Make Americanism Great Again

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 March 22, 2017|
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I recently received an e-mail—you may have seen it, too—from a person who has been a prominent spokesman for the GOP and now is a NeverTrumper. He notes that the GOP and American conservatism appear to have arrived at a turning point. Perhaps, he suggests, we should abandon the label “conservative” and reclaim for ourselves the word “liberal.”

Perhaps not. I certainly do not feel up to teaching Rush Limbaugh to call himself a liberal.

But the author of the e-mail has a point. The progressives first rejected the classical liberalism of the American Founders—and then they stole the name for themselves! The Founders focused on the theory and practice of liberty, and theirs is still today the most radical attempt to establish a regime of liberty in the entire history of mankind. The inscription on the Liberty Bell makes their purpose clear: “Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.”

Every policy of modern progressivism—from forcing American citizens to purchase government-approved health insurance to enforcing the dogmas of political correctness in the public square to imposing transgender bathrooms on our schools to advocating voting rights for illegal aliens—is profoundly illiberal. Yet the progressives get away with calling themselves liberals. (How this came about is a fascinating story, one that you probably need to have under your belt to make your way in this time of profound political change. I dedicated the last chapter of my book, Common Sense Nation, to telling that story.)

And it is also true that it was the progressives who chose the conservative label for their political foes, and then proceeded to impose that label on them. FDR, while confiscating the liberal label for progressivism, suggested that the champions of the Constitution call themselves “conservatives”. At first they were reluctant to do so. But because the progressive “liberals” were doing something radically new—fundamentally transforming the nature of American politics by setting out to overthrow the Constitution one step at a time, progressively—the champions of the Constitution were put on the defensive. As defenders of the Constitution they eventually came around to the idea of calling themselves conservatives. So it was that the champions of the radically Liberal American Constitution came to be called “conservatives.”

But “conservatism” is not a perfect fit for the American idea. The Founders certainly did not think of themselves as conservatives, so why should we? The Founders were, after all, revolutionaries. Of course, they were not like the madmen of the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. They were common sense revolutionaries—and that was the secret of their astonishing success.

If not “conservatism,” what should we call the politics of the American idea? Isn’t the obvious right choice “Americanism”?

The word is no longer in favor, driven to the margins of acceptability by the progressive Left’s rejection of everything traditionally American. But for our purposes that is an advantage. This gives us the perfect opening to reclaim the name for ourselves.

Americanism, as the name of our political movement, naturally has two elements.

First, Americanism is pro-American in the most practical and elemental sense. Americanism champions America’s safety, its prosperity, its uniqueness, its well-being.

Second, Americanism champions the American idea. It is dedicated to the Founders’ ideals, to the Constitution as written, to the study and celebration of the Founders’ gift to us.

This label has the political advantage of highlighting both parts of the progressive agenda. The progressives reject the American idea of the Founders, and—astonishingly—they also reject what is simply good for America. They are for flooding America with illegal aliens, bringing in Muslims while turning a blind eye to the risks of importing terrorism, dragging the economy down with excessive regulations and redistributive policies, submerging America in a welter of globalist entanglements, and on and on.

“Americanism” also has the political advantage of making clear what each side is for: the opposite of pro-American, after all, is anti-American.

If the anti-Americanism of the progressive Left has become so powerful that it can’t be stopped, at least we can know that we chose the right hill on which to make our stand. All that remains is for us to conduct ourselves in such a way that win or lose we deserve to win.

About the Author:

Robert Curry
Robert Curry serves on the Board of Directors of the Claremont Institute and is the author of Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea from Encounter Books. You can preview the book at: http://www.amazon.com/Common-Sense-Nation-Unlocking-Forgotten/dp/1594038252 He also serves on the Board of Distinguished Advisors for the Ronald Reagan Center for Freedom and Understanding.
  • DMalcolmCarson

    Why not just “patriotism”? One would think that the left would howl with anger at the right claiming that mantle, but really, would they?

    • Nuther G. Mule

      Huzzah!

