Now, a conference on “conservative nationalism,” which will take place in Washington in July, may be pushing a “nationalism” that is at least as adaptable as Judis’s. One featured speaker, Claire Lehmann, the founder of Quillette, will be talking about how nationalism “is the antidote to racism.” Presumably the more inclusive the operative term, the less likely will be the Left’s attack on those wielding it.
The presence of Daniel Pipes and other neoconservatives at this gathering also suggests that at least some of the panelists will be offering two approved concepts of nationalism: propositional nationhood for the United States and solidarity with Israeli nationalism. In both cases, however, the nationalism being advocated ends up tied to an aggressive foreign policy.
Nationalism, in any case, means different things for different peoples. It doesn’t hold the same meaning for Estonians or Hungarians, who belong to ethnic, historic communities, as it does for a pluralistic country with hundreds of millions of people and a constantly expanding immigrant population.
In the latest issue of the Rassemblement National monthly L’Incorrect, Steve Bannon speaks of the natural fit between European nationalism and the nationalist movement that he has been promoting in the United States. Both these ideologies, Bannon says, derive from the same national principle. In an interview with me in the same publication, I treated Bannon’s contention as wishful thinking. The United States has become too diverse and too culturally disunited to fit a traditional national model. Our use of nationalism will likely lead to something less quaint and less organic but more explosive than what comes from the Baltic nationalists or Viktor Orbán.
The nationalist label has now fallen into the hands of the neocon establishment, which has managed to identify it with international meddling and a creedal nation. In other words, it’s been appropriated by those who already wielded power.
Without a racial component, nationalism may not work.