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Is ‘nationalism’ an empty suit?

The president described himself as a nationalist and said the term means he loves America and wants to put America first. Since then, opinion makers and others have taken a stab at describing nationalism. Opponents of the president put as many negative connotations into the term as possible, and proponents offered simplistic definitions that would be better termed as patriotism, not nationalism.

Fox News even had an expert on one of the nightly shows to better define the term. In the end, it didn’t really say much at all about what nationalism truly means, other than being part of a population that loves its country and wants it to succeed.

Well, if that’s it, I guess we are all nationalists, because even the destroyers of the foundation of this nation believe they love the country and want it to succeed. Following their path, the nation can’t succeed as founded, but it doesn’t seem to cause them concern; it rather excites them, in fact.

The ambiguity of the term is what is most troublesome. It seems to mean different things to different people. But really, the term is just an empty suit.

The only way that nationalism as defined by the president can work as a philosophy is if it embraces conservatism, not acts as its replacement or its competitor.

If conservatism means “to conserve” something, and its objective is to conserve the integrity and the idea of the Founding of this nation, then conservatism ought to be nationalism’s best pal. After all, to “make America great again” must mean that it was great once. When was it great? The Founding, without question.

All too often, self-described nationalists do not embrace conservatism, hating it and describing it as a failure. It is when those nationalists badmouth the defense of this nation’s Founding that we have a serious problem in the defining of the so-called movement of nationalism in America.

Without an embrace of conservative thought, including free trade, free markets, capitalism, and limited government, nationalism is an empty suit, ready for any philosophical extreme to try it on and use its power to gain power. That’s what makes it rather dangerous unless it embraces the Founding of the nation, as conservatism does.

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