    • Hominid

      Too vague. The Libs think treason is patriotism.

    • Kenny A

      Because patriotism itself isn’t a manifesto for government, and two equally patriotic people can sincerely differ over solutions to problems which go beyond simple love of the fatherland. Curry’s attempt at a definition of Americanism, the “founders’ ideals and the Constitution as written”, is only slightly more useful. It’s reasonable to suppose that Messrs. Ryan and Meadows both sincerely love their country and both endorse the founder’s ideals and the Constitution. Nevertheless, the two still disagree on the specifics of policy.

  • jack dobson

    I have not seen the Never Trumper’s letter. I assume it is digital direct mail extolling the virtues of checklist conservatism, so it is unlikely the writer would embrace the concept of “Americanism,” in no small part because it doesn’t mark one of his boxes.

    • Hominid

      Perhaps you could invest your comments with some clarity of meaning.

  • Kenny A

    ‘Perhaps, he suggests, we should abandon the label “conservative” and reclaim for ourselves the word “liberal.”’

    Yes, please. It would save me having to explain the difference over and over again.

  • Hominid

    Holy cow!!! The Hominid has been promoting Americanism over the other fallacious humanist political factions for decades. This guy has gotten the message and is channeling The Hominid.

  • Forget liberalism or progressivism.

    Protectionism, socialism, and crony capitalism are tyrannical.

    Forcing American citizens to purchase government-approved health insurance is tyrannical.

  • Hominid

    Liberals have appropriated the term because they promote freedom of self-indulgence, freedom of decadence, freedom of perversion, freedom of hedonism, and freedom from responsibility, freedom from virtue, freedom from sacrifice. But, when it comes down to whose boss – they believe in despotism.

    • kekek

      Do you have any examples?

      • Hominid

        LOL!!!

    • Robert Curry

      Dear Hominid,
      Thanks for your comment. You make two important points.
      First, it is true that the freedoms you list are wholly unlike the liberty the Founders won for us.
      And second, it is true that the progressives who advocate for those “freedoms” also, as you say, “believe in despotism.”
      With best regards…

  • eggpoacher

    Why dither this issue? America is deeply fractured politically and really should best accommodating some form of peaceful balkanization and thinking up names for the resulting country’s. The
    basic moral and value differences in the current divided US population are
    simply too great. Sorry, but that doing something– compromising – for the “greater good” – “higher cause” — thing often disappears in a multicultural democracy like the current USA. That’s one of the biggest problems with the current political structure. Some Americans are still looking for that mythical politician who can “bring us together” when in fact, politically bridging the needs of highly varying cultures is virtually impossible.

  • GSR

    Won’t likely work, although I wish a little stronger sense of national pride/patriotism would come back.

    However, we are much more disparate today due to unending immigration (legal & illegal).

    The mean, cold truth is, most “non-White, non-native born” people here prefer big government and have a disdain for the founding of the country (like Barry Obama) because they think it was all RAYSISM, 24/7, since 1776. They skew Left and to the Democrats.

    Immigration needs to be reduced, significantly, combined with deportation for millions, otherwise, it’s show over for the USA. Oh, the country will be here but it’ll be a 3rd World Banana Republic with a mosque on ever other corner, where nothing is produced or even debated other than health “insurance”.

  • Paul52

    Is anything more derisive of America and Americanism than responding to a question about Putin the killer by saying “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”

    Where is the conservative outrage?

  • Matthew Kilburn

    I could suggest that all labels are confusing and distract from the main point – Conservatism, liberalism, etc. all have their faults in describing right-leaning ideology. Even concepts like “big government”, “small government”, “collectivism”, and “individualism” are more abstract than practical.

    “Americanism” only works if you can successfully and accurately define Americanism. But in the mind of the left, things like open borders are entirely American, as is their diversity fetish. In any case, even “Americanism” is a little too limiting, as it denies our historical roots to the European-Christian cultures from which we are descended, and which we need strong partnership with to revive and advance mutual interests.

    I would propose calling it Westernism. Western civilization is clearly distinct from Oriental, African, Mesoamerican, Indian, Arab, Orthodox, etc. cultures. It has two great traditions: Western Christianity, and the Enlightenment. They’ve sometimes been at loggerheads, and you might fairly say we have progressed too far from the former, but it would be hard to find a component of our culture which did not trace itself to either. Western civilization is responsible for the overwhelming majority of the technologies and political systems used around the world in everyday life, and notably is the only major global culture that has effectively resisted the advances of Communism.

    • Robert Curry

      Dear Mr. Kilburn,
      Thank you for your thoughtful response.
      It seems to me that your proposal goes in a very good direction.
      Using your format, we can bring America’s uniqueness into clearer focus. For example, America and France are related, as you say, but also very different. The difference between the French Enlightenment and the American Enlightenment goes a long way toward explaining that. Also, the Christian story was very different in America and in France.
      Using your format, to understand the American founding and the resulting uniqueness of America we need to bring the Great Awakening and the American Enlightenment into focus.
      I can recommend a book that develops this thought. It is Common Sense Nation.
      With best wishes

  • ADM64

    We certainly need to reject the label “conservative.” For nearly 100 years we have been on the defensive, and five minutes after each time the Left moves the country one inch further away from its founding principles, a “conservative” can be found defending this as part of our tradition.

    Standing athwart history yelling, “Stop!” doesn’t work. History runs over us. Rejecting a coherent set of principles because it’s “theory” or “reason” or “abstract” hasn’t worked. “Tradition” and “religion” and compromise haven’t worked. “Me too” hasn’t worked. Being the (not very good) accountants of the welfare state hasn’t worked. We need to stand for our country’s principles – and actually fight for them.

    • Robert Curry

      Dear ADM64,
      Thank you for your brilliant comment!
      It is all very good, and very well put also.
      Difficult to choose the best part, but this is certainly a contender: “each time the Left moves the country one inch further away from its founding principles, a “conservative” can be found defending this as part of our tradition.”
      And, yes, we must stand and fight for our country’s principles.
      With best wishes & a friendly and patriotic salute…

  • swek

    nothing beats the highest incarceration rate in the civilized world or the highest gun-ownership/gun-death rates.
    americanism at its most telling

    • With a population of 320 million, why are those contentions even considered a problem? In a country as large as the US high incarceration rates are a testament to an efficiently functioning legal system. Equally notable is that in a country with private gun ownership protected by its Constitution, it’s remarkable that most murders and mayhem are committed by means other than guns.

  • barbaro70

    I like it! Yes, let’s become Americanists!
    But I can’t stop there: I have to admit the silliness of my thinking about how the word liberal came to be applied to lefties/”progressives”/Democrat buffoons, and that is that it derived from “libertinism,” and we all know what that word means. Yup, anything in excess is jus’ fine, folks. Or as Mae West said, or is said to have said, and then passed it on to the Democrat Party: Too much of a good thing can be wonderful. RIP, Mae West, if you and the other moral relativists who helped the Democrat Party become the party of excesses, of if it feels good, do it, of libertinism, etc, can.

  • msher_1

    The #NeverTrumpers showed they supported the following

    1) Government by an unelected and increasingly intrusive and totalitarian bureaucracy – the administrative state.

    2) Open borders and mass immigration of a) uneducated third world peasants with no interest or experience in democracy or non-corrupt gov’t and b) Muslims actively hostile to democracy and us. The NeverTrumpers are fine e with replacing the pre-1965 American people with a third world underclass and a Muslim colonizing army.

    3) The NeverTrumpers were in favor of stripping America of jobs and manufacturing to protect the principle of free trade – although our trading partners were practicing nothing of the sort

    4) The NeverTrumpers were content to have our infrastructure and military crumble while we built everyone else’s. And they like war. Wherever, for any or no reason.

    Whatever they want to conserve, it isn’t the America of the Founding Father’s vision. Tell the guy to take a hike, or read the collected works of Publius Decius Mus, who said it all best.