America’s Renewal Requires a Foundation of Nationalism

Nationalism is on the ascendency. The first significant wave of attention came with the advent of Brexit. No major nation had ever voted to leave an international body like the European Union (EU) in the post-WWII (postwar) era. It was truly unparalleled and a significant “blow to globalization.”

America’s Nationalist Moment
William Wolfe

Nationalism is on the ascendency. The first significant wave of attention came with the advent of Brexit. No major nation had ever voted to leave an international body like the European Union (EU) in the post-WWII (postwar) era. It was truly unparalleled and a significant “blow to globalization.” Next came the election of Donald Trump. Trump ran on an unapologetic “America First” platform. His presidency represented an equally stark departure from the openness-oriented, internationally-focused, cosmopolitan visions of the Obama and Bush years. 

The aftershock of these two seismic political events sparked a renewed and ongoing national (and international) conversation about the promise and peril of nationalism in the 21st century. Other countries like Brazil, Poland, and Hungary are now unapologetically pursuing their national interests, bucking globalist conglomerates on various issues.

Obvious unrest with the current international world order abounds. Until recently, the average conservative American might not use the term “nationalism” to describe their governing ideology. Still, most intuit that open borders, foreign wars, and co-mingling with sovereignty-stealing international bodies like the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations fail to make the U.S. stronger, freer, and more prosperous. “America First” resonated with millions for a good reason. 

While the media, secular scholars, and even some talking heads on the right endeavor to tar the renewed interest in nationalism as backward and dangerous, the opposite is true. In reality, a vibrant part of the conservative movement is simply tapping into a long-standing, historically-rooted political ideology that argues the best way for nations to order themselves in both domestic and international spheres is by focusing first and foremost on their national interests; that is, what is best for their citizens. 

As John Fonte put it: 

“If the great struggle of the 20th century was between Western liberal democracy and totalitarianism, the major fault line of the 21st century is within the democratic family, pitting those who believe nations should be self-governing and sovereign against powerful forces advancing ‘global governance’ by supranational authorities.”

Rightly understood, American policymakers should willingly embrace nationalism as the best alternative to the failed globalism of the postwar era. To that end, this paper first defines nationalism, an often misunderstood and mischaracterized term. Next, it provides a historical sketch of the origins of modern nationalism. Then it explains how the postwar pursuit of the “open society” undermined and tarnished the public understanding of nationalism. Next, it looks at how and why nationalism has enjoyed a popular resurgence in the second decade of the 21st century. Finally, it counters some of the most often-repeated false and misleading attacks on nationalism. In conclusion, it challenges thoughtful, reasonable, and patriotic American policymakers to unapologetically adopt an appropriately-defined nationalism as a necessary component of our much-needed project of civic and national renewal, not for the sake of isolationism or retreat, but the good of Americans and America on the world stage.

Nationalism Defined

In The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism, editor John Breuilly provides one of the best definitions of nationalism in academic literature. He writes: 

“We can succinctly define the political ideology of nationalism as one which claims that there exists a unique nation, that this nation has a special value and therefore right to existence and recognition, and that to secure this right the nation must possess autonomy, often understood as a sovereign nation-state.”1

Breuilly also argues, “Of all modern political ideologies, nationalism appears to be the most through and through historical.”2 What he means by this is that the central feature of nationalism, or as he calls it, the “basic tenet,” arises in the course of history; in other words, it is a natural development.3 The basic tenets of nationalism are two-fold: unique nations and sovereign nation-states.4   

Throughout history, the understanding of what counts as a unique nation has changed and evolved, and terminology has also changed.  John Breuilly argues that nationalism is a more organic and natural unit of political organization than other “isms” such as 1) religious, political ideologies that appeal to metaphysical grounding, or 2) other systems such as liberalism or socialism, which order themselves according to claims of “universal values.” Because nation states have and will exist throughout the natural development and passage of human history—in some form or fashion – the building blocks of nationalism will also exist. 

