Is it possible to have a conservative nationalism that isn’t white nationalism? Even national republicans don’t seem to know.
The weekend of July 19 distinguished the first National Conservative Conference. The powwow, hosted by the newly formed right-wing Edmund Burke Foundation, hoped to legitimize conservative patriotism by both distinguishing it from the monetary, free-market fiscal conservatism of Jeb Bush and the blood and soil rhetoric of neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This is a thin line to walk, and after the conference, the question remains if staking out such a cavity is possible.
For now, such a definition remains elusive. Attendees report that a lot of time was spent on what national conservatism is not. It is not neoconservatism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, or classic liberalism. It is not a conservatism that prioritizes monetary plan, military adventurism, or individual liberties.
This is a conservatism that advantages national name. That is easy enough. The hard role is figuring out what exactly national conservatives necessitate when they talk about this identity.
In his opening remarks, organizer David Brog said,” We are nationalistics , not white nationalists ,” and added that anyone who” defines our American nation in terms of race” was just leaving.
Looking more closely at the words of the speakers, separating “nationalism” from “white nationalism” is easier said than done.
Law& Liberty editor Richard Reinsch, who attended the conference, spoke with the Daily Dot and defined the particulars of the movement. He said,” …national conservatism, I imagine, is still largely an attempt to rethink the convergence of societies around policies that seemed to devalue citizenship, perimeters, traditional criteria and cultural rights appraises, and the distinctive character of the American nation .”
National conservatism has a similar agenda to the religious liberty: defining conservatism as culture first and economy second. But rather than an exclusively Christian fabric, national conservatives preach a secular desire of lineage, community, country, and tradition.
Neoconservatism, by differentiate, shall be fixed by its free-market fiscals, brutal foreign policy, and globalist plans: economy firstly, culture second.
To prioritize culture in the absence of a state religion, the culture must be defined. And that was one of such projects of the conference of the parties. Reinsch told the Daily Dot:
” I think a positive characteristic of the conference is that it is an attempt to undergird the distinctiveness of the nation-state and that is the thing we belong to and are attached to via remembrances, wonts, and knowledge as Americans. If, at the end of the day, the only thing we have in common is that we have nothing in common that strikes me as detrimental. So I review the focus is on what constructs American citizenship and how do we cure the attainment of our American nation .”
The talkers undertook this idea from various tilts. But, despite a multitude of speakers, the conference didn’t come up with a good answer for how this traditional, isolationist nationalism could exist outside of a fundamentally white-hot patriot project.
Whether explicitly or implicitly, the speakers could not speak about nationalism without speaking about assimilation. And, often its own language of assimilation ends a short step from xenophobia and bigotry.
Three of the four keynote speakers at the conference, all white-hot lovers, have been accused of being white-hot nationalists in the past. The names John Bolton, Tucker Carlson, and Peter Thiel are synonymous with xenophobia for numerous people. Bolton is a right-wing war hawk, Carlson an anti-immigrant Fox News host, and Thiel a tech administration whose conglomerate, Palantir, is working hand-in-hand with ICE.
If there was a star of the proceedings who didn’t already have a huge profile, it was Sen. Josh Hawley( R-Mo .). Hawley threw a speech that went viral for its articulated see of national conservatism. In a key cable, Hawley echoed Reinsch’s vision, saying,” For times the policy of both Left and Right have been informed by a political consensus that shows their best interests not of the American middle, but of a strong upper class and their cosmopolitan priorities .”
You could speak the period “cosmopolitan” as gist economically and socially society, but cosmopolitan orbits are also known for being diverse and globally-minded.
Yes, the speech was filled with cites to economic issues: he spoke to the opioid crisis, the flight of manufacturing, the lack of opportunity in rural America, and sluggish compensations. But, the senator also included some telling strands that crept towards xenophobia. Early in his notes, Hawley said,” Since the days of the city-state, the republican lore has always goal self-government as a project bound to a particular place, practiced by citizens steadfast to that plaza and steadfast to the way of life they share together .”
In his hour-long keynote speech, Tucker Carlson offered a similarly desegregated sense. The claim of his talk was ” Big Business Dislikes Your Family .”
In the discussion he argued,” The main threat to your ability to live your life as you choose does not come from the government anymore, but from private sector organizations .”
This presents a sharp-witted differ to the neoconservative ideology that has dominated the last half-century by proclaim the merits of the private sector.
Like Hawley, Carlson trimmed his financial send with nods to intolerance. He assaulted Rep. Ilhan Omar( D-Minn .) as” proof that the style we rehearse immigration has become risky to this country .”
Other talkers strayed even into more explicitly nationalist territory.
National Review’s Rich Lowry said,” We should insist on the digestion of immigrants into a shared culture .”
Amy Wax, a right-wing professor who was punished by the University of Pennsylvania for constructing prejudiced accounts in an article, was even blunter.
She said,” Europe and the first world, to which the United District belongs, remain mostly white for now, and the third world, although mingled, contains a lot of nonwhite people. In effect, this means taking the position that the country will be better off with more white-hots and fewer nonwhites .”
While these comments made some attendees agitated, some major powwow people came to her defense. Conference organizer Yoram Hazony supported Wax.
Even the presumably more moderate digits at the conference of the parties had trouble avoiding prejudiced remarks. Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance said during his remarks,” There are a lot of ways to measure a healthful culture. But the method that I set a healthy society–the most important practice to set a health society–is whether the American nation is having enough babes to supersede itself .”
It’s hard to see this line as far off from the notorious white supremacist chant,” You will not replace us .”
Sometimes white supremacists chant the line as” Jews will not replace us .”
There is also a affinity between this rhetoric and the” Great Replacement” communication that has come out of neo-Nazi and alt-right haloes. Recently, the El Paso shooter used this framing of migration in his manifesto.
Are strong, traditional categories, societies, and place of worship the key to a better country? Those on the left would say no, but that is a tough question to answer. Even among reactionaries, there is disagreement about what is ” traditional” and what is American ” culture .”
The more pressing question for this movement is whether it is possible to have national conservatism without racism and xenophobia. If the project is aimed at emphasizing traditional American ideas of family, parish, and religion, in the minds of many of the conference speakers, those models clearly appear extremely white.
Some attendees left the conference feeling confident about national conservatism. Michael Barone of the Washington Examiner and the American Enterprise Institute told the Daily Dot,” I thoughts the future of national conservatism is pretty robust, partly because the label places in some historical position these principles and stances of President Trump .”
From the outside seem in, it is hard to agree with this optimism. Beyond the fact that the word is problematic, it is hard to imagine it developing in a faction larger than Trump’s, which lost the popular election.
Not simply does this brand of nationalism omit minorities, it eliminates their “cosmopolitan” partisans and reactionaries who care more about low-grade taxes than high levels of cultural heritage.
Like the MAGA movement, national conservatism seems to live in an imaginary America. In the actual America, the vast majority of citizens live in metropolis, or cosmopolitan spheres. It is hard to imagine countless friends for the movement who weren’t in attendance at the conference.
This is the conundrum of national conservatism: they want to entrench a culture that doesn’t exist. Francis Buckley, a republican philosopher skeptical of the conference, parted up their own problems succinctly in an email to The Daily Dot.
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