Some in the country today bemoan "unchecked nationalism," characterizing it as a negative that will ultimately lead to draconian statism or some form of provincial exclusion or discrimination.
Nationalism, patriotism or whatever term you prefer is a necessary quality for this or any nation to survive. The nation needs a national story. We need to emphasize shared history and shard goals. If we don't, we'll find ourselves "Balkanized" – divided into mutually hostile states or regions. This process, by the way, became apparent with the 2000 Bush-Gore election and is accelerating.
Nationalism's critics are quick to identify its potential negatives, especially during and since the Trump election. You've heard them all many times: racism, xenophobia, the whole basket of deplorables rhetoric.
Nationalism has as many positive attributes though.
Americans share a common bond ideologically: a yearning for freedom, an appreciation for democracy, and a commitment to individual rights that ought to supersede other identities such as those centered on religious, ethnic, or tribal affiliations.
When people feel committed to larger communities or interests or to ideas of human rights and political progress, for example, nationalism can contribute to a sense of hope about the future. It can build positive personal and collective identities and a sense of selfhood in the modern world.
Nationalism is often in full flower on national holidays, during major sports events and at public memorials for deceased military troops. Also nationalistic symbols, rituals and rhetoric are especially ramped up as the country moves toward a presidential election.
Patriotism permeates contemporary American politics, as do accusations of unpatriotic behavior. Both sides try to hijack the word for themselves. Trump supporters unquestioningly think of themselves as "patriotic," which means Democrats are not. Joe Biden, though, spoke for many on the left when he characterized those who oppose high taxes (the Republican base) as unpatriotic.
Here's my answer to the vocal anti-Trump, thus anti-nationalist, crowd, most of which enthusiastically supported either the Bush or Obama administrations. If the ruling class did a minimum job of keeping the economy on an even keel, of avoiding foreign wars, of keeping the shenanigans of its "Chicago Way" political operatives down to a dull roar, then there would never be a danger of "unchecked nationalism" because everyone would be busy either checking their Vanguard accounts or buying their dream house. The ultimate political outsider Trump would have never been elected.
Even one Trump opponent concedes, "A little nationalism is necessary for holding together a nation-state or a people. If there isn't some conception of 'us,' then there is no investment in the success of the collective enterprise. Countries without a sense of being a nation do not last and cannot get much done."
It is a mistake to call "nationalism" good or bad. Nationalism is simply one more "ism" by which we moderns adapt the social instincts buried deep in the unconscious to our modern needs for social solidarity. If we hadn't invented nationalism, we would have had to come up with something else. And we have. But if you ask me the alt-fake-tribalisms -- the globalisms, socialisms, classisms, racisms, non-gender-binaryisms -- in which the opponents of nationalism have tried to bury nationalism are all cures that are worse than the disease.
I'll tell you what: the more I read the scribblings of the "nationalism ankle-biters," the more I appreciate the genius of Trump and his Make America Great Again.
Politics is division, between "us" and "them;" it must be. Let's not divide American citizens at all. Instead why not make the divide between Americans and the non-American illegals taking "our jobs," between our noble American manufacturers and the Chinese cheaters? Then the questions becomes, why are people siding against Americans?
Globalism, the darling of the American elites from both sides of the aisle, has left lots of Americans behind, and they deserve to be heard. Donald Trump was elected by these folks, and the next election may well be determined by who appeals best to the unwashed masses in the rust belt who care not about political ideology but about providing for their families.
Churchill said that "it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Nationalism is the same. It may not be perfect, but it's better than all the other -isms.