Expressions of nationalistic sentiment can be found in writings dating back to 2500 BC in Sumerian to the 16th century BC in Egypt. In the 5th century BC, “Herodotus asserted a ‘common Greekness’ among the Hellenes.”5 Plato, in The Republic, “described a familiarity that bound together all those born as Hellenes, as if they were all members of the same familial household.”6

Of course, ancient Israel provides a stark and biblical example of the historical roots of nationalism. Lowry, in his 2019 book The Case for Nationalism: How it Made us Powerful, United, and Free writes:

“In the story of the ancient Israelites, we see the creation not just of a great religion but of a nation, one that would, through the Torah, spread its example throughout the world and that would never be abandoned by its people despite nearly two millennia of exile and catastrophe.”7 

Fast forward through the next 2,000 years-plus of world history, from ancient Israel to the modern day, and the basic principle has endured. In other words, the building blocks of nationalism are nothing new. 

However, nationalism, as a political ideology, is not inevitable. Nations have often found themselves subsumed by empires. Nations can and have been bound and chained, forced to serve interests disconnected or contrary to what would be best for the citizens of their unique people group and their lands. 

Furthermore, nationalism is a political ideology that sets itself against the vision of a unified global order. In his 2018 book, The Virtues of Nationalism, Israeli philosopher, scholar, and political scientist Yoram Hazony extrapolates on this juxtaposition. In his definition of nationalism, he argues that it is the “principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations can chart their independent course, cultivating their traditions and pursuing their interests without interference. This is opposed to imperialism, which seeks to bring peace and prosperity to the world by uniting mankind, as much as possible, under a single political regime.”8

Nationalism, then, is this “most historical” and rather basic political ideology that recognizes the existence and goodness of unique nation-states and their sovereign right to independence and self-determination. It takes this nation as the central unit for political order on the world stage, one to be respected and expected to show respect to other nations and their sovereignty. As Benedict Anderson summarizes in his seminal work Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, the nation is “an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.”9 

The origins of modern nationalism, wherein nations began to be recognized and appreciated as limited and sovereign, emerged after the Peace of Westphalia. 

Westphalian Sovereignty and the Origins of Modern Nationalism

Almost 400 years ago, in 1648, two peace treaties were signed in the Westphalia region of Germany, ending the Thirty Years’ War and the Eighty Years’ War. Treaty participants included the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, France, Sweden, and various associated allies and nations. Many historians and political scientists recognize this Peace of Westphalia as the start of the modern era of international relations, which was built on the principle of the independent nation-state exercising sovereign control over its land and borders.

Writing for The American Journal of International Law, Leo Gross explained: 

“To it [that is, the Peace of Westphalia] is traditionally attributed the importance and dignity of being the first of several attempts to establish something resembling world unity on the basis of states exercising untrammeled sovereignty over certain territories and subordinated to no earthly authority.”10 

After decades of war across the European continent, driven in considerable measure by supra-national actors and empire-seekers, the principles of Westphalian sovereignty gave rise to modern nationalism and the emergence of the nation-state as the most basic and essential political unit. Though the domination of the European continent by the Catholic Church under the Holy Roman Empire had muted and distorted the nationalistic principles of sovereignty, they began to resurface with the Protestant Reformation and the English Civil War. With the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the concept of national sovereignty rose again like a political phoenix from the ashes. 

