‘Nationalist’: Why Trump embraced that label
President Trump just blew a whistle “that deafened every dog within a thousand miles,” said Rick Wilson in TheDailyBeast.com. At a rally in Texas last week, Trump declared himself to be a “nationalist,” imploring the cheering crowd to “use that word.” There’s a reason that word is taboo. It’s the label embraced by alt-right thought leader and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and white nationalist leaders like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who praised Trump and claimed nationalism for “white Americans.” Here and abroad, nationalists almost always end up defining their nations through race and ethnicity. We’ve known for a long time that Trump, with his visible disgust for Hispanic immigrants and Muslims, sees the world in the “us vs. them” binary of nationalism. But to hear Trump openly embrace it “ought to set every alarm bell inside of your head ringing.”
“Nationalist” shouldn’t be a dirty word, said James Robbins in USA Today. Belief in the “manifest greatness of America” and love for this special nation “used to be a staple of political oratory.” But that’s no longer acceptable to politically correct leftists, who believe that America is defined by its history of racism and slavery and that our leaders should pursue “an internationalist agenda,” rather than U.S. interests. For President Trump, “nationalist” is just another way of saying “America First,” said WashingtonExaminer.com in an editorial. In Trump’s view, “every decision of the U.S. government should somehow promote the interests of American citizens, or else it should not be taken.” What’s wrong with that?
It’s true that Trump’s worldview is accurately described as nationalist, said Ron Elving in NPR.org. In two years as president, he has delighted in tearing up trade deals and other international agreements, and has consistently championed a what’s-in-it-for-us foreign policy. But Trump is suddenly embracing the “nationalist” label for a reason. He knows full well it’s a loaded word, embraced by white supremacists, and that his use of it will generate liberal outrage and accusations of racism. The outcry, Trump hopes, will energize his base just before the midterms. True nationalism, however, is ennobling, said David Brooks in The New York Times. It is a love for America’s ideals of equality, its incredible diversity, its whole people. “Donald Trump says he is a nationalist, but you can’t be a nationalist if you despise half the nation.”