November 22, 2016


Trump's Neo-Nationalists : 'America first' is not a policy or a motto. It's an implicit accusation of disloyalty (BRET STEPHENS, Nov. 21, 2016, WSJ)

Mr. Bannon also says he's "America first," which--see if you can spot the difference--either is or isn't "America First." Either way, the animating impulse behind "America first" is that there are some Americans who put their country second, or last, presumably behind their ethnic loyalties, ideological affinities or economic interests. America first isn't a policy program or a political motto so much as it is an accusation of disloyalty. What real American, after all, wouldn't put "America first" in his political priorities?

Mr. Bannon's answer, along with that of the alt-right movement he has proudly championed through his Breitbart website, is "the globalists." The globalists are supposed to be the bankers at Goldman Sachs who paid Mrs. Clinton her handsome speaking fees. They are editorial writers at this newspaper, who champion the virtues of free trade and a liberal immigration policy. They are the "warmongers" demanding sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine.

But the truth is that Wall Street bankers, recently naturalized immigrants and even mainstream journalists have as much right to advocate a view of the American interest as Mr. Bannon and his fellow travelers. That's the American way, which disavows traditional concepts of nationalism in favor of a broader ideal of citizenship--identity defined primarily by participation and aspiration, not ancestry. Nationalism may be a fine idea for Japan or Iceland. America is exceptional because it's built on a different premise.

As for Mr. Bannon's admiration for nationalist movements, that might explain the odd way in which Breitbart has deployed anti-Semitic tropes to denounce "globalist" Jewish writers such as the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum while being stalwart in its support for Israel. Whatever the case, the distinction between nationalism and ethno-nationalism is a slippery one.

As my colleague Bari Weiss pointed out in a recent article in Tablet, the foremost figure of today's alt-right, Richard Spencer, dreams of "a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence." 

Posted by at November 22, 2016 4:13 PM


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