Defining American Nationalism

The movement to Make America Great Again confronts hostility from nearly every establishment sector in American life: legacy media, social media, academia, entertainment, big corporations, big labor, big government, all Democrats, and a sizable percentage of Republican elites.

Decrying the movement as “nationalism,” the establishment offers endless cautionary comparisons to nationalistic movements in history, condemning nationalism as tribal, racist, reactionary, hateful. The response to this relentless condemnation is an understandable belligerence, manifested all the way from presidential tweets to Tea Party Facebook pages.

Belligerence is a justifiable reaction. The establishment has imposed a double standard that should infuriate any MAGA activist. Imagine if black-clad flash mobs of “nationalists” took over the streets of Portland, while police did nothing. Substitute hundreds of Antifa thugs and their sympathizers for nationalists, and that’s life in Portland today. Why isn’t that, and topics like that, the top story on “ABC Nightly News,” night after night, forever?

The reason may be as simple as this: Leftists invariably speak with moral authority, whether they deserve it or not. The Left has managed rhetorically to out punch the MAGA movement because they’ve been able to associate MAGA with hate. In response, MAGA complains bitterly, instead of focusing on the optimistic, positive, inclusive, practical, solutions-oriented, wondrous hopeful future it imagines for America and the world. Until that alternative is presented, relentlessly, with enthusiasm and attention to detail, the establishment will continue to condone if not actively support the American Left. They will do this despite the contradictions inherent in the agenda of the Left that will destroy America as we know it.

Fundamental Contradictions in the Agenda of America’s Left

  • Mass immigration of unskilled people cannot be reconciled with socialism, because the ability of government to provide welfare and other entitlements to its citizens requires the percentage of productive tax-paying citizens to remain large enough to fund those benefits.
  • Mass immigration of unskilled people cannot be reconciled with ethnic quotas in all hiring, promotions, and academic admissions without undermining, perhaps fatally, the ability of corporations to operate competitively and universities to produce a critical mass of employable graduates.
  • Achieving 100 percent “renewable” energy cannot be reconciled with prosperity, or even with environmental protection. Renewable energy requires expensive backup power, and its environmental “footprint” is orders of magnitude greater than conventional or nuclear energy.
  • Mitigating “climate change,” even if you believe anthropogenic, catastrophic climate change is imminent, cannot be reconciled with the survival of human civilization, which cannot possibly wean itself from fossil fuel in the time span supposedly remaining.

These contradictions are beyond serious debate, yet serious people on the Left ignore them. Because these leaders on the Left are too intelligent to miss the huge contradictions in their logic, their goal cannot possibly be to help Americans, or even recent immigrants to America. The only logical conclusion must be they want to destroy, or perhaps just “fundamentally transform” America.

American Nationalism Is Not Belligerent

The biggest mistake the MAGA movement could make is to fight hatred with hatred. In between the emotion-driven irrationality of the many passionate foot soldiers of the Left, and the cold calculations of the nihilists at the top, are millions of people with common sense. If you can separate these people even for a moment from establishment propaganda, they will see the contradictions that discredit Leftism. They will walk away.

The greatest fear of the Left is that the MAGA movement will begin to attract everyone, regardless of their individual “identity.” This process has already begun.

A telling example is to be found in California, where the Republican Party recently held its state convention. Despite the MAGA grassroots narrowly losing their battle for control of the party to establishment consultants and their uniparty donors, the energy was all with the MAGA contingent.

The most noteworthy and very encouraging sign at California’s state GOP convention was how diverse the attendees have become. These were confident, self-sufficient individuals, who value the opportunity to compete and succeed on their own merits. There were hundreds of them; Latinos, Sikhs, Hindus, African Americans, Asians. They came to Sacramento to be among fellow Republicans. Nearly all of them were enthusiastic Trump supporters.

If you had attended California’s recent state GOP convention, you could have talked to a Latino whose cousin has a ranch in the Rio Grande Valley. He would have told you why we need border security. You also could have talked to an African American grandmother who has watched hope return to members of her extended family, because they have good jobs in the Trump economy. These people are proud Americans. They don’t want to be patronized or appeased, and more and more, they’re seeing right through the Leftist con. They want the tough truth because they understand honest hard work, reckoned by immutable and evenly applied standards, is the only true pathway to achievement.

It is vitally important for MAGA supporters to grasp the reality and the significance of this trend. A fair number of Trump’s most enthusiastic fans are not angry old white men, but young people of color with their lives still in front of them. They are the vanguard of a new America that believes in the values of the old America. These are the allies that will help define American nationalism as embracing the universal truths embodied in the values of the European enlightenment.

