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Feature 03.05.2019 2 minutes

Nationalism for the Twenty-First Century

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Retrieving an honorable, successful philosophy.

“Conservatism is in flux,” writes Daniel McCarthy in his big new blueprint for American governance at First Things. “Trump in 2016, whether consciously or not, drew upon what has been the clear policy alternative to the elite consensus in favor of global liberalism since the early 1990s: economic nationalism, and nationalism more generally. This is an honorable tradition whose roots in the Republican party run all the way back to Abraham Lincoln.”

Rather than an “aberration” from which established elites will swiftly return us to the norm, or simply “a second, more successful Pat Buchanan,” McCarthy describes Trump’s administration as “a return, in however haphazard a fashion, to the policy orientation that once really did make America great and the GOP grand.”

McCarthy brings some important clarity to the debate around political life after Trump, which is often murky, and sometimes treacherously so. And he has helped raise several significant questions. Here in brief, in our Discourses, Sam Goldman has asked whether a new nationalism in America can be forged without the fires of war; Jim Antle has called for a citizen economics heavy on policy and light on demagoguery; Rachel Lu has cautioned against what George W. Bush once called the soft bigotry of low expectations for America’s struggling subcultures; and Michael Lind has prophesied a postliberal policy realignment away from economic libertarianism.

Herewith, we feature some further reflections at greater length. The topics broached in this unfolding conversation are central to the future of the Republic. The freshness of the debate is invigorating, but there is little time to waste.

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