During his rally in Texas on Monday night, President Donald Trump came right out and called himself a nationalist, urging others to use the word as label as well, as he disparaged so-called globalists who he claims do not care about America’s well-being.
“You know they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist…. We’re not supposed to use that word,” Trump acknowledged. “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay. I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word, use that word.”
But Republican political strategist and author Rick Wilson disagrees that there’s “nothing wrong” with the president openly declaring his nationalism — “violence is the almost inevitable endpoint of most successful nationalist movements in the last hundred years,” he wrote in a Daily Beast op-ed.
> On Monday night, Donald Trump shoved the nationalist needle into the veins of millions of his followers, and slammed the plunger home. He finally said what we’ve known all along: He’s a nationalist.
> He sent a signal to his alt-right allies that it’s time to rally to his side once again, just ahead of the midterm elections. It was one more knife into the moldering corpse of the GOP, which with every Trump rally has looked more and more like some clapped-out third-world claque of the Glorious Leader’s sycophants, and less like a modern political institution.
Lest there be any doubt how Trump’s supporters understood his use of the word nationalist, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted his praise:
The president’s “full and open embrace of nationalism” is a step further than usual, even for Trump, Wilson wrote, saying he had “crossed a bright new line.”
> We’ll likely read about Oct. 22, 2018, in our history books, for as much as Trump has consistently acted like a 70-year-old Queens racist with authoritarian statist leanings clad in nationalist rhetoric, last night was the first time the word escaped his blubbery lips, his quivering seven-pound chin-sack swaying to the roar of a Texas crowd of worshippers.
> After two years of Trump’s shock politics, many Americans have long since despaired that this president has neither the intention nor the ability to honor the fundamental traditions of our Republic. That's why many are already writing off or normalizing his latest statement as just another example of his impulsive verbal dysentery.
But this is dangerous to the Republic, Wilson argued. Americans ought not treat Trump’s nationalism as “a lazy shortcut for patriotism”, as it has been understood in the past.
> The newly self-declared nationalist is influenced and advised by people like alt-right thought leader Steve Bannon, who since his disgrace and banishment from American politics has been driving around Europe in a rusted-out serial killer van rallying pseudo-, neo- and crypto-Nazis to his banner.
> From the very beginning, Trump’s nationalist politics reflected a deep, abiding racial and ethnic animus. Trump’s raging barn-fire hatred of Hispanic immigrants and refugees reached a dehumanizing endpoint this spring with kids in cages and a deliberate theater-of-cruelty family separation policy, to say nothing of the moment of national shame when he equated the alt-right terrorist murderers in Charlottesville with the protesters there to stand against them. Trump’s attack on Humayun Khan and his family before that were overtly based on their faith and ethnicity. Nationalism resolves down to ethnicity, time and again.
> Our Founders built a robust system, flawed as it was on the matter of slavery, that created our propositional nation. We’re not a volk. We’re not a rodina. We’re not a race or a single tribe. Our constitutional example wasn't tuned to one ethnic heritage.
Wilson goes on to quote George Orwell, who wrote: “Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also—since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself—unshakably certain of being in the right.”
> Sound familiar? It should. Trump’s two years of twisting truth after truth past each one’s breaking point have led to a trillion pixels spilled calling out his serial deceptions out, with so far zero political consequences.
> Nationalist leaders frame themselves as singular warriors in an existential fight for the survival of the country. They aggrandize themselves in ways familiar to even the most casual observer of Trumpish self-fellation. There’s a reason that “I alone can fix it” sounds like a cut from The Authoritarians’ greatest hits album.
Continuing to write off the president’s assertion that he is a nationalist, along with whatever future rhetoric he chooses to spew, as just “Trump being Trump” may very well lead us to disaster, Wilson said.
> It’s not just the leaders of nationalist campaigns who change from small-d democrats or small-r republicans. Their followers change, and history tells us they change swiftly. Civilized, educated, urbane Germans slipped swiftly into a darker, deadlier mode in a few short years.
> Nationalism deafens its adherents to appeals to the better angels of our nature. Nationalism excuses their hatreds, their resentments, and ultimately their violence… and that violence is the almost inevitable endpoint of most successful nationalist movements in the last hundred years.