Hazony argues that Westphalia reformed “The entire political order in accordance with the theory of the independent national state that had been advanced by English and Dutch Protestantism during the preceding century.”11 As Europe moved forward into this new political system, Hazony notes that it built itself on two main principles. The first was the “moral minimum required for legitimate government,” and the second was the “right of national self-determination.”12 While both of these preconditions are important, it was the second that made the difference. Hazony explains, “The second principle—permitting each nation to determine for itself what constitutes a legitimate ruler, a legitimate church, and appropriate laws and liberties [was the] principle that set the world free.”13

Along with the rise of a nationalistic order that respected the territorial border of nation-states, the Peace of Westphalia ended the ongoing European religious wars. The result was an understanding that no one nation, nor religious power, has the right to enforce their views of religious orthodoxy on the rest of the world. This principle was known as cuius regio, eius religio, “whose realm, their religion.” Nations should be not only free from supranational governing entities controlling their borders and commerce but also free from religious imperialism, as pursued by the Holy Roman Empire. 

In sum, the basic features of Westphalian sovereignty can be summed up in two words: independence and self-determination. Independence means that respective nations have the exclusive right to rule themselves, including in their national choice of religious commitment, without fear of interference from other nations or powers. Self-determination means these nations have the right to determine how to govern themselves best, whether by a monarchy, republic, or something else altogether. Underpinning both concepts is the recognition, yet again, that unique nations exist and are composed of people who share a history, culture, ethnicity, and geography. Accordingly, these countries should prioritize their national welfare and the well-being of their citizens before those of other nations.

Of course, this new order was not perfectly adhered to. Imperialist aspirations and efforts continued. But as Hazony contends, “As an order based on the principle of national freedom, it imparted a remarkably beneficial political and religious form to the Western nations” and led to the “founding of new national states around the world, among them the United States of America and a restored Jewish state of Israel.”14

The Postwar Consensus and the Erosion of National Sovereignty 

The horrors of two world wars led many to rethink the foundations of the international order. In R.R. Reno’s Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West, he outlines what has since sought to supplant the Westphalian system— the “postwar consensus.” 

Understanding the history and ideology of the postwar consensus is critical for understanding why nationalism faces such strong headwinds from the current class of elites and even from conservative fusionists. Reno explains the rationale behind the postwar consensus: 

The history of the first half of the twentieth century seemed to speak for itself: German militarism and the seduction of aggressive nationalism caused World War I; in the social disorder that followed the armistice, Mussolini rose to power as the supreme leader of a paramilitary political party; Nazism combined anti-Semitic animus with a cruel ideology of strength; and, of course, communism governed in the Soviet Union for decades, feeding on the same totalitarian temptations. The inescapable lesson, most came to believe, was that war and destruction arose from close-minded modes of life and thought.15

To prevent World War III, the old nationalism, which had been operating since Westphalia, was forced to give way to a new globalism. In his book World Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All, West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer envisioned such a system when he declared, “The age of national states has come to an end.”16 The postwar consensus would strive to materialize the world that Adenauer envisioned—one in which the age of nation-states was no more.

The philosophical treatise that underpins most of the postwar consensus can be found in Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies. Published in 1945, Popper’s two-volume assessment of the causes of World War II presented a stark choice for policymakers: embrace openness or be destroyed. A later edition has an opening penned by George Soros. 

In this work, Popper admits that he “attempts to show that this civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth—the transition from the tribal or ‘closed society, with its submission to magical forces, to the ‘open society which sets free the critical powers of man.”17 Popper sought to challenge what he understood to be the roots of totalitarianism. In his view, tyranny arose from metaphysical certainty in concepts like religion, objective truth, and the closed state or society. Anything that gave mankind complete confidence in the validity of strong truth claims—like the claim that nations exist, are good, and have the right to independence and self-determination—had to be let go to embrace the openness required to avoid another tragic war. 

