Regardless of what qualifiers Steve Bannon places in front of nationalism, he’s still a nationalist and that should concern everyone not committed to replaying The Great War. In case you’ve forgotten, the ideologies of nationalism and social Darwinism were two very similar matches that played a major role in setting the world on fire during the second decade of the twentieth century. It appears that much of the same ideologically driven fear, anger, and racial resentment is threatening to engulf the second decade of the twenty-first century in flames. And President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist has the rhetorical bellows pointed directly at those in this country who are committed to a shameful social Darwinism and nationalism.
In a nutshell, nationalism as an ideology believes that preserving cultural (code for “ethnic”) identity markers is a primary key for national success. In other words, nationalism places ethnicity above things like actual economic and political theories (not to mention theology). For example, nationalists demonstrate entrenched hatred for the long-standing conservative principle of free trade. You see, free trade allows other cultural identity markers to bleed into the cultural identity markers they seek to preserve. Nationalists believe that if they trade on an even playing field with people from another country who don’t look or sound like them, then their country runs the risk of sounding and looking less like what they desire. For conservatives, however, free trade recognizes that economics isn’t a zero-sum game. Conservatives want to see all peoples prosper, regardless of their cultural identity markers. Going a step further, conservatives value diversity because it creates new markets that benefit all.
Nationalism turns friends into enemies. The continued and mutual strengthening of allies like Mexico and Japan should be a priority of conservatives (and, really, all Americans whether on the left or right). The support of nationalism in other countries will help move the world in the violent direction of competing ethnic groups attempting to grab as many of the economic “spoils” as possible, regardless of the global impact. Whether Steve Bannon and his nationalist disciples like it or not, globalism is here to stay, and the promotion of free markets, strengthening of alliances, and the continued support of democratic countries is in the best interest of the United States.
Social Darwinism, which is often joined at the ideological hip with nationalism, is, as most everyone knows, survival of the sociological fittest, as well as the biological fittest. That breeds a winner take all mentality in reference to clashing cultural (once again, code for “ethnic”) identity markers. Adopting cues and ways of doing things from other cultures is a sign of weakness, if not defeat. Further, in the minds of social Darwinists, since their culture is superior, foisting their ways on other cultures is a gift—the gift of progress. If the other culture disappears as a result, so be it. The fact that the other culture lost simply demonstrates that they were not the fittest and didn’t deserve to exist. There is a short word to describe all of that: racism.
As evidenced by the election of Donald Trump, many in this country are angry at both the left and the GOP elite because they believe the government has betrayed them. It’s not that they don’t have a point; both sides of the aisle have, for the most part, left the working class in this country twisting in the wind. J.D. Vance’s recent book, Hillbilly Elegy, introduced many in America to the forgotten and neglected white working class. However, allowing nationalists and social Darwinists to hijack the country is not going to be good for anyone, not to mention that many people are running the risk of having to apologize for becoming politically and culturally intimate with ideologues that are gleefully kicking over this country’s melting pot in the name of ethnic identity politics.
One of the #NeverTrump articles that I didn’t have time to write was an open letter to my friends who were planning on holding their nose while voting for Donald Trump. In that open letter, I was going to introduce those reluctant Trump supporters to a few of their political bedfellows. By aligning themselves with the movement that elected Donald Trump as president, they were unwittingly (I hope “unwittingly”) marching in lockstep with social Darwinists and nationalists. In that unfinished article, I wrote:
Because of my job, fortunately or, rather, unfortunately, depending on the perspective, I have been given a front row seat to the Trump circus. At times, in fact, many times, I have been plucked out of the crowd and been given a rhetorical tarring and feathering by Trump’s clowns. Some of the clowns have gone beyond silly rhetoric, though, and I have been physically threatened several times.
Whatever, though, right?
I mean, personal taunts and childish threats are, for all intents and purposes, inconsequential. I laugh them off, as should you. What I don’t laugh off are the serious comments revealing aberrant ideological reasons for opposing #NeverTrump and fully embracing Donald Trump as president of the United States. In a word, or rather, make that three words, those ideologies are “nationalism and social Darwinism.”
No amount of bluster from Steve Bannon and company can mask the fact that the rhetoric of many of Trump’s most ardent supporters is rife with violent and racist language. Articles on this very website include comments like “Germany needs another Hitler to solve the Muslim problem.” An article discussing a Muslim model’s donning of a hijab and burkini for a beauty contest prompted one commenter to ask the violently racist question, “Can’t they put on a full burqa body bag for these contest?”
Writing for the National Review, and adding to the examples, David French chillingly detailed the abuse heaped on him and his family because of his #NeverTrump position. The amount of evidence that reveals racism interwoven with violent desires to be enacted on anyone who deigns to disagree with the most recent iteration of nationalism should concern all Americans.
The language of Bannon’s nationalist army is a language that reveals the deep-seated desire to fight for an isolationism that preserves certain ethnic markers while consolidating all national power into the hands of a few, specifically a “few” who look and sound a certain way. Words matter, and no matter how much he attempts to soft-sell his nationalism, Steve Bannon is responsible for the hateful racism emanating from a large and vocal section of President-elect Trump’s supporters.