The great debate over what “nationalism” means will surely be filled by the closing passage of President Donald Trump’s inaugural speech:
A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.
We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms and we all salute the same great American flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.
So to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again.
And, yes, together we will make America great again.
Trump’s inaugural address, reportedly written by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior advisor Stephen Miller, was criticized as aggressive, but it was largely an effort to explain what he meant by “Make America Great Again,” which is (thankfully!) a very aggressive idea. For an example of a passive campaign theme, try “Hope and Change.” There is nothing more passive than lying around and hoping some Santa Claus politician comes along with a bag of other people’s money to fix your life.
Trump was also criticized for delivering an inaugural address that sounded too much like his campaign speeches. This was necessary, because the mainstream media didn’t relay enough of what he said on the stump. They were too busy freaking out over whatever “outrageous” thing he said at any given rally.
It was appropriate for Trump to succinctly explain his platform to the widest audience he’ll ever have, both within and beyond America’s borders, with no media filter. Until now, most of the media commentary on “Make America Great Again” consisted of whining about how unfair it was to the inexplicably under-appreciated Barack Obama, mixed with the occasional lefty primal scream about how America was never great to begin with.
Perhaps most importantly, Trump used his inaugural to beat down the asinine smear of “white nationalism.” His talk of national pride has been corrupted to mean unthinking national chauvinism by the Left. “America first” is twisted to mean “screw everybody but America” (or, in the hands of the more mendacious critics, “screw the Jews.”) Then it gets twisted even further by welding the unspoken word “white” onto “nationalism,” transforming it into a racist call to arms.
The number of actual white nationalists who talk about white nationalism is vastly smaller than the number of liberals who insist that’s what they hear when Trump talks about “American pride.” Maybe it’s time for liberals to check in with their therapists and have a long talk about why they hear so many racist dog whistles.
In his inaugural, Trump could not have been more clear about the inclusiveness of his vision for American pride. “Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots” is about as clear as it gets.
Of course, the usual left-wing media swamis will declare they’ve looked inside Trump’s mind, and he didn’t really mean that. He just threw those words in because Kellyanne told him he needed a little racism insurance.
But everything about that speech, and everything Trump has said about resurgent American pride, and everything said by the people who want to reclaim nationalism from chauvinism, is inclusive. The point is to insist on both national priorities and national responsibilities, for everyone from newly-minted citizens at the immigration office to President Trump and his Cabinet.
The woman from Mexico who took her oath of citizenship yesterday is 100% American. The man from Mexico who slipped across the border in a coyote truck yesterday is not. President Trump has a long list of sacred duties to the woman, but not to the man. This is not a complicated idea, or a racist one, or really even a nationalist one. It’s Civics 101.
It’s also the idea global socialism must strangle, in order to survive. Liberals who rail against “nationalism” are primarily interested in creating a world of zero accountability for their maximum leaders. With borders erased, the Ruling Class can hack the electorate to suit its political needs, and their business partners can slash the cost of labor. “Internationalist” leaders are accountable to no nation’s citizens.
Trump’s inaugural address included a bold statement of the opposite principle. America’s president has neither control, nor responsibility, over the economies of other nations. He is responsible to Americans, from Nebraska to Detroit, as Trump put it. He set a very high bar for himself to clear by pointedly mentioning Detroit.
He also made a promise that no group will be preyed upon for the advantages of another. To be the president of all Americans means he is the sugar daddy of none. No more will the power of government be used to penalize groups the Left hates, and beat them into line with new social orthodoxies. No more will Washington dream up economic plans that benefit some, or even most, while designating certain “forgotten people” as lifetime losers who need to shut up and accept their fate.
Trump referred to “wealth” several times in his speech. “Wealth” means more than just money. Wealth benefits all, no matter how loudly socialists may screech about too much of it accruing to the One Percent. Some people got very rich by designing, building, and selling the device you’re staring at right now. You are wealthier than your grandparents, because you have it.
As for a proud America’s proper relationship with other nations, Trump said:
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.
We will shine for everyone to follow.
That’s not chauvinism, or imperialism. That’s the understanding America was founded upon. When Thomas Jefferson took his turn at the presidential bat, he called for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” No one interpreted that to mean “to Hell with the rest of the world.”
Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but just about every other nation on Earth understands the concept of putting its own interests first, and believes it has a moral obligation to do so. The leaders of some other nations are very good at murmuring sweet globalist nothings into the ears of starry-eyed elites, but what they actually do is ruthlessly pursue their own national interests. The charade is made much easier for them by the universal understanding that America is supposed to be the one country that never gets to look out for itself, that has no moral right to protect its own interests.
Those are all much easier promises to make than keep, to be sure, but Trump did make them. It is wise to be skeptical, and hold his feet to the very large fire he built with that inaugural address.