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Chimene Keitner @KeitnerLaw
, 15 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
We’ve been hearing a lot lately about #nationalism and #whitenationalism. They’re sometimes contrasted with #patriotism. I’ve been thinking more about both lately. 1/
Contra Stephen Miller, the nation-state model is just the most recent experiment in organizing and governing human society. As the state became increasingly central to peoples’ lives, national identity became increasingly salient, even if it was largely “imagined.” 2/
Some have distinguished between civic & ethnic definitions of the nation, but both are used to define who is “in” and who is “out.” For the nation to provide the basis for political legitimacy & territorial independence, it needs to differentiate members from non-members. 3/
Over the past two centuries, claiming to be the authentic voice of the nation has given leaders a powerful platform for political mobilization. It also enables them to define who belongs to the nation, and who does not. 4/
The United States was founded on the principle—if not the reality—of equal entitlement to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our “origin story” emphasizes a shared belief in democratic ideals, rather than a common ethnic heritage. 5/
Exclusionary vs. inclusive definitions of the U.S. political community have long competed, in various forms. The same is true of many other countries, both historically and today. 6/
For a polity to function, there must be sufficient cohesion, commitment & compliance among the governed. Yet these cannot come at the expense of other democratic values—including a baseline commitment to protecting human dignity. 7/
Our identities are multiple and overlapping. But political mobilization often requires privileging, or appealing to, particular shared characteristics. This “we-feeling” can be empowering (think: the civil rights movement), but it can also be destructive. 8/
Certain U.S. politicians have found it expedient to define & mobilize an “in-group” of people who feel they have not been well served by our existing laws and institutions. Those who are dismissive of such people and their lived experiences play straight into this narrative. 9/
Miller’s disdain for a “citizen-of-the-world identity” echoes other shallow critiques of cosmopolitanism. 10/…
But it is fair to say that—particularly with the rise of economic inequality—weakening cohesion, commitment & compliance leaves societies vulnerable to more exclusionary definitions of the nation. 11/
“Nation” isn’t necessarily a dirty word, but the politics of nationalism can be dangerous. The incentives built into our current political system fuel polarization. 12/
If politics becomes a competition over definitions of authentic national membership—even if we use the language of “patriotism”—we risk becoming what folks in political science & IR call a “deeply divided” society. 13/
If this trend continues, adversaries won’t need to attack us from the outside. We’ll keep weakening ourselves from the inside. It's easier to focus on the short term, but anyone concerned about the long-term viability of our national project needs to be wary of these traps. FIN/
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