Maybe this is hard to fathom until you meet someone born in Bangalore, who is talking with irrepressible, well-informed passion about the Federalist Papers, personally identifying with the founders of America, and making America’s founding principles part of his own moral and intellectual identity. Such people are out there. Their numbers are growing. They will help save our nation, and we cannot do it alone. We welcome them.

Making American Nationalism Benevolent

Just as there are contradictions in leftist thought that render it a futile, nihilistic dead end, there are immutable facts that may inform American nationalist thought that make it a necessary and desirable path for Americans. Here are a few of them:

  • Globalization is inevitable, but no country is better able to manage that process than America. No other nation has America’s demonstrated commitment to individual rights, nor such an illustrious history of systematically eliminating racism and sexism.
  • The character of nationalism in many nations today is reminiscent of those forms of nationalism that darkened the early 20th century. China, in particular, is an ethnocentric, expansionist superpower that can only be contained by a strong America.
  • For America to remain powerful it must recognize that immigration henceforth has to be merit-based. Similarly, for America’s institutions to stay competitive, they must become totally colorblind and gender-blind.
  • Merit-based immigration of skilled professionals will enhance America’s workforce and its technological leadership. Restricting the immigration of unskilled people will improve the job opportunities for lower-income Americans already living here, and reduce demands on America’s welfare system.
  • Fossil fuel and nuclear power are necessary not only for America’s economic health, but for the economic health of every nation. Precipitously curtailing use of fossil fuel will cause more harm than good both to human societies and the environment.
  • The best way to help destitute would-be migrants is to assist the nations where they live to achieve stability. It is far more cost-effective to use the money that might have been used for domestic resettlement for a few instead to invest in opportunities overseas for the many. For every million that come to the United States, tens of millions are left behind. Sincere humanitarians would do better to focus their concern for the “other” where they live.

The resentment MAGA supporters feel toward the Left is justified. The Left has the establishment on their side, and it’s not fair. But examining the ultimate source of this resentment reveals encouraging truths.

Where the Left is pessimistic about the future, MAGA is optimistic. As the Left predicts the end of the world, MAGA believes in progress and prosperity. When the Left finds overwhelming faults and failures in American society and American history, MAGA sees the inspiring, absolutely authentic upside. If the Left demands “diversity” which in practice results in new forms of segregation, MAGA supporters come in all colors and are unified as proud Americans.

This hopeful and positive form of American nationalism will not only attract American voters, no matter what their background, it will also attract corporate support. America’s multinational corporations condone the agenda of the Left, even co-opting much of it, because that’s what corporations do. They are politically neutral. In order to operate, they accommodate the dominant ideology, the dominant culture, and the dominant political power.

This explains why corporations indulge Leftist sentiments even while knowing that if those sentiments were ever taken to their logical extreme, their directors would be replaced by a politburo. America’s corporations need to be offered a coherent, benevolent vision of American nationalism. The rapidity with which corporations might then discover their enthusiasm for an inclusive, welcoming MAGA vision may surprise a lot of people.

Seizing the high ground of optimism, believing in a bright future, not only will win over establishment and corporate elites, it will transform America’s political landscape. America today seethes as a purple battleground. Republicans and Democrats are evenly matched. Who knows what will happen in 2020. But the moral worth of Democratic policies is shallow. In the name of earth justice and social justice, they are going to make life in America even harder for low and middle-income residents. The Democrats are incapable of compromising on their rhetoric or their policies. They are locked into the ideological straight-jackets of climate change hysteria and identity politics.

Republicans would do well to demonstrate their ability to find the balance that Democrats are incapable of finding. There is a moral value to instilling pride by abandoning racial and gender preferences. There is a moral value to embracing policies of abundance—by turning the private sector loose to increase the supply of housing, energy, water, et. al.—rather than creating politically contrived artificial scarcity. There is a moral value to being hopeful.

This optimism in the MAGA movement is what should be heralded at every opportunity. We are Americans. We can do anything. We will continue to set an example to the nations of the world and everywhere, people will continue to emerge, by the billions, out of poverty and oppression. We will continue to be practical stewards of the environment. We will develop radical new energy technologies—satellite solar power systems, fusion power. We will cure cancer and slow the aging process. We will colonize the solar system. We Americans will remain the strongest power on earth, fighting when we have to, and we will lead the way to a peaceful global civilization.

That is the nationalism that defines the MAGA movement and demands expression.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.