Reno explains that “by Popper’s reckoning, civilization faces a choice. We can live in a tribal or ‘closed society,’ characterized by deference to authority and the subordination of the interests of the individual to those of society, or we can break free from this ‘collectivist’ impulse and build an ‘open society,’ one that ‘sets free the critical powers of man.’”18

From Popper, through the Cold War and beyond, this simple yet morally fraught imperative rang out: “Never again.” Reno continues, “this imperative—never again—places stringent demands upon us…We must banish the strong gods of the closed society and create a truly open one. One of the strong gods that the nations of the West must overcome is the nation itself.”19

The defining feature of the postwar consensus, this demand for open societies and open borders, is more often referred to simply as “globalism.” Globalism, ushered in by the rise and dominance of supranational organizations like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, or the World Economic Forum, is a direct competitor to nationalism. While there may be many noble motives for the postwar consensus project, such as fighting fascism, preventing the rise of another Third Reich, or the advent of another Auschwitz, on the whole, it is clear that the effort has had harmful effects on the prosperity and cohesion of the American people and our national identity. 

Former Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, in Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity notes that the American elites, largely nationalistic in their sympathies before the postwar consensus, contributed to the acceleration of globalism by making a stark about-face in their sympathies during the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, progressive elites “began to promote measures consciously designed to weaken America’s cultural and creedal identity and to strengthen racial, ethnic, cultural, and other subnational identities. These efforts by a nation’s leaders to deconstruct the nation they governed were, quite possibly, without precedent in human history.”20

While there was a revival of some nationalistic sentiment and policy under both President Ronald Reagan and his counterpart, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the globalism of the postwar consensus, powered by the commitment of the new international order and cosmopolitan class to “openness” and “liberal democracy,” seemed too strong to overcome. In his October 1, 1990 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, George H. W. Bush reaffirmed the “open society” rhetoric that had come to dominate establishment thinking over the last 50 years. He claimed that he saw “a world of open borders, open trade and, most importantly, open minds; a world that celebrates the common heritage that belongs to all the world’s people, taking pride not just in hometown or homeland but in humanity itself.”

The 21st Century Resurgence of Nationalism 

Though multiculturalism, globalism, and open society policies continued to gain momentum throughout the end of the 20th century and into the second decade of the 21st, the new world order did not yield the promised results.  

International trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) demolished the American manufacturing base. The cost of two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) were financed with public debt, even as policies passed to support the Global War on Terror abroad led to the growth of the national security state and the weakening of civil liberties on our soil. President Obama declared that he was a citizen of the world and led the United States into disastrous international agreements like the Paris Climate Accord. Whether or not they had the words for it, most Americans knew this was a far cry from George Washington’s encouragement in his Farewell Address that Americans are “citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of ‘American’ which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”

However, despite the growing backlash, the postwar consensus of globalism, with its open society and erosion of national sovereignty and nationalism, would remain the predominant agenda for years to come. This seemed all the more apparent with the expected victory by Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. 

But then things started to change. Brexit happened. Donald Trump was elected, presenting himself as a candidate who was both aware and appreciative of the unique nature of the American nation. He spoke like a leader who saw the value of the American people, recognized how many in the manufacturing and industrial base believed that open borders and offshored jobs were destroying their livelihoods and communities, and realized the time had well passed for our representative government to start putting the needs of the American people first once again. 

The turn towards nationalism, and subsequent debate, was accelerated not just by Trump’s agenda and victory but also by his self-proclamation as a “nationalist.” In what was otherwise standard fare for one of his stump speeches, the former President openly embraced the term in 2018. During the speech, in which he drew a contrast between his America First agenda and globalism, he remarked: “You know, they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist…And I say, ‘Really? We’re not supposed to use that word? You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. OK? I’m a nationalist.”

For many, the mere fact that Trump was willing to embrace the term is enough for them to reject it. Yet, in The Case for Nationalism, Lowry parses the discernible features of Trump’s nationalism, explaining that they were surprisingly simple: 

“We need to adopt immigration and trade policies with our own interests foremost in mind. We should protect ourselves with the utmost vigilance from foreign threats…Without borders, we don’t have a country…[and] most important, our country, not any other nation or international body or alliance, should always come first.”21

Lowry is correct. The nationalism advocated for by Trump and embodied in his America First agenda was “amazingly simple.” It adhered to the basic principles found in Breuilly’s definition cited above, albeit restated in four main pillars: 1) pro-American immigration policies, 2) pro-American trade policies, 3) unswerving defense of the homeland, beginning with secure borders, and 4) rejection of any international authority that threatens American autonomy and sovereignty. 

