, 14 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Came across two descriptions of nationalism, from two liberal columnists, and I wanted to highlight a key difference. I’m extremely not a nationalist, but my antennae are up when we're characterizing mainstream views and positions we’re already predisposed to strongly detest.
The first is from @zackbeauchamp. In a piece that I think gets a lot right, and is a far fairer treatment than some corners are suggesting, I think Beauchamp mischaracterizes nationalism in a worrisome way. vox.com/2019/7/17/2069…
@zackbeauchamp Beauchamp repeatedly makes the point that a high-minded nationalism always mutates, when it gets activated at the political level, into rank racism and ethnohierarchism. The sort of views Trump displayed in his recent tweets targeting the four progressive congresswomen.
@zackbeauchamp But Beauchamp's done nothing to establish that nationalism is intrinsically racist—certainly not in the way Trump’s tweets were. We can imagine a nationalism that doesn’t, when devolved into the political sphere, produce anything like Trump’s tweets against the congresswomen.
@zackbeauchamp Here's the version of Beauchamp’s argument that is correct: *every* political philosophy, existing in the rarefied air of intellectual contemplation, gets vulgarized the moment it's adopted by politicians just out to win elections. They’ll inevitably use the ideas carelessly.
@zackbeauchamp But you can’t backfit a criticism, working in reverse from application to theory, unless you can give a case for why the application will always be flawed, always turn out the way you say it will.
@zackbeauchamp Beauchamp must explain what it is about nationalism per se that makes it so that it inevitably and necessarily degenerates into Trump-style ethnoboorishness.
@zackbeauchamp Beauchamp says “conservative sacralization” of Western culture and Christian heritage will inexorably produce bad views. But you don’t need Humean doubts about induction to see that future versions of nationalism don’t *need* to be like whatever historical episodes he has in mind
@zackbeauchamp Maybe the reason it’s appearing in *this* form is because we have, at *this* time, (a) lots of voters willing to electorally support white identitarianism, and (b) a politician willing to reflect their values back onto them. But why think these elements *must* be present?
@zackbeauchamp That’s why I preferred the framing offered by @DLeonhardt in his recent newsletter entry for the Times. nytimes.com/2019/07/17/opi…
@zackbeauchamp @DLeonhardt Leonhardt asserts that immigration-restrictionism—the central plank of any robust nationalist regime—isn’t necessarily racist or xenophobic.
@zackbeauchamp @DLeonhardt He says the current hardline position on the right certainly is, and that prior historical manifestations of it in the US have also been, but nationalism per se, with its borders and immigration controls—features that are necessarily exclusionary—need not be racist or xenophobic.
@zackbeauchamp @DLeonhardt Beauchamp’s take is that it is impossible for nationalism to ward off being deployed, by the major parties and movements deploying it, in a xenophobic direction.
@zackbeauchamp @DLeonhardt Leonhardt’s take is that nationalism’s central focus—immigration-restrictionism—*can* withstand being utilized this way, but we must admit that in the past and even now this is exactly how it’s been used.
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