By Rabbi Aryeh Spero
Throughout this presidential campaign we’ve heard many liberals and neo-conservatives wail against the nationalism espoused by Donald Trump and condemn how nationalism still resonates among tens of millions of regular Americans. Elitists and media messengers likewise express horror when Mr. Trump announces that in all matters, be they domestic or foreign, his policy and attitude will be “America first.”
Why is loving one’s nation and putting its countrymen first, which is the definition of nationalism, so offensive to liberals, elitists, and neo-conservatives? Why are those who imbibe the natural love and preference of citizen toward country and countrymen immediately scorned and accused of harboring xenophobia?
At its core, political leftism, which is today’s dominant variant of liberalism, disdains distinctiveness and yearns for a universalism manifest in an across-the-board leveling in which everything is the same – be it in sexual conduct, values, morality, religion, or country. Nothing riles left liberals more than nationalism, which places one’s country and its unique ideals and traditions over another country. Nationalism is the foremost obstacle standing in the way of socialism and global trans-nationalism wherein nations purposely shed and lose their identity and distinctiveness in favor of a bland, non-distinct shell.
The goal of trans-nationalism is one set of universal laws not worked out by the native population, but rather something imposed from above by a multicultural power structure that boasts it knows better what is best for everyone. In today’s politically correct climate, where liberals own the political and social vocabulary and the definition of words, nationalism leaves the gate as a concept already tainted, targeted, something excluded from “acceptable” company.
Political and social elitists are drawn to universalism since they intend to be part of the controlling class, the anointed and select who fraternize with the well connected. They boast of their worldliness and international “understanding and tastes” that transcend the mere parochialism and nationalism of the hoi polloi and their countrymen. For them, it is cosmopolitanism over nativism, a badge of sophistication, of being a citizen of the world, masters of the universe…part of the ruling class. It’s also good for business.
Many of today’s neo-cons are themselves former Democrats who grew tired and alarmed at liberalism’s excesses. Among prominent leading neo-cons are individuals who were raised as N.Y. Democrats until, after their formative years, their celebrated parents left liberalism, the Democratic Party and their liberal social network to begin a new movement. Neo-conservatism distinguishes itself from historic conservatism, which is now known as paleo-conservatism. In many ways it has the features and mindset of an exclusive political country club. While the neo-cons discarded many of their former N.Y. liberal ideals, their antipathy to nationalism remained.
There is also the understandable fear factor. For many, nationalism is an outlook reminding them of Nazi Germany and other European countries where nationalism was used to demarcate between the native populations as opposed to the “other,” Jews being the “other” though being born, raised, and having served their countries. This non-acceptance of the outsider led to decades of disenfranchisement, discrimination, only partial citizenship, continued pogroms, and eventually the Holocaust against the Jews.
Too many remain unable to distinguish between the toxic nationalism of pre-World War II Europe and what has been the favorable norm and condition here in America. America is not Europe – indeed, it was born in rebellion against European attitudes and prejudices. American nationalism is a positive phenomenon, since it is based on the quintessential American belief in fair play, meritocracy and idealism and is kept in place generation after generation by an overwhelmingly good-willed people who are philo-Semitic, an Old Testament-inspired citizenry, where Judaism is highly respected and where Jews have been welcomed as part and parcel of the very fabric of American life itself.
Americanism is an admirable and safe form of nationalism, something not to be feared, reviled, or looked down upon as a display from mass, brutish malcontents. Contrary to the liberal and neo-con generalizations and finger-pointing, I’ve seen an abundance of American nationalists who are open-hearted, pleasant, upper-middle-class, highly educated, and not xenophobic…salt-of-the-earth good people.
Plain, old-fashioned Americanism is separate from that category we call American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism speaks to those grand, larger-than-life ideals in which America excels: liberty and freedom, meritocracy, fighting for what’s right, individualism, equal justice under the law, hard work, moral clarity, volunteerism, optimism, can-do ingenuity. Americanism, however, is a simple and straightforward item. It is emotional, and it is natural. It is the patriotism and natural inclination to love our country and to put the legitimate needs of our people first, especially when those requests are not for freebies and entitlements, but the right to work for a living and to be treated as well as the incoming immigrant.
“Putting Americans and America First,” as Trump wishes, is an admirable quest for anyone who rightfully feels that a country must first consider, take care, and choose her citizens over those who are not citizens and over those who live in other countries.