For those who would reflexively oppose it, Lowry notes that “when abstracted from his combative rhetorical style and more idiosyncratic policy enthusiasms (e.g., taking Iraq’s oil), the rudiments of Trump’s nationalism should be hard to oppose—or would be in a more rational time than the one we live in.”22

Shortly after President Trump’s victory in 2016, Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, published the somewhat humorously titled article, “Could There Be a Peace of Trumphalia,” suggesting that the “old idea” of Westphalian sovereignty could serve as a, “unifying concept for his approach to foreign policy.” According to Walt, this doctrine is the simple “idea that states are responsible for their own territory and citizens and that other states shouldn’t interfere with either.” Such an approach, Walt rightly noted, “is hardly a controversial concept; indeed, it still forms much of the basis for existing international law.”

If Walt and Lowry are correct in their assessment that it is hardly a controversial proposal, why has it become so controversial? Why haven’t good faith lawmakers and public policy makers embraced the American First nationalist agenda in totality? Let’s briefly consider some of the main objections to nationalism in America. 

Countering Common Misconceptions of Nationalism

Thoughtful policymakers who want to build on the success of this corrective moment will be confronted with more basic, visceral attacks on nationalism. Hazony suggests that “the most common accusation against nationalism is that it gives rise to hatred.”23

This (alleged) hatred can take many forms. The claim may be that nationalism engenders the hatred of racism or that it was responsible for two world wars. But is that true? Does nationalism give rise to hatred? And is the charge of racism necessarily the case? 

Hazony, again, admits these charges are prevalent and must be addressed. He writes: “As late as the Second World War, many still believed that the principle of national freedom was the key to a just, diverse, and relatively peaceful world. But Hitler changed all that, and today we live in the aftermath, in which a simplistic narrative, ceaselessly repeated, asserts that ‘nationalism caused two world wars and the Holocaust.”24

Consider the guilt-by-association charge of nationalism. The ideological foundations of the Third Reich were not “nationalistic” in any discernible sense; instead, they were race essentialists blended with imperialistic and globalist ambitions. While Hitler may have appealed to German pride, he did so through perverted propaganda and with the express purpose of gaining support for a campaign that flew in the face of the Westphalian principles of national independence, sovereignty, and self-determination. The Nazis undertook an imperialist effort in the service of a debased ideology of racial supremacy. Lowry rightly points out that “the idea that this cracked worldview has anything important in common with that of run-of-the-mill nationalism, with the intellectual tradition running through Mill, Rousseau, and Herder, let alone with American nationalism, is frankly absurd.”25

Given the power of the postwar consensus on our national social imaginary, the reality is that, until a renewed nationalism has taken root and born good fruit in our nation’s civil and economic life, the rhetoric from unthinking reactionaries will be largely unavoidable. In short, the best response is to remind the accusers that nationalism never seeks to conquer other nations—that’s what the globalists do. 

As for the charges of hatred associated with “xenophobia” or “racism,” these fundamentally misunderstand the animating principles of nationalism. There is nothing intrinsic to ordering a political system around the sovereignty of individual nation-states that yields hatred. Systems of imperialism and globalism are equally susceptible to harboring or operating out of contempt for the “other.” 

Anderson, in Imagined Communities, also contradicts the imagined connection between nationalism and racism. He writes: 

“The fact of the matter is that nationalism thinks in terms of historical destinies, while racism dreams of eternal contaminations…The dreams of racism actually have their origin in ideologies of class, rather than in those of nation.”26

Consider more closely the components of the definition of nationalism provided by Breuilly in the introduction. He argues that nationalism consists of the belief that there is 1) a unique nation that, 2) has special value and therefore 3) the right to exist, and 4) be recognized by other nations. To secure this right, the nation must 5) possess autonomy. 

