascinated by the people who think the essay is marvelous in content, style, and conclusions.

    Let me boil it down.

    I am a Never Trumper. Some Trumpers have a venue where they explain Trump philosophy. This philosophy seems to think I don’t matter. I will cherry pick some stuff and put up some straw men to whack down while whispering fascism. I will list a few philosophers. I am a Never Trumper and I was never wrong.

    I don’t think you actually read the piece. Rachel goes on at length to explain what she found wanting in the essay. Having read the essay myself I find it wanting too. There is no value in a journal that seeks to present Trumpism to the public if they don’t actually seek to explain Trumpism.

    I read it last night. There’s no value in a critique from some people either, particularly those unwilling to reflect on pre-conceived ideas they are out to prove.

    Is that what you think Rachel is doing? Seems to me like she genuinely wanted to learn. Knowing Rachel that seems like a pretty good faith assumption to me.

    • #83
  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Michael Collins (View Comment):

    Herbert E. Meyer (View Comment):
    And all of us put “American First.” But surely we’ve learned from history that while we can turn our backs on the world, the world doesn’t turn its back on us. As we should have learned from Pearl Harbor and, much later, from 9-11, ignoring the world doesn’t always work out well. I’ve yet to hear the American Greatness people talk about this.

    Isolationism worked well as a strategy for the United States while Great Britain controlled the seas, since their interests were compatible with ours. When they lost complete control (during the world wars) despite efforts to keep out, we got sucked in.

    If I’m walking down Pennsylvania Avenue one afternoon and I happen to see you being mugged, should I run to help you out because you’re a fellow human being in trouble? Or should I think like you, and first calculate what possible benefit would accrue to me for coming to your rescue?

    The example isn’t completely analogous to relations between nation-states, but still a good point. A somewhat related point: If we don’t respond when an ally is attacked we shouldn’t be surprised to be left without allies in a hostile world. If the “mugged” country is not an ally getting involved should not be automatic. But we should remember the “sucked in” principle. Morality ultimately makes us safer, -in foreign affairs as in other departments of life.

    To be fair, Michael, I suspect you’re not the target market for a political philosophy predicated on protecting us from the evils of Catholicism.

    • #84
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    Rachel Lu: At this point in the 9.000-word article, I was intrigued, presuming that Mitchell would now undertake to argue for the extraordinarily strong privileging of the nation-state that, in his view, is the motivating and justifying principle behind Trumpism. Although I have encountered a great many people who assert the primacy of the nation-state, I have yet to hear a really thorough defense. Here’s what Mitchell gives us to justify his principle:

    Now that I’ve read (or at least made my eyes look at all the words) in Mitchell’s article, @rachellu, I’m less sure that this is being entirely fair to Mitchell:

    Mitchell, later in his article, does make a valiant effort to distinguish between three flavors of nationalism: liberal nationalism, ethnic nationalism, and covenantal nationalism. Am I sure I wholly buy or understand the importance he attached to these three different flavors of nationalism? No. Not at first reading. But I believe he is sincere in making these distinctions. Moreover, only one of these flavors of nationalism, ethnic nationalism, which he decries as problematic, seems to be real nation-state-ism (one people, one state; one state, one people).

    Of course, the truth is, when I hear “nationalism”, I think “nation-state-ism”, too. Indeed, my whole understanding of nationalism as a concept is bound up with its asserting the primacy of the nation-state. And I think this is normal. When we want a word for attachment to a state or nation that isn’t about nation-states, the word “patriotism” seems perfectly adequate. Nationalism is a label that arose in the time of nation-states. Of course many of us think nation-state-ism when we hear “nationalism”.

    But “American nationalism” can’t be nation-state-ism, because of who we are. I think Mitchell sees this, and writes about it later in his article. Hence his need for terms like “liberal nationalism” and “covenantal nationalism” to distinguish “American nationalism” from “ethnic nationalism” or nation-state-ism – the nationalism which so many of us are used to simply calling “nationalism”.

     

    I’m willing to hear that when they say nationalism they mean patriotism, and when they say America First, they don’t intend the meaning. Just as I’m not sure that there’s been a lot of value created through the African American use of the N word, though, I guess I don’t see the value to abandoning Reaganesque language for the language of the original America Firsters, outside of the thumb in the eye to people made uncomfortable by it. If legitimizing language requires tendentiously redefining it and existing words convey the meaning adequately, why go to the effort?

    • #85
  26. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins
    @MichaelCollins

    James Of England (View Comment):
    To be fair, Michael, I suspect you’re not the target market for a political philosophy predicated on protecting us from the evils of Catholicism.

    James, I am totally confused.

    • #86
  27. Matt Y. Inactive
    Matt Y.
    @MattY

    Valiuth (View Comment):
     

    Agree with your comments about culture, etc. But I’m not sure that it is correct to say that the United States is not a nation, or that the distinction between nation and state is helpful – unless you’re adopting a definition of “nation” that automatically signifies the blood-and-soil European right-wing idea of a nation-state.

    See Federalist 2, for example. John Jay seems comfortable with the use of “nation”. He does mention some shared cultural things that are much more diverse today (religion, manners and customs), but he seems to use these things to argue that the states should be one nation, with the intent of the Constitution being to create a federal government for that nation.

    It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government.

    [snip]

    To all general purposes we have uniformly been one people each individual citizen everywhere enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection. As a nation we have made peace and war; as a nation we have vanquished our common enemies; as a nation we have formed alliances, and made treaties, and entered into various compacts and conventions with foreign states.

    • #87
  28. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Matt Y. (View Comment):

    (2) Another straw man – your description of any view outside of Trumpism. To quote from Tom’s comment earlier: [This straw man] presumes that globalism and nationalism come in only one flavor each, and that it’s impossible to favor a mixture of internationalism and political sovereignty.

    You do mean ‘national political sovereignty’,  not international, right?

    • #88
  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    James Of England (View Comment):
    I’m willing to hear that when they say nationalism they mean patriotism,

    I think something more specific than “patriotism” is meant – perhaps along the lines of “patriotism as manifested in our opposition to ‘globalism’ or in our particular ideas about border enforcement”. It may be a way of acknowledging that people who don’t share identical ideas about what globalism is or exactly how our border should be enforced can still be patriots.

    and when they say America First, they don’t intend the meaning. Just as I’m not sure that there’s been a lot of value created through the African American use of the N word, though, I guess I don’t see the value to abandoning Reaganesque language for the language of the original America Firsters, outside of the thumb in the eye to people made uncomfortable by it. If legitimizing language requires tendentiously redefining it and existing words convey the meaning adequately, why go to the effort?

    To use the tactics of the left against the left? To “take something back” from the left? To not be “doormats” anymore?… Perhaps the tendentiousness is perceived as integral to asserting what it means to really be American.

    • #89
  30. Matt Y. Inactive
    Matt Y.
    @MattY

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Matt Y. (View Comment):

    (2) Another straw man – your description of any view outside of Trumpism. To quote from Tom’s comment earlier: [This straw man] presumes that globalism and nationalism come in only one flavor each, and that it’s impossible to favor a mixture of internationalism and political sovereignty.

    You do mean ‘national political sovereignty’, not international, right?

    Yes

    • #90
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