Evidently, the critics of nationalism do not extend to the American people the capacity for discernment, the “smarts” to distinguish between people per se and conduct and consequences. For example, those rightfully alarmed over open borders and illegal immigration are immediately accused by liberals, elitists, and neo-cons of being bigots and anti-immigrant. But such is not the case. Common sense tells us that open borders bring in unchecked diseases, terrorists and criminals, and an overload of unprepared people collapsing our nation’s infrastructure and local institutions. That’s precisely why countries historically, and always, maintained borders. It has nothing to do with being a “racist” nationalist.
Illegal immigration is a brazen disregard for our laws, and it has left many areas of the country vandalized and many of our citizens harmed and victimized. The need for closed borders is not a function of xenophobia. Worse, today’s unbridled immigration is a tactic, a purposeful importation of millions of people who will later vote for the Democratic Party that will pay for these votes (with our tax dollars).
Instead of assimilating into our existing culture, many immigrants are demanding that we surrender our way of life and beliefs to accommodate theirs. To cast aside all these valid concerns and label as bigoted and anti-immigrant those alarmed at what is happening is to accuse Trump supporters of lacking discernment. No, it’s not bigotry that motivates – rather, a need to protect. Those infected, however, with an intellectual and moral sense of superiority over those they consider inferior smugly impute to others the worst of motives. It tells us a lot about what they truly think of us.
When Donald Trump expresses the conviction held by tens of millions of honorable citizens that Islamic immigration needs to be temporarily halted until we make sure that those arriving will not harm us, as is the case in Europe, it is not bigotry against a people – rather, it is a reasonable and natural desire to protect ourselves and our loved ones from an ideology that is changing the face of Europe and actively and forcefully ushering in Western and Christian oblivion. Daily we see and hear of beheadings, massacres of dozens, fire-bombings, axing of pedestrians, grotesque tortures, and a silencing of free speech in the name of the ideology Muslim immigrants are bringing into Europe. These atrocities were uncommon and not part of daily life…not until this massive Islamic immigration and invasion. It is common sense to wish to defend against these potential atrocities here. Why is the primal need to protect disregarded and labeled bigotry? Indeed, those who demand continued immigration are acting with dereliction of duty to protect our society and families.
A major component of Americanism is ensuring that jobs for Americans receive priority when considering trade agreements. Some call this economic nationalism. Neo-conservatives and establishment Republicans have defended and touted every trade deal under a purist free-trade catechism while harshly denouncing as “un-conservative” attempts by Donald Trump to challenge many of these trade deals that have been destabilizing to the average American and the families whose breadwinner has lost his manual job. We need to ask: since when did it become conservative to trade away American jobs on the altar of free-trade absolutism, or to use a universalist yardstick that prioritizes global interests over the needs of heartland Americans who rely on manufacturing jobs?
Being indifferent to Americans who wish to do an honest day’s labor is more emblematic of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who in the name of environmentalism will eagerly shut down the livelihood and family dignity of those men relying on jobs in the coal mines, fracking acreage, the oil and gas fields, timber, beef raising, fishing, and other jobs tied to the land.
Too many in the neo-con commentariat class are devoted to an academic paradigm they learned, not to people. They are highbrow slaves to abstraction disembodied from on-the-ground citizens. Americanism is more important than a type of conservatism, transnational liberalism, or establishment Republicanism whose visions are theoretical or funder-based, a type of internationalism detached from anything specifically American or for Americans.
In redefining conservatism, too many have made “nation building” a foundational principle of “conservative” foreign policy. Forgetting that Islamic/sharia societies are viscerally against our Western ways and do not, and never will, share our values and aspirations, Americans simply no longer want to send our young men and women, and national treasure, to enact global pipe dreams. Our suffering on behalf of nation building and trying to remake the Middle East has been a flesh-and-blood suffering, something more real than the academic constructs of neo foreign policy. Yes, it’s about time America and Americans came first!
Nation building is simply social engineering on a global scale. While leading neo-cons and Paul Ryan Republicans do not share the liberal Democrat obsession with socially engineering everything on the domestic level, many retain the penchant for social engineering on a global level.
Too many who now call themselves conservative are redefining conservatism to match the comfort zone they still have with many things emblematic of the Democratic Party and liberal society of their younger years…prior to their conversion. Theirs is not a philosophy of the people, for the people, and by the people. It is very ivory-towered. It is not a people’s movement. It certainly does not rise to the amber waves of basic, old-fashioned Americanism. As for me and tens of millions of others, we’ll take Americanism over globalism and trans-nationalism any day. It’s a much better fit.