Future historians of the American right are going to have a devil of a time figuring out what the hell happened as the second decade of the 21st century came to a close. But every day I become more convinced about at least one of their conclusions: The nationalists blew it.

Now, for those who don't enjoy the nuances of conservative taxonomy, I should explain that I am using "nationalist" broadly, to include various camps on the right that think the U.S. has been too globalist and too reverential of the free market at the expense of social cohesion and a patriotic sense of national unity.

Nationalists are a diverse group, containing serious scholars like Notre Dame's Patrick Deneen and Harvard Law School's Adrian Vermeule. This group also includes sharp, ambitious politicians like Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), insightful writers like New York Post op-ed editor Sohrab Ahmari, and the familiar retinue of MAGAnauts, America Firsters, rabble-rousers, Trump boosters and populist opportunists.

They don't all agree with each other, and they don't all go by the "nationalist" moniker. But as a general proposition, I think most start from faulty premises about the nature of nationalism or the benefits of President Trump's embrace of it. I am proudly a pre-Trump conservative who thinks both Trump and the nationalist cause are not what conservatism needed.

Regardless, what unites them all is the notion that the Trump presidency and its emphasis on "America First" brought a long overdue correction to our politics. Nationalism, they argue, is an essential part of a healthy society, because it offers a unifying ethos — a sense of collective identity and social solidarity.

They often go in different directions from that starting point. Some favor building walls, both literal and figurative, around America so we can keep away both foreign wares and foreign workers. Others are eager to find a rationale for a hawkish anti-China agenda. Some simply spout a lot of slogans to provide a semblance of an ideologically coherent argument behind Trump's erratic and glandular governing style.

The coronavirus was a gift delivered to all of them, but they refused to sign for it. And while the China hawks have certainly (and to some extent, rightly) benefited, the larger movement missed its shot.

World War II — a touchstone for all notions of American greatness — was the last time the whole country mobilized for a common cause. Since then, wars have been fought, and felt, by an ever-shrinking fraction of the country. All the other unifying moments — the Cuban missile crisis, the moon landing, etc. — have been experienced by most Americans at a distance, usually on a TV screen.

Whether or not it would have been the right policy, the pandemic could have been the perfect crisis mechanism for implementing a WWII-style, top-down nationalist agenda for the common good. But Trump, who claims "total authority" to do whatever he thinks is necessary to fight the pandemic, opted to embrace federalism and the free market rather than asking us to pull together as a country united in a cause.

A virus that threatens every American, but the old and vulnerable especially, should have been a boon to pro-life Catholic nationalists who champion the seamless garment of life, extol the virtues of respecting our elders and yearn for a right-wing New Deal. Mobilizing to their defense, even at a deep cost to the free market they deride, should have been an easy call. Instead, they've opted to take their lead from Trump and turn face masks into a culture war symbol, denouncing mask-wearing as "cowardly" obeisance to tyranny.

During both world wars, every American institution and citizen was politically and, to a great extent, legally dragooned into the war effort. These "we're all in it together" mobilizations permanently expanded the federal government and the nationalization of our politics. Since then, nationalist appeals to the whole country have been subordinated to partisan politics and the culture war. Calls for national unity from one party are seen as an attempted power grab by the other, and often for good reason.

But pandemics, like wars, offer an opportunity for such calls to work, precisely because they are perceived as necessary. If Trump were the nationalist many of his supporters think he is — or, frankly, the dictator his foes take him for — this would have been the nationalists' moment. Trump refused to seize it because he needs domestic enemies to galvanize his base and rationalize his re-election. And for many of the nationalists, it seems his needs are more important than the country's.

2020, Tribune Content Agency

(16) comments

LVW

I don't know why you guys get so worked up over Goldberg. He makes good observations.

In this case, what the Trumpites can't seem to see is that, for Trump, it's "Trump first", not "America first". Any overlap is purely coincidental.

bishopsboy

LVW, you're all wet. President Trump does indeed have a huge ego, acting in a self-serving manner much of his life. However, he also truly loves this country, its people, freedom and liberty. It’s sad you and other liberals are so blinded by hatred to see that reality.

LVW

Bb: I'm not the one who is blind when it comes to Trump. It's those who have to overlook so much to support that self-serving individual.

bishopsboy

He's a diamond in the rough, LVW. At least as President, he's been willing to fight for the average American which is much, much more than Hillary would have done or that Biden would do if elected.

LVW

LOL, can you have a 70-something diamond in the rough? Do you figure he'll be polished by the time he hits, oh, 90?

bishopsboy

LVW, 90 may be too soon, perhaps 100. [smile]

Donald

I acknowledge that I have animosity toward neo-conservatism and its advocates, Mr. LVW. The reasons are many, but one high profile reason is that they were a primary part of deceiving the American People into accepting the invasion and occupation of the Middle East. There is many more reasons but this space is too limited to go into detail.

