Donald Trump and nationalism

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U.S. President Donald Trump

This article discusses the connection between Donald Trump and nationalism.

Nationalism is a feeling of unity among a group of people born out of the French Revolution and Age of Enlightenment. It involves a sense of national consciousness and exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations.[1]

Nationalists today support national sovereignty over globalism, preserving their respective national cultures and demographics over multiculturalism, and a border wall.

F.H. Buckley wrote in the New York Post about Donald Trump and nationalism:

Nationalism has a gravitational force that draws people to the center on economics. Religion has the same effect, since the sincere believer in the Jewish-Christian tradition is obliged to care for others, at the risk of being labeled a hypocrite if he doesn’t. He’s not going to be an Ayn Rand fan, like Ryan.

What I’ve just described, a party of nationalists who are mostly religious believers, is Trump’s Republican Party, which he labeled the Republican Workers Party.

On social issues, they’re very different from Chuck Schumer’s Democrats. On economic issues, they’re very different from Paul Ryan Republicans. On immigration, they’re very different from both Schumer and Ryan. They’re the party that elects our presidents.

That’s where we are today, three different parties squaring off, like the gunfight scene at the end of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” If you remember the movie, you’ll recall that it ends when two gunfighters join up against the third.

That’s the solution a two-hour movie requires. But politics is different. Nobody gets killed off, the game simply goes on and on. The three parties — Trump, Schumer and Ryan — and the constituencies they represent will continue to deal with each other.[2]

Bloomberg News writes about Donald Trump and nationalism:

R. R. Reno, the editor of the religious-conservative journal First Things, writes that President Donald Trump recognizes “the new schism in American life,” which “is about immigration, free trade and the broad and deep impacts of globalization on America’s economy and culture.” Reno is writing from a position of broad sympathy with Trump’s nationalism, but critics of that nationalism have argued similarly. David Brooks wrote last year that big vs. small government would give way to open vs. closed society.[3]

Rich Lowry indicated in the National Review:

The nationalism which is so repugnant to the liberal elite seems like common sense to many Americans. The first week of the Trump administration has been a vindication of the American nation-state. Anyone who thought it was a “borderless world,” a category that includes some significant portion of the country’s corporate and intellectual elite, has been disabused of the notion within about the first five days of the Trump years. The theme running throughout President Donald Trump’s inaugural address was the legitimacy of the nation-state as a community, a source of unity, and the best means of advancing the interests of its citizens. The address was widely panned, but early polling indicates the public didn’t share the revulsion of the commentariat. The speech’s broadly nationalistic sentiments were bound to strike people as common sense.

“At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.” Who else would it serve?...

In general, immigration is an important focus for Trump’s nationalism because it involves the question of whether the American people have the sovereign authority to decide who gets to live here or not; of whether the interests of American or foreign workers should be paramount; of whether we assimilate the immigrants we already have into a common culture before welcoming even more. The Trump phenomenon is pushback against what the late political scientist Samuel Huntington called in his 2004 book Who Are We? the “deconstructionist” agenda, a decades-long project of the country’s “de-nationalized” political and intellectual elites. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, Huntington argues, “they began to promote measures consciously designed to weaken America’s cultural and creedal identity and to strengthen racial, ethnic, cultural, and other subnational identities. These efforts by a nation’s leaders to deconstruct the nation they governed were, quite possibly, without precedent in human history.”[4]

Donald Trump speaking in Fountain Hills, Arizona in March 2016.

Penny Starr wrote in Breitbart News:

On the eve of the 100 days in office milestone, President Donald Trump claims he is both a nationalist and a globalist — despite campaign promises that his presidency would reject globalism and put America first.

“Hey, I’m a nationalist and a globalist,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. “I’m both.”

“And I’m the only one who makes the decision, believe me,” Trump said.

But Trump also said that he would terminate NAFTA “if we’re unable to make a deal, but hopefully we won't have to do that....

Following Trump’s election in November, Chriss Street penned a commentary for Breitbart News focused on how Trump’s “America First” message would strike a blow to “world socialism.”

“The election of Donald Trump now represents an existential threat to World Socialism across the planet,” Street wrote. “Socialists know that when President Reagan went rogue with his muscular capitalist policies, communism quickly imploded. Trump has already torn up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have internationalized the law covering $28 trillion in trade and investment, about 40 percent of global GDP.

“Trump seems determined to destroy “Socialist Globalization” with the same capitalist tax cuts and regulatory relief that President Reagan used to destroy communism,” Street wrote.

In an interview with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham last month, former presidential candidate and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan said abandoning his populist economic message would be “fatal” for Trump’s presidency.[5]

Steve Turley writes:

...we looked at what many scholars believe to be the two dominant forces operative in the world today, globalization on the one hand and nationalism on the other, and we looked at how the two interrelate. Because globalization involves what are called detraditionalizing dynamics, which in effect replace traditional ways of life with modern secular lifestyle values, globalization tends to provoke a mass nationalist blowback, at the heart of which is retraditionalization, which involves the re-emergence of a culture’s religion, language, and customs; one might even say ‘bitterly clinging to their guns and religion.’ This is nationalist retraditionalization. And what we noticed, particularly with Brexit and the Russian Federation, is that the nationalist forces seem to have the advantage right now over against globalist forces.

