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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

OPINION:

To the surprise of many, it turns out that the idea of a “nation” — a group of families, tribes and communities with common experiences knitted together for the common good and motivated by a common purpose — is still very much alive.

You don’t often hear talk of an American nation. Intellectuals steeped in corrosive and pointless Enlightenment ideas about the universality of the human experience are uncomfortable with nationalities, nationalism and the idea that people identify as citizens of a nation rather than citizens of the “world.”


Indeed, there are survey results that indicate one’s primary political orientation — either toward one’s nation or some global order — is a good predictor of political preferences and ideology. It won’t surprise anyone that those who identify as Americans —rather than global citizens — tilt toward the right.

Consequently, it also should not be a surprise that conservatism — after some years of wandering in the barren wilderness of libertarianism, neoconservatism and legacy conservatism — is starting to find its way back home to a sturdy preference for policies that serve to strengthen the nation, its constituent groups and individuals.

As part of that effort, several dozen people recently signed a statement of principles (which is more policy than the legacy Republicans have managed to enunciate in the last five years) on National Conservatism’s site, outlining their thoughts about how best to proceed.

The statement’s preamble includes: “We are citizens of Western nations who have watched with alarm as the traditional beliefs, institutions and liberties underpinning life in the countries we love have been progressively undermined and overthrown. … We are conservatives because we see … virtues as essential to sustaining our civilization. We see such a restoration as the prerequisite for recovering and maintaining our freedom, security and prosperity.

“We emphasize the idea of the nation because we see a world of independent nations — each pursuing its own national interests and upholding national traditions that are its own — as the only genuine alternative to universalist ideologies …”

The principles include elements that as recently as a generation ago pretty much every American endorsed: national independence, rejection of imperialism and globalism, a strong but limited national government, a public life grounded in religious belief, the rule of law, free enterprise (with a gimlet eye toward multinational corporations), and the primacy of family and children.

The statement makes a detour to address two specific issues — immigration and race. It makes it clear that immigration has been a blessing and, at times, a challenge and argues that: “Western nations have benefited from both liberal and restrictive immigration policies at various times. We call for much more restrictive policies until these countries summon the wit to establish more balanced, productive and assimilationist policies.”

On race, the document is equally clear: “We condemn the use of state and private institutions to discriminate and divide us against one another on the basis of race. … The nationalism we espouse respects, and indeed combines, the unique needs of particular minority communities and the common good of the nation as a whole.”

The statement of principles is a succinct and concise document that conveys a coherent political vision in 1,500 words. The authors and signatories know that they are advocating ideas that until very recently were the core of the American belief system. Looked at through a certain lens, the ideas also form the core — wittingly or otherwise — of former President Trump’s theory of governing, to the extent he had one.

That theory is simply that the U.S. government should pursue policies and actions that best serve the American people. As sensible as that idea sounds, it is worth noting that even now elements of the federal government routinely pursue policies — open borders, inflationary spending, the obsession with climate change that is driving energy prices ever higher — that are directly contrary to the interests of the citizenry.

The authors and signatories of National Conservatism’s statement of principles are trying to initiate a long-overdue reassessment and renaissance of American nationalism. They believe, correctly, that a renewed focus on traditional ideas about the nature of the relationship between citizens and their nation will lead to a recrudescence of national confidence and national greatness.

Finally, the project has about it the sense of a necessary restoration. In the statement’s own words: “We see the tradition of independent, self-governed nations as the foundation for restoring a proper public orientation toward patriotism and courage, honor and loyalty, religion and wisdom, congregation and family, man and woman, the sabbath and the sacred, and reason and justice.”

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House. 


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