Liberal Nationalists, Unite Against the Globalists and the Nativists

Luke Phillips


Robert Merry has an interesting piece discussing the underlying philosophical divide in the Trump vs. Clinton election- in his, reading, “Globalism vs. Nationalism.” And he has a very significant point! Trump is unabashedly a nationalist in just about every measure except a unifying and inclusive national identity, while Clinton is a globalist in more or less every regard. Here’s Merry-

“Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is the personification of the globalist elite—generally open borders, humanitarian interventionist, traditionally a free trader (though hedging in recent months), totally in sync with the underlying sensibilities of political correctness, a practitioner of identity politics, which lies at the heart of the assault on the national heritage. Nothing reflects this Clinton identity more starkly than the Clinton Foundation, a brilliant program to chase masses of money from across borders to fund the underpinnings of an ongoing political machine.” 

Of course, these two bad options- Globalist Hawk Hillary vs. Nativist Hawk Trump- do not represent anywhere near the true spectrum of American political divisions these days, though they do exemplify the basic fundamental divides.

Here’s an idea- what about a return to what Michael Lind might call a Liberal Nationalism? That is, nationalism a la Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt’s bold assertion of the American nation-state, combined with a general social openness and reformist temperament?

Let’s look at the five issues Merry looks at: Trade, Immigration, Political Correctness, National Heritage, and Foreign Policy.

On trade, liberal nationalists are not necessarily opposed to trade deals, but they prefer those that assume a healthy export-based American economy must be the least common denominator, rather than deals that inch us closer to a false global free market.

On immigration, liberal nationalists generally support lower levels of low-skilled immigration into the country out of a concern for the American worker; but they do not fall into the anti-immigrant vitriol American populists have employed for centuries, instead promoting benign assimilation and openness.

On Political Correctness, liberal nationalists are reasonable people- they’re careful about what they say and they respect everyone as human beings and human groups. That said, they’re not afraid of pronouncing harsh truths. They’re kind and humane, but they reject political correctness.

On national heritage, liberal nationalists are staunch defenders- that’s why they’re a breed of nationalist! But it is a holistic, inclusive, and benign vision of national identity, while still a proud, principled, and unapologetic one.

On foreign policy, liberal nationalists do not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy; they are about as cold-blooded and realistic as they get, acknowledging not American principles but American interests as the base of American foreign policy.

Liberal nationalists, therefore, might *sort of* resemble Trump in key policy areas, while they might *sort of* resemble Clinton in temperament and social views. It’s more complicated than that, but if you’re a simple thinker, that comparison will work.

This is not merely blood-and-soil nationalism with a human face; this is a principled view of human social organization tempered realistically for the actual challenges this world presents. It avoids the utopianism of Clintonian globalism and the nativism of Trumpian nationalism. It offers a healthy source of identity and a fair means of organizing society, that is nonetheless practical and time-tested.

Any takers?


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