Now, given the stunning upset of Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the question is: To what extent were such nationalist sentiments at work in the 2016 election? Were the concerns that propelled the Brexit and the revitalization of Russian Orthodoxy and a number of other nationalist movements comparably propelling the candidacy of Donald Trump?

I think the answer to that is a clear ‘yes,’ and I want to go over with you why I believe that the nationalist waves behind say Brexit have indeed made their way to the shores of the US, and it is President-elect Trump more than any other candidate in recent memory that is riding these waves. Now, these nationalist and indeed populist movements have some key characteristics that define the Trump candidacy, and these characteristics are: immigration, trade, the national moral climate, and political correctness and multiculturalism...

The more I examine the Trump candidacy, the more I am convinced that he is fully aware of the global nationalist and populist dynamics he’s tapping into, and that his positions are far too consistent regarding the interrelationship of these dynamics for this to be a mere coincidence on his part. Trump recognizes the interrelationship between unfettered immigration, economic globalization, moral degeneration, and political correctness far better than any of the other Republican candidates for president, and I think that is the key reason why he was able to trounce so decisively the competition for the GOP nomination.[6]

Jennifer Rubin wrote in the Chicago Tribune:

If you listened to President Donald Trump's supporters and a great deal of the media (both mainstream and right-wing) analyzing the 2016 presidential race you would think Trump won the presidency because he understood the economic hardship of those in rural and small-town America. His base was made up of people hurt by globalization and de-industrialization in the heartland, the story goes. The traditional GOP and the Democratic Party, you see, didn't understand this or care about their plight.

We've never really bought that explanation, in part because Trump voters on average were richer than Hillary Clinton voters...

The Post reports that the "popular explanations of the rural-urban divide appear to overstate the influence of declining economic outcomes in driving rural America's support for Trump. The survey responses, along with follow-up interviews and focus groups in rural Ohio, bring into view a portrait of a split that is tied more to social identity than to economic experience." Economic dislocation does not seem to have been the main factor in the election:

"Rural Americans express far more concern about jobs in their communities, but the poll finds that those concerns have little connection to support for Trump, a frequent theory to explain his rise in 2016. Economic troubles also show little relation to the feeling that urban residents have different values.

"Rural voters who lament their community's job prospects report supporting Trump by 14 percentage points more than Clinton, but Trump's support was about twice that margin — 30 points — among voters who say their community's job opportunities are excellent or good. Trump also earned about the same level of support from those who say they don't worry about paying their bills as those who couldn't pay their bills at some point in the past year."

If not economics per se, what was the origin of the sharp electoral divide between rural and urban voters? Attitudes on race, culture and immigration seem to predominate:

"The poll reveals that perceptions about abuse of government benefits often go hand in hand with views about race.

"When asked which is more common — that government help tends to go to irresponsible people who do not deserve it or that it doesn't reach people in need — rural Americans are more likely than others to say they think people are abusing the system. And across all areas, those who believe irresponsible people get undeserved government benefits are more likely than others to think that racial minorities receive unfair privileges.[7]

Hoover Institution on Donald Trump's nationalism

Kori Schake at the Hoover Institution thinktank declares about Donald Trump's nationalism:

What President Trump actually represents is a pretty routine disaffection by American voters with our government, willingness to experiment with a new direction, pendular correction from what we were exasperated with in the previous administration, and high degree of trust in the constraining benefits of our political institutions. The work of sociologists Bart Bonikowski and Paul DiMaggio shows that the American public is divided pretty stably over time into four groups, with the largest faction of people—about 30 percent—exhibiting what Bonikowski calls “ethno-cultural exclusion, along with a low level of pride in the state.” Their preferred definition of American is a Christian who speaks English and was born in the U.S. Journalists have characterized this group as low-education and low-income white males. In fact, Bonikowski and DiMaggio’s data suggest a majority of women, 68 percent of blacks, 55 percent of Hispanics, and more Democrats and Republicans also hold those views. The new nationalism, then, is not some backlash of the white working poor, but—as President Trump has asserted—a broad-based movement of people fed up with the direction they perceive our country moving.

Nor does the “America first” ideology of President Trump’s foreign policies represent a “new nationalism.” Its main thrusts—economic protectionism, the belief allies are taking advantage of the U.S., and concern about immigration changing the character of America—have long and bipartisan pedigrees in American politics. If Robert Taft had beat out Dwight Eisenhower for the Republican nomination for president in 1952, that might well have been mainstream conservative policy. At the height of the Cold War, American administrations had to devote an enormous amount of effort to beat back legislation annually sponsored by Senator Mike Mansfield that would have forced withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe because allies paid too little. Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana was criticized in its time for admitting to citizenship Catholics who were believed because of their religion to lack the independent thought necessary in a democracy. For a reminder that every wave of immigrants to America has created concern about dilution of the country’s essence, see Noel Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White.

