The Return of American Nationalism

John Fonte & John O'Sullivan, National Review, November 18, 2016

Donald Trump’s election is above all else a rebellion of the voters against identity politics enforced by political correctness, and it opens the way to a new politics of moderate levels of immigration, patriotic assimilation, and, in foreign policy, the defense of U.S. sovereignty. In the past few months, Trump put together a winning electoral coalition that stressed the unity and common interests of all Americans across the full spectrum of policy, from immigration to diplomacy.

Because of Trump’s electoral success, this combination of policies rooted in the national interest and patriotism has suddenly begun to sound like common sense. That was not so only yesterday, when political correctness made it hard even to examine such ideas as “multiculturalism.” In February, David Gelernter stated that the “havoc” that political correctness “has wreaked for 40 years [has been made] worse by the flat refusal of most serious Republicans to confront it.” Indeed, he noted, “only Trump has the common sense to mention the elephant in the room. Naturally he is winning.” Defeating political correctness — or, in positive terms, expanding real freedom of speech — made it possible to raise other issues that worried the voters but that a bland bipartisan consensus pushed to the sidelines.

Once that happened, it became clear that the room was simply packed with elephants: multiculturalism, diversity, bilingualism, identity politics, political correctness itself, and much more, extending to the wilder shores of gender politics. All of these were involved in the progressive project of “fundamentally transforming” America. All of them acquired corporate and establishment support almost magically. But the major driver of this project was mass immigration without assimilation. Since the fight over the Gang of Eight immigration bill in 2013, patriotic and populist opposition to amnesty and to increases in low-skilled immigration has intensified. But Republicans in general, and presidential candidates in particular, were late to the party. Except for Senator Jeff Sessions, who led the fight in Congress, and Donald Trump, who did so in the primaries, professional Republicans at all levels — donors, consultants, candidates, and incumbents — were bullied away from raising the issue, for fear of being thought unrespectable. Even some conservatives felt the same.

And then Trump’s bold grasp of the immigration issue propelled him to the GOP’s presidential nomination. Though other issues are important here, no other single one explains his rise as clearly or as simply. So conservatives had (and have) to deal with it.

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American nationalism fits comfortably alongside economic and traditional conservatism, strengthening this ideological coalition. The democratic nationalism within American conservatism could even be seen as the glue that binds economic, social, and other conservatives together, just as in the old days anti-Communism provided such a bond.

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National conservatism, or “one America” conservatism, is idealistic without being naïve or utopian. It reflects the good sense, decency, and aspirations of the American people for self-government, national independence, and the perpetuation of our way of life. To believe, as most Americans do, that the U.S. Constitution is superior to international law, that immigrants — though welcome — should become part of a united national community rather than join an ethnic enclave in a balkanized America, and that our national identity is more important than any ethnic or transnational loyalty is not to take the low road of nationalist selfishness but the moral high ground of democratic self-government in a particular society. In global politics, moreover, these principles enshrine a universal ideal of democratic sovereignty within an independent liberal-democratic nation-state that inspires people in — yes — less happy lands.

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Besides, this new patriotic fusionism has now proved itself at the ballot box as Trump outperformed Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George H. W. Bush in the working-class and rural precincts of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio. Why give up on a winning game?

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