Just over 6 years ago I wrote this post about my concerns of the rising tide of nationalism in the United States.
And then on Monday, Trump says, “All I want is for our country is to be treated well, to be treated with respect, so in that sense I’m absolutely a nationalist, and I’m proud of it.”
Either he is a proud nationalist, which should be terrifying to anyone who has even cursorily studied early-to-mid 20th-century geopolitics (he certainly exhibits all the hallmarks). Or he’s an ignorant fool who doesn’t understand why saying that is a dangerous precedent to set.
Of course, he tried to present a softer, gentler nationalism (be treated well, with respect). I’m not sure if there’s a term for the rhetorical device, but it allows “nationalism” to re-enter the language “safely” because proponents can now pretend it just means “be treated well and with respect.” But that’s not what “nationalism” means. Any pretense that nationalists just want respect will eventually drop and we’ll end up closer and closer to actual nationalism.
Historically, to be openly espousing nationalism and embracing it is not a good thing. If it continues unchecked it will lead to violence in our borders. This has always been the end result of one group saying, “Our group is the best” which leads to “We deserve to have these things” which leads to “You aren’t part of our group” which leads to you “So you don’t deserve to have these things” which leads to “So we’re going to take them from you.”
Unfortunately, today we’re passing by the “So you don’t deserve to have these things” phase. This is evident in policies that close U.S. borders to refugees, animosity about welfare programs, and attempts to stifle legal immigration. And we’re quickly tilting towards “So we’re going to take them from you.” This is evident in the process of cutting taxes for the wealthy and then paying for it by cutting social programs for the poor as well as taking children from parents and indefinitely detaining them in camps.
With history as our guide, if left unchecked it will get worse.
If this is not a narrative you’d like to see played out, please vote for politicians who oppose this course. We do have a chance in 13 days to send a message as a nation about what we stand for. Many candidates are on ballots openly supporting this agenda of nationalism. Don’t let them win.
After I wrote this piece, there are news reports of explosives being sent to left-of-center politicians and media outlets. I’m not going to claim the motives of the person(s) responsible, but I will say the identification of out-groups to label as enemies is fundamental to the nationalist agenda.
Hateful rhetoric towards these out-groups is amped up at every opportunity. They’re blamed for everything wrong in the lives of the followers. And it’s trivial for such rhetoric to become action. The President’s message (spoken and otherwise) to his followers in response to today’s events will be crucial in shaping the behavioral norms in the nationalist camp.
And let me be abundantly clear: When I say “Don’t let them win” I mean vote against them, support their opponents, and encourage your friends to vote.
Update 2, 10/30:
NPR reports today that Trump thinks he can change citizenship laws with an executive order and deny children born on U.S. soil from being U.S. citizens.
This is nationalism at work. This is “so you don’t deserve these things” in action.
The next step will be to start casually suggesting that we should revoke the citizenship of anyone born in the U.S. by a mother who entered illegally. Which will be “so we’re going to take them from you.” We need to stop nationalism now before it gets wholly out of control.