These five features, or six if you include the inherent nature of national defense as part of securing the right to exist, should be entirely uncontroversial. None of them are inherently reliant on the nation’s people in question being a singular race. 

Now, America does (and should) have a distinct national identity, one that includes shared history, symbols, myths, and celebrations. But the defining feature of American nationalism is not limited to one race or one that says one race is superior to another but is built on the inheritance of a shared heritage combined with creedal commitments. 

Regarding our shared heritage, in the Federalist No. 2, John Jay calls America: 

“A people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint councils, arms, and efforts, fighting side-by-side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.” 

This is an important point: acknowledging America’s cultural heritage is critical to understanding who we are and where we have come from as a nation. 

Of course, in 2022, we are not just a people descended from the same ancestors; instead, we are a nation full of millions of people who hail from hundreds of different backgrounds. What continues to unite us as a nation, on top of the foundation of a shared culture, is a creed—the commitment to truths found in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness [and] That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” In America, culture and creed go hand in hand in a mutually reinforcing relationship. 

Consider our national motto, E Pluribus Unum—out of many, one. Not out of many, many still. But one. America is not, as some would argue, a nation of “immigrants.” Instead, we are and should understand ourselves to be a nation of American citizens, whether we inherited that citizenship as a birthright or earned it through legal immigration and assimilation. 

As Huntington puts it, the United States of America is the indispensable nation of Western civilization. As the forces of multiculturalism crash against our national identity, Huntington argues that “Americans cannot avoid the issue: Are we a Western people or are we something else?”27 The answer is that we are indeed a Western people and must remain so. Any nationalism worth advancing under the America First banner will recognize this reality. 

Still, people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are more than welcome to be a part of this nationalism, fully embraced as brothers and sisters, provided they adhere to the creed, submit to the Constitution, and respect and assimilate into the culture. That’s not racist—that’s simply how strong, free, and prosperous nations endure. 

Therefore, when rightly understood in its historical context, an appropriately defined nationalism is the opposite of the imperial aspirations of Nazi Germany. Moreover, nationalism is neither xenophobic nor racist but rather simply respects the rights of all nations to preserve their unique and valuable national heritage, defend their borders, and maintain their independence and self-determination. 

Conclusion: Embracing Nationalism for American Renewal 

The age of the “open society” is coming to a close. The project was always a reactionary one, recklessly discarding Westphalian sovereignty in the misguided pursuit of a newly established global order that might prevent World War III. While the horrors of the first half of the 20th century are undeniable, the truth is they did not find their origins in nationalism but in other ideologies, those of imperialism, social Darwinism, collectivism, and utopianism. The ideologies that launched the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, and the Chinese Communist Party share far more in common with the push for global communism as currently advanced by the WEF than they ever have with nationalism. Far from stoking racist sentiments or driving towards war, a renewed nationalism will help nations strengthen failing economies, crumbling civic institutions, and rapidly disintegrating national identities.  

In the American context, nationalism is a return to our historical roots, not a departure from them. Before the 1950s, most major political leaders in America, from either party, would have identified as nationalists in some form or fashion. For centuries, nationalism was understood as an uncontroversial given and even a good thing. 

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge delivered what could be called a proto-America First speech in his First Annual Message, declaring that:

Our country has one cardinal principle to maintain in its foreign policy. It is an American principle. It must be an American policy. We attend to our own affairs, conserve our own strength, and protect the interests of our own citizens; but we recognize thoroughly our obligation to help others, reserving to the decision of our own Judgment the time, the place, and the method.”

In 1942, Secretary of State Cordell Hull plainly stated that:

“All will agree that nationalism and its spirit are essential to the healthy and normal politics and economic life of a people.”28

And in 2018, Trump echoed these same themes in his speech to the United Nations—in what stands as an almost night-and-day contrast to the address given by H.W. Bush in 1990.

