Thursday, February 01, 2018


Hey, I've been neglecting Jonah Goldberg
Liberals Still Love Nationalist Ideas — Just Not the Label
We can skip most of the front matter, where Goldberg attempts to engage an argument from Elizabeth Bruenig, ha ha. (I think he does this so he can later claim to have bested Bruenig and take a "victory lap.") In classic Goldbergian fashion, he picks over a trifle -- the meaning of the word "nation-state" -- before lurching in an entirely different direction:
What I find interesting about Bruenig’s argument is the idea that the concept of America is incompatible with Trumpish nationalism. I agree! But she goes farther than that. She argues that nationalism itself is incompatible with Americanism rightly understood. And I am delighted to hear it!

But what’s intriguing to me is that this would be news to progressive or “liberal” politicians and thinkers for most of the last hundred years. Wilson, both Roosevelts, and JFK were all practitioners of the sort of nationalism Bruenig says is incompatible with America.
Well, FDR did complain when Pearl Harbor was overrun by foreigners.
Foreign policy, and the jargon that comes with it, can muddy this question, given how those presidents often championed American leadership in international institutions.
Not two sentences into his argument and he's already backtracking.
But domestically, from 100 Percent Americanism to the New Deal to the New Frontier, nationalism — economic and cultural — was central to domestic liberalism. Go look at some WPA art projects if you don’t believe me.
I guess he means that when the WPA had painters do public art, administrators asked for images of "the American scene." But what else were they going to commission for the side of a post office in Yakima? Vistas of Poland?
Indeed, I always wonder why Donald Trump doesn’t say, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country!” on the stump, since it both fits his worldview perfectly and would be a brilliant way to troll liberals.
The idea of Trump asking any of his voters to make any sacrifice whatever -- unless it were to Donald Trump -- is so idiotic that it refutes Goldberg all by itself, but let us allow him to embarrass himself further: he quotes the 2012 SOTU, in which Obama referred to Seal Team Six, which (Goldberg interestingly fails to mention) took out Osama Bin Laden --
At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.
Goldberg characterizes Obama's message thus:
Obama gushed over Seal Team Six as a model for domestic life.
He then quotes Obama further -- "This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs" -- and commentates:
As I wrote at the time, this is a disgusting inversion of what America is all about.
Yeah, teamwork and having your partner's back -- that's communism! Even worse:
An America that lives by the ethos of Seal Team Six isn’t America, it’s Sparta.
We sure dodged a bullet -- had Hillary won, our healthy male children would all be enrolled in state military training camps, as Obama dreamed. Well, I guess now that Trump has blown conservatives' cover as an allegedly intellectual movement, Goldberg's just left with old, half-remembered Buckley tropes such as Dangers of Collectivism to peddle. But I can't see who would still be worried about Americans being too unified at a time like this.

No comments:

Post a Comment