The American political system is particularly susceptible to nationalism in both its positive and nasty forms—which is simply to say that our political system is tied more tightly in accountability to the public than are even most other democracies. Allies of the U.S. quail at our routine willingness to elect inexperienced or rough-hewn Presidents, our risk-tolerance for throwing aside inherited dogma or established policies, and our national penchant for sounding our “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” (as Walt Whitman phrased it in section 52 of “Song of Myself”).

That responsiveness to the public will is, however, also the great vibrancy of American democracy.[8]

Academic journal article: Explaining Nationalist Political Views: The Case of Donald Trump

Jonathan T. Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell published an academic journal article entitled Explaining Nationalist Political Views: The Case of Donald Trump which was published in the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy.[9]

The abstract of the journal article declares:

The 2016 US presidential nominee Donald Trump has broken with the policies of previous Republican Party presidents on trade, immigration, and war, in favor of a more nationalist and populist platform. Using detailed Gallup survey data for 125,000 American adults, we analyze the individual and geographic factors that predict a higher probability of viewing Trump favorably. The results show mixed evidence that economic distress has motivated Trump support. His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relatively high household incomes and are no less likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration. On the other hand, living in racially isolated communities with worse health outcomes, lower social mobility, less social capital, greater reliance on social security income and less reliance on capital income, predicts higher levels of Trump support. We confirm the theoretical results of our regression analysis using machine learning algorithms and an extensive set of additional variables.[9]

The American Interest on Donald Trump's nationalism

Paul D. Miller wrote about Donald Trump's nationalism at The American Interest website:

President Donald Trump is, to all appearances, a nationalist. Essential to that position is Trump’s “zero-sum view of the world,” according to Charlie Laderman and Brendan Simms, who have written the most comprehensive account yet of Trump’s thinking over the years.2 Trump mused as early as 1980 that he saw “life to a certain extent as combat.” That aligns well with Trump’s professed affection for Ayn Rand, especially for her protagonist in The Fountainhead, Howard Roark.

In the same interview—his first on the national stage—Trump said that respect is the most important thing for leaders because it is the leverage by which a leader achieves everything else. Again and again over the years Trump has expressed concern that others are “laughing” at the United States or its leaders, typically coupled with his assessment of American leaders’ “stupidity.” In 1987, to take just one example, he told television host Larry King that other countries “laugh at us behind our backs, they laugh at us because of our stupidity and [that of our] leaders.” Trump’s concern for respect, his worries that the United States is being “laughed at,” and his view of life as combat are almost perfect expressions of Orwell’s “competitive prestige.”

Trump’s actual policy record is only just beginning to emerge, but the pattern so far suggests that Trump as President intends to follow through on his nationalist rhetoric...

...the ideas Trump has brought to the fore are likely to outlast Trump himself. Nationalism is a vibrant—currently, the dominant—strain in American political culture...[10]

Donald Trump, nationalism and a military build up

Donald Trump on August 31, 2016.

Reuters reported in 2017:

President Donald Trump said he would make a massive budget request for one of the “greatest military buildups in American history” on Friday in a feisty, campaign-style speech extolling robust nationalism to eager conservative activists.

Trump used remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an organization that gave him one of his first platforms in his improbable journey to the U.S. presidency, to defend his unabashed “America first” policies.

Ahead of a nationally televised speech to Congress on Tuesday, Trump outlined plans for strengthening the U.S. military, already the world’s most powerful fighting force, and other initiatives such as tax reform and regulatory rollback.

He offered few specifics on any initiatives, including the budget request that is likely to face a harsh reality on Capitol Hill: At a time when he wants to slash taxes for Americans, funding a major military buildup without spending cuts elsewhere would add substantially to the U.S. budget deficit...

His speech was heavy on the nationalist overtones from his campaign last year, focusing on promises to boost U.S. economic growth by retooling international trade deals, cracking down on immigration and boosting energy production. [11]


Regardless of Trump's policies, in April 2017, he stated that "I’m a nationalist and a globalist."[12] At a rally in October 2018, he described himself as a nationalist and spoke out against globalism.[13]

Trump has frequently been labeled as an economic nationalist.[14]

See also


  1. Nationalism - Merriam-Webster dictionary
  2. Why Trump should go right on working with Democrats
  3. There's a Limit to What Nationalism Can Do, Bloomberg News
  4. Revenge of the Nation-State by Rich Lowry, National Review
  5. Trump: ‘I’m a Nationalist and a Globalist’, Breitbart News
  6. Brexit in America? Trump and the Global Nationalist Blowback by Steve Turley
  7. Commentary: Trump's voters were more motivated by nationalism than economic hardship, Chicago Tribune
  8. Precedents For The New Nationalism by Kori Schake at The Hoover Institution
  9. 9.0 9.1 Explaining Nationalist Political Views: The Case of Donald Trump by Jonathan T. Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell, George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, 15 Aug 2016
  10. Worshipping at the Altar of the Nation by Paul D. Miller
  11. Trump vows military build-up, hammers nationalist themes, Reuters
  12. Starr, Penny (April 28, 2017). Trump: ‘I’m a Nationalist and a Globalist’. Breitbart News. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  13. Multiple references:
  14. Multiple references: