Nationalism According to Donald Trump

Freedom of speech is under attack both in the United States and in Europe. Naturally, language—the basis of speech—is bound to change organically over time, but today there are efforts to change it in artificial and forced ways. What we say (and ultimately what we think) has become an occasion for control and policing, reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s short story, The Minority Report, in which people are arrested for “pre-crime” thoughts. It may seem strange to reference science fiction to illustrate a point about the current totalitarian experience but, given the Orwellian reality in which we now live, such references make complete sense.

Examples of this kind of tortured language are all around us. Most recently, the European Court for Human Rights ruled that defaming the prophet Muhammad is not protected speech or expression. The case was brought before the court by an Austrian national identified only as “Mrs. S,” who was fined for comments a court deemed disparaging of a religion (in this case, Islam). She suggested Muhammad was a pedophile because the Koran details his marriage to his third wife, Aisha, who went to live with him when she was 9-years-old.

Mrs. S took her case to the European human rights court, but the judges did not rule in her favor. Mrs. S’s “right to freedom of expression,” the court said, cannot be rendered more important than “the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and [the decision] served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.”

I’m not interested in delving deeper into the history of Islam or the life of Muhammad, nor do I wish to discuss whether Mrs. S’s statement is valid, especially since we don’t really know the full context and facts of her case. What is important here is that the European court has put the “feelings” of a group of people over and above the rights of an individual’s expression of thoughts.

Forsaking Cherished Identities, Abandoning Freedom
How did Austria and many other western European countries get to this point? Simple: they have forsaken their own national identity in order to accommodate certain religious sects that, for the most part, operate in ways that are incompatible with Western values. This is a direct consequence of choosing globalism instead of their own sovereign and national identity as their guiding principles.

Thankfully, the United States has not fully entered this phase of political and cultural existence and seems to be resisting efforts to drag us there. Still, we do see assaults on free speech and the forceful shaping of language, the sole purpose of which is to serve as a handmaid to leftist ideology. Most recently, the horrific massacre in Pittsburgh has caused some to seek to politicize this mass murder, insisting that language they dislike was the direct cause of the atrocity. Some went as far as to blame Trump for the massacre labeling him an anti-Semite despite the fact that he is one of the most pro-Israel and pro-Jewish presidents in recent American history.

To destroy Trump, the Left has twisted the language, in particular focusing on Trump’s outspoken attack on globalism and his embrace of nationalism. According to the Left, when Trump speaks against globalists, he is really speaking against Jews.

Another recent example of speech suppression involves an American scholar, Yoram Hazony, who complained he is no longer allowed to use words such as “globalist” and “nationalist” because they are just “dog whistles” for something evil and nefarious. Essentially, Hazony is being told what he can and cannot say. When someone imposes on our speech and gives us a directive about the “appropriate” way of speaking, they affirm only one thing—that we, ontologically speaking, don’t exist, or at the very least, that we don’t deserve to exist.

This makes no sense whatsoever. Any intelligent and clear thinking person can see the utter illogic in all of this. But such ludicrous statements should not be ignored. They warrant a discussion of what globalism and nationalism really are, especially in the context of Trump’s recent assertion that indeed, he is a nationalist.

American Identity Is Real—and It Isn’t Globalist
For the globalist Left, any mention of the word “nationalism” immediately is translated into National Socialism. According to the reductio ad Hitlerum argument, if you call yourself a nationalist, you are a white supremacist intent on destroying anyone who doesn’t fit that category. But it isn’t just that which differentiates globalists from intelligent people who embrace their national identity.

The globalist ideology relies on fluidity, primitive emotionalism, mediocrity, and a complete erasure of borders, both physical and metaphysical. It relies on control of the people, on eliminating differences between people and cherry picking as to who qualifies to maintain their difference and who must be erased from existence. It is a collectivist and totalitarian phenomenon that denies the wonder of life as well as the possibility of human flourishing. For this and many other reasons, true American identity is not globalist and never will be.

We struggle with the concept of nationalism, mainly because, historically, we associate it with the schemes of a megalomaniac bent conquering of the world. But the assertion of one’s identity that is connected to the ethos of a particular country (be it America or other nations) is completely the opposite of the left’s vision of Hitlerian nationalism. Indeed, only an authentic embrace of American nationalism can (and did) stand against such a twisted outlook.

What’s happening, in fact, is that real Americans are fed up with being told to decrease or feel ashamed of their existence and presumably disappear altogether. They are tired from constantly being put in a defensive posture against the inane and false statements which are constantly thrown at them. They are frustrated that they have been thwarted in their attempts to live fulfilling and successful lives by people who put the interests of non-citizens over and against their own.

Trump clearly has recognized this and because of this recognition, he has been labeled a nationalist in the blinkered meaning of the term propagated by the left. Is he a nationalist then? Trump explains: “I’m somebody that loves our country. When I say a nationalist, I don’t like it when Germany is paying 1 percent of GDP for NATO, and we’re paying 4.3 percent. I don’t like that.” Trump escapes any kind of already formed political definitions, and so we have to look at what constitutes nationalism according to Trump.

What Trump Means
There are three main elements of Trump’s conception of nationalism: sovereignty, excellence, and human potential. Without understanding each of these elements, it is impossible to understand Trump’s presidency.

Sovereignty, of course, has to do with independence, which is the most fundamental American principle. This concept goes against globalist principles of fluidity, sameness, and open borders. To the globalist, borders don’t matter because they want to erase the lines between countries and ensure the weakening of America in favor of the brotherhood of humankind. And yet, without clear borders, no country can be defined and thus no citizen can claim his or her own voice. As Hannah Arendt writes in The Origins of Totalitarianism, “To abolish the fences of laws between men—as tyranny does—means to take away man’s liberties and destroy freedom as a living political reality; for the space between men as it is hedged by the laws, is the living space of freedom.”

The next two elements—excellence and human potential—go hand in hand and are at the center of Trump’s thought and how he approaches statesmanship. Trump doesn’t subscribe either to conservatism or to liberalism as traditionally understood in American politics, and this is one of the most confounding characteristics of the Trump presidency. Not only has Trump unmasked American and world politics to expose their ugliness and corruption, he has chosen to focus on American excellence and potential rather than be the lord of the swamp. This focus on flourishing and success have been at the core of Trump’s being since even before he decided to run for the presidency—almost all of his interviews, particularly from the 1980s, involve some talk about realizing individual and American potential.

Of course, he puts American interests first—as any American president should do. “I am the president of the United States,” Trump said recently in one of his rallies. “I am not the president of the globe.” What’s more, this America-first approach involves the American people as a whole and more importantly, as American individuals. Foremost on Trump’s agenda is to create an environment in which every American is invited to succeed. But that takes responsibility on the part of every American, something the globalist Left is afraid to acknowledge because they deny the potential of so many individuals and instead point to a politics of victimhood which, naturally, empowers them as caretakers.

By affirming the importance of and responsibility for individual excellence in all Americans, Trump is attacking mediocrity—a trait widely embraced by leftist ideology. The more mediocre the masses, the better they can be controlled and repeatedly made into victims who, ultimately, need to rely on the state for any kind of assistance, including tips on how to think. For the globalist Left, the strong are not supposed to be the model for the weak or to encourage them to get out of the doldrums and into the world of personal freedom and responsibility. On the contrary, for them, the unapproved strong are supposed to slip into weakness until they disappear into the mist of mediocrity.

Trump is a man of action and because of this, he is not interested in “politcking” and ideological posturing. He brings something different to the American presidency, something which is urgently needed today. What kind of precedent he is setting remains to be seen. His actions against the absurdity of our times are louder than any statesman’s words. Trump is a man whose actions are born of his Americanism or, if you prefer, out of thoroughly American instincts. He is not moved by the force of post-modern shifting of reality. He understands the potential and the right of all Americans to comprehend and act upon reality as it actually presents itself. And what is more American than this?

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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About Emina Melonic

Emina Melonic is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. Originally from Bosnia, a survivor of the Bosnian war and its aftermath of refugee camps, she immigrated to the United States in 1996 and became an American citizen in 2003. She has a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Her writings have appeared in National Review, The Imaginative Conservative, New English Review, The New Criterion, Law and Liberty, The University Bookman, Claremont Review of Books, The American Mind, and Splice Today. She lives near Buffalo, N.Y.