The Problem of Nationalism

The Problem of Nationalism

Nationalism has a long history that must be fully understood before it is adopted as a banner around which to rally the American cause.

COMMENTARY

Kim Holmes
The Problem of Nationalism

Kim Holmes

Dec 13, 2019 13 min read

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COMMENTARY

COMMENTARY

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The Problem of Nationalism

When politicians, academics, and commentators today talk about “nationalism” in the American context, what do they mean? Nationalism has a long history that must be fully understood before it is adopted as a banner around which to rally the American cause. The idea of nationalism, especially in the 20th century, has been associated with causes diametrically opposed to the civic, cultural and creedal patriotism of Americanism. That American creed stressed the bottoms-up sovereignty of the people, not of a top-heavy nation-state. Although surely advocates of a new nationalism for America do not wish to embrace the worst aspects of the historical nationalism, why would they wish to embark on a path that forces Americans to explain the differences? Why would they wish to diminish the universal claims of natural liberty that made America exceptional and different from all other countries?