Trump declared

We believe that when nations respect the rights of their neighbors and defend the interests of their people, they can better work together to secure the blessings of safety, prosperity, and peace.

Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.

I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”

Those few paragraphs articulate an uncontroversial, sensible, and restrained vision for the American future. No reasonable person could take this as the launching point for a “Fourth Reich” or soil from which the seeds of racial hatred would grow. 

Reno articulates the real challenges of the present day well. He argues that “we are threatened not by militant nationalism but by profound global pressures— not only economic pressures but also those of mass migration. Cultural deregulation and the rhetoric of weakening make ordinary people wonder whether their leaders care for the nations of which they are citizens.”29

Nationalism provides the necessary framework to address these global pressures. A rearticulated and reinvigorated American nationalism would secure the border, confront an ascendant CCP, restore crumbling civic ties, counter poisonous ideologies like CRT and wokeness, jumpstart the economy by renewing the domestic manufacturing base, and help make America a prosperous, free, sovereign nation committed to defending its unique national inheritance and self-determination.      

To succeed, these policies must be built on the recognition that “Americans are not merely a collection of individuals, an essentially arbitrary subset within some universal brotherhood of individuals [but] a distinct nation, with a proud and important Anglo-American heritage that is unique in the world, that still has much to achieve and much to contribute, both to America and other others.”30 

In a recent speech against the inclusion of Finland and Sweden in NATO, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) articulated this well. He argued that:

“Our foreign policy should be about protecting the United States, our freedom, our people, and our way of life…What I am arguing for is the return to a classic nationalist approach to American foreign policy, the one that made this nation great. A foreign policy that is grounded in our nation’s interests and in the reality of the world as it is, not as we wish it was.”

Nationalism is just that: Pursuing policies grounded in the national interest, both foreign and domestic. Therefore, lawmakers, congressional staffers, political candidates, and Americans everywhere should embrace nationalism, ignoring the media slurs or reactionary attacks from the globalists and new imperialists. American self-determination, national sovereignty, and identity will always be worth fighting for—no apology necessary. 


1.  John Breuilly, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013),1-2.

2.  Breuilly, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism, 1.

3.  Breuilly, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism, 2.

4.  Breuilly, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism, 2.

5.  Steven Grosby, Nationalism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1-2.

6.  Grosby, Nationalism: A Very Short Introduction, 3.

7.  Rich Lowry, The Case for Nationalism: How it Made us Powerful, United, and Free (New York: Broadside Books, 2019), 88, accessed on

8.  Yoram Hazony, The Virtues of Nationalism (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2018), 9.

9.  Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York, NY: Verso, 1983), 6.

10.  Leo Gross, “The Peace of Westphalia, 1648-1948,” The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Jan. 1948), pp. 20-41, 20.

11.  Hazony, The Virtues of Nationalism, 24.

12.  Hazony, The Virtues of Nationalism, 24.

13.  Hazony, The Virtues of Nationalism, 25.

14.  Hazony, The Virtues of Nationalism, 27.

15.  R.R. Reno, Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West (DC: Regnery Gateway, 2019), 19, accessed on

16.  Konrad Adenauer, World Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1955), 6–10.

17.  Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945), 56, accessed on

18.  Reno, The Return of the Strong Gods, 19.

19.  Reno, Return of the Strong Gods, 19.

20.  Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 143.

21.  Lowry, The Case for Nationalism, 11.

22.  Lowry, The Case for Nationalism, 11.

23.  Hazony, Virtues of Nationalism, 143.

24.  Hazony, Virtues of Nationalism, 12

25.  Lowry, The Case for Nationalism, 78.

26.  Anderson, Imagined Communities, 149.

27.  Huntington, Clash of Civilizations, 307.

28.  Hazony, Conservatism, 262.

29.  Reno, Return of the Strong Gods, 181.

30.  Hazony, Conservatism, 84.