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A Primer on the Nationalism Debate
A primer on the debate about Nationalism, including links to National Review’s 2017 debate. Also, Cato and Eternal Principles, Flipping Narratives, and Mark Sanford.
This is the sixth issue of Self-Evident, the revamped Liberty Hawk Newsletter now migrated to Substack.
This issue is a re-printing of the October 26, 2019 newsletter first published at The Liberty Hawk.
A Primer on Nationalism
To offer a primer on the debate about Nationalism and to inform the continued debate, I’d to like to offer links to National Review’s 2017 debate on nationalism and other relevant articles in the discussion:
For Love of Country – Rich Lowry & Ramesh Ponnuru
This article was the cover story of the February 20, 2017 issue of National Review. It can be considered a manifesto of sorts for “national conservatism” and in many ways marked a change of editorial vision for the National Review.
The Trouble with Nationalism – Jonah Goldberg
This was Jonah Goldberg’s initial rebuttal to For Love of Country. He lays out his position, Bill Buckley’s position, and consequently my position that patriotism and nationalism are distinct ideas.
On Nationalism and Exceptionalism – Yuval Levin
This is Yuval Levin’s assent to and defense of the premise of For Love of Country.
Trump Has Brought European-Style Nationalism to the U.S. – Ben Shapiro
In this piece, Ben Shapiro objects to For Love of Country but far less vociferously than Jonah Goldberg. He does, however, point out that the nationalism of Donald Trump is more akin to European-Style Nationalism than it is to any sense of American Patriotism.
The Great Nationalist Whitewash of 2017 – Rich Lowry
This is Rich Lowry’s response to The Trouble with Nationalism.
February 11th, 2017 G-File – Jonah Goldberg
In the second section of this newsletter, Jonah Goldberg points out that patriotism fundamentally means “love of country”. Given that love of country manifests itself differently based on perspective, “many of the greatest patriots swim against the nationalist tides in their homelands.”
Love of Country – It’s Not an Essay Question – John O’Sullivan
John O’Sullivan’s response to The Trouble with Nationalism and Trump Has Brought European-Style Nationalism to the U.S., in support of For Love of Country.
Patriotism Not Nationalism – Mona Charen
Mona Charen offers her disagreements with For Love of Country and Love of Country – It’s Not an Essay Question. She lends her support for Jonah Goldberg’s assertion that nationalism is an entirely different creature than patriotism.
Patriot Games – Rich Lowry
Rich Lowry’s response to Jonah Goldberg’s G-file. Once again asserts that patriotism is fundamentally a form of nationalism.
Untangling the Meaning of ‘Nationalism’ – Ramesh Ponnuru
Ramesh Ponnuru’s final word, he doesn’t retreat from his assertion that good nationalism exists but does concede that only moderate nationalism is beneficial.
The Nationalism Show – Kevin D. Williamson
More recently penned, Kevin D. Williamson posits that Trump-era nationalism is clearly not patriotism, it’s “a kind of identity politics of the Right.”
As a final offering, I’ll also link to the beginning articles in the French-Ahmari debate since I consider the rise of the post-liberal nationalists as a natural product of Rich Lowry and others attempts to tame nationalism:
Against David French-ism – Sohrab Ahmari
In Defense of ‘Frenchism’ – David French
Cato and Eternal Principles
To segue from all of those articles on nationalism, I thought it might be interesting to discuss something I think the National Review debate largely missed: that the United States of America was built on the accumulated knowledge of historical experience and upon the realities of the human condition.
In many ways, the American Republic was a resurrection of the Roman Republic. The founders embraced this idea. That’s why they named the upper chamber of congress after the Roman Senate. That’s why so many of our government buildings and landmarks are so obviously designed using Roman architectural inspiration. It’s why we put Latin on our coinage and use Latin terms and mottos throughout government, the arts, and in education.
Consider, for a moment, that the Roman Republic ended before the birth of Christ, that a group of people on a different continent and with no ethnic or national connection to the ancient Romans chose to build their new nation with ideas and trappings of a representative government that existed nearly two centuries before it.
This amazing and astounding reality often makes me think of Cato the Younger, who chose to die by his own hand along with the Roman Republic, rather than submit to Caesar and live in a world where his nation had become an empire. Cato’s final act is considered by historians to be a final act of defiance against Caesar and his usurped authority. By taking his own life, Cato assured that Caesar couldn’t pardon him for his resistance, declaring with his death that he saw no legitimacy in the reign of an emperor.
Despite Cato having been defeated in his efforts to maintain the Roman Republic, his final defiance was remembered by Romans to the end of the Roman Empire. Cato’s memory was strong enough for him to make it into Dante’s The Divine Comedy. He was a figure of reverence during the enlightenment. One of George Washington’s favorite plays was Joseph Addison’s Cato, a Tragedy.
Here’s my point: the truths and republican notions of Cato the Younger survived beyond the Roman Republic and beyond the fall of Rome many years later because they were universal truths, and not merely pure Roman precepts useful only within the context of Roman Nationalism. I don’t know whether Cato foresaw the final fall of the Roman Republic, but I tend to believe his first love was his principles and it was to his principles he wished to leave a legacy. That his principles live on in America, with no connection to Rome beyond a philosophical one, would not be considered a failure to him but a final triumph.
Wherever the debate on nationalism takes us, we must remember that our first loyalty is to our principles. Whether our great nation lives on for hundreds of more years, or ends tomorrow, it will be the untarnished principles of those who refused to submit to calamity that leaves a lasting legacy, not those who abandon principles to seize upon extraordinary measures in the belief that the country faces some existential threat from within or without.
Now, What Have You Got?
Stay Free My Friends,