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JD Vance cuts straight to the heart of what animates Trump's nationalism — and it's not 'just an idea'
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JD Vance cuts straight to the heart of what animates Trump's nationalism — and it's not 'just an idea'

Vance, a contender to become Donald Trump's running mate, crystallized what America is and what America First should fight to protect.

The National Conservatism Conference is a project of the Edmund Burke Foundation, chaired by Israeli-American philosopher Yoram Hazony. For years, NatCon has offered conservatives of different stripes and from different countries a rallying point to discuss ways of reinforcing, improving and thinking about their respective nation-states.

The organizers define "National Conservatism" as "a movement of public figures, journalists, scholars, and students who understand that the past and future of conservatism are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation, to the principle of national independence, and to the revival of the unique national traditions that alone have the power to bind a people together and bring about their flourishing."

The attempt earlier this year by socialist officials in Belgium to shut down a NatCon conference highlighted the perceived threat posed by speakers at these conferences — to leftist internationalism, globalism, and other schemes aimed at the erasure of borders and individual sovereign states. Some speakers ostensibly also threaten libertarian agendas.

'America is a nation. It is a group of people with a common history and a common future.'

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) revealed in an address at NatCon Wednesday the fundamental understanding underpinning his economic nationalism — an understanding that both attracted him to President Donald Trump's America First agenda and justifies the kind of protectionism that Vivek Ramaswamy criticized at the conference a day earlier.

According to Vance, while America was founded "on great ideas," it is not, as some have suggested, reducible to "just an idea."

"America is a nation. It is a group of people with a common history and a common future," said Vance. "One of the parts of that commonality as a people is that we do allow newcomers to this country, but we allow them on our terms, on the terms of the American citizens, and that's the way that we preserve the continuity of this project from 200 years past to hopefully 200 years in the future."

The senator reflected on the generations of his family who came up in central Appalachia and others like them — "people who love this country, not because it's a good idea but because, in their bones, they know that this is their home and it will be their children's home, and they would die fighting to protect it."

Vance emphasized that the people who have "fought for this country, who have built this country, who have made things in this country, and who would fight and die to protect this country if they were asked to" were not motivated to sweat, bleed, and potentially give their all for an abstraction — the idea of America — but rather for their homes, their families, and their children's future.

Vance indicated that while he was initially a critic of President Donald Trump, he became a "convert" upon recognizing that Trump's America First agenda was not devoted to the protection of an idea but rather to the protection and prioritization of concrete realities, namely the American people and their physical homeland.

Vance's citizen-centered nationalism accounts for his desire to secure the border, to axe immigration policies that flood the market with cheap foreign labor, to reverse the trend of de-industrialization and offshoring, and — as suggested in a recent New York Times interview — to apply "as much upward pressure on wages and as much downward pressure on the services that the people use as possible."

'There are still these weird little pockets of the old consensus that continue to bubble to the surface and continue to fight us on all of the most important questions.'

Blaze News previously reported that Ramaswamy suggested at the NatCon conference that moving forward, the America First movement has the choice of embracing one of two types of nationalism: "national protectionis[m]" — what some have alternatively referred to as economic populism — or "national libertarianis[m]." He advocated for national libertarianism and intimated that Vance is partial to national protectionism.

National protectionism, according to Ramaswamy, is animated by a desire to ensure that "American workers earn higher wages and American manufacturers can sell their goods for a higher price, by protecting them from the effects of foreign competition." National protectionists apparently also "believe in reforming the regulatory state to redirect its focus to helping American workers and manufacturers."

In his speech Wednesday, Sen. Vance made no secret of his national protectionism, instead doubling down on the kind of commentary that has sent libertarian observers into fits of rage.

Vance, who stands a good chance of becoming Trump's running mate, insisted, for instance, that America should not let China "make all of our stuff" and should instead re-industrialize America.

"Even the libertarians, even the market fundamentalists — and I think we have a few in the audience, and we won't beat up on you too much," said Vance, "even they acknowledge that you can't have unlimited free trade with countries that hate you. It'd be the equivalent of allowing the Nazi Germans in 1942 to make all of our ships and missiles."

"People recognize that that era has come to a close. Even the people who are generally going to disagree with us about how much to protect American industry from this point forward agree that you can't let the Chinese make all of your stuff," continued the Ohio senator. "And yet I will say that as much as we've made some great progress, there are still these weird little pockets of the old consensus that continue to bubble to the surface and continue to fight us on all of the most important questions."

Vance also noted that the "real threat to American democracy is that American voters keep on voting for less immigration, and our politicians keep on rewarding us with more."

He suggested that while Western elites are have been more than happy to flood "the zone with non-stop cheap labor," immigration has "made our societies poorer, less safe, less prosperous, and less advanced."

Jason Miller, senior adviser for the Trump campaign, indicated Monday that the former president is poised to announce his running mate within a week's time. Vance, whose name has been raised in the past by the campaign and who reportedly received a vetting package, appears to be a top contender for the role. As of Thursday morning, Vance — whose speech appeared to resonate well with Donald Trump Jr. — was the top named pick on Polymarket.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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