As for Mr. Trump, he has a few more weeks to demonstrate that he has not gone all in with conservative, Inc. and the rest of the “Swamp”. To do so he will have to put teeth into his currently toothless executive order concerning an immigration moratorium. If he does not, we probably should get used to referring to Mr. Kushner as President Kushner.

I must admit that I am glad to see that Mr. Sessions, perhaps the only politician that actually has the interests of the historic American People in mind, has finally told Mr. Trump to shut up, grow up, and stop whining.

Mr. Trump may have tipped his hand by throwing his support toward a football coach who is really nothing more than an open borders guy hiding behind an “I support a wall” façade. In other words, Mr. Trump has once again endorsed a conservative, Inc. RNC hireling.

Donald

Mr. Goldberg demonstrates once again his petulance at having neo-conservatism sidelined by a remnant America fed up with the subversive goals of neo-conservatives, neo-liberals, post-modernist hate-groups engaging in the intersectional splintering of America, and perpetual race-hustlers, to name a few.

There are basically three types of conservatism. The first is paleo-conservatism which is associated with the Old Right – the most American of conservatives. They recognized America as a People. Mr. Pat Buchanan would be a good example of a paleo-conservative. Paleo-conservatism was shoved aside by the rise of neo-conservatism.

The second is neo-conservatism which began as WWII liberals who were anti-Soviet and later were highly influenced by Leo Strauss, a professor of politic science at the University of Chicago – they are the least American of conservatives, viewing America as nothing more than a proposition nation – hence their underlying hatred for the concept of nationhood, which is simply a reference to “a People”, which explains the contempt they have for the historic American People. Someone has written that their motto should be “Invade the world, invite the world”.

The third is what is derisively called conservatism, Inc. This group is made up of influence peddlers and politicians who talk a good conservative game but have actively and wholeheartedly joined forces with the neo-liberal side over the years to import cheap foreign labor from alien cultures and support massive legal and illegal immigration without a demand for assimilation resulting in a savaging of our social and cultural cohesiveness. They have no real principles other than self-benefit while mouthing pabulum for political points that keep them in office while continuing to serve their real masters – globalism in the form of transnational corporations and other Wall Street financial entities. Paul Ryan would be a good example of a fully paid up member of conservatism, Inc.

So when Mr. Goldberg self-indentifies as a “pre-Trump conservative” he means he is someone who saw the usefulness of conservatism, Inc. for the advancing of the neo-conservative desire to undermine and subvert the historic American People in favor of a country that is nothing more than a geopolitical boundary within which a set of propositions would immediately adhere to and become integral to large, imported, culturally alien groups – and, of course, ruled over by Leviathan. It was their mission to bring democracy to every corner of the world – whether wanted or not.

But, along came Mr. Trump, who had enough insight to recognize that the American People wanted a return to nationhood status and a government that did not sell out the American working family year after year, after year, after year. The apple cart has been turned over. Will it be filled with fresh apples or will the rotted apples simply be gathered up and returned to the cart?

Donald

I might also suggest that when Mr. Goldberg writes that the Wuhan virus is “the perfect crisis mechanism for implementing a WWII-style, top-down nationalist agenda for the common good” what he really means is that it would be perfect for a top-down Statist agenda for a globalist’s good.

The neo-con worships the state because it is the state that controls the power to “spread democracy” throughout the world. Mr. Goldberg is irked because, in his opinion, the crisis that could have brought forth an even more all-powerful state was wasted. He apparently hopes to one day have neo-conservatives regain their influence over an even more powerful state less accountable to an even more atomized society and regrets the current missed opportunity.

prodigalson

Great posts Donald. Very educational.

DANT

Great post!

R B Tate

Goldyberg has moved beyond his usual columns of TDS diaper loads. He is now a raving lunatic who can no longer hide his hatred for Americans who don’t buy into his NWO visions. His babbling anger is spewing all over the place. At pro-life Catholics (who won’t wear face masks), America First types, those who prefer small government, rugged individualists, those wanting border laws enforced, and evidently the don’t tread on me types who think that U.S. citizens and businesses should not be subservient to China. And of course, those seamless garments of life.

Donald

Is it not interesting, Mr. Tate, that Leo Strauss's work is held in high regard in China?[wink]

R B Tate

I was not aware of that Donald, and mostly unaware of Leo Strauss at all. Reading these posts, the only thing that rang a bell about the name was that he was a mentor of Irving Kristol, who was a mentor of Goldberg and his homies.

Thank you for the information; it made me more curious about the subject. As always, you are a wealth of knowledge. Your posts make me think beyond my rather simplified extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.

Donald

Actually, I like your succinct and to the point posts, Mr. Tate. Perhaps because we may be on the same wavelength -- making it easier for me to understand your underlying reasoning without extraneous elaboration.

DANT

Excellent post Mr. Tate!

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