Monday, June 19, 2006

Conservativism, Populism, Nationalism, Patriotism

It looks like the conversation concerning the relationship between conservatism and populism (which I've mentioned here and here) continues, and now nationalism and patriotism have been dragged in. What follows is just an effort to tie some different strains of the argument together--however tenuously--for some future consideration. (There's a lot to chew on here, and I can't hope to do it in 5-minute breaks from work!)

Rod Dreher (the Crunchy Con) comments about a David Brooks (TimesSelect) piece. As Dreher notes, Brooks believes we may be seeing the emergence of two new political movements, populist nationalism and progressive globalism. Here's Dreher's summary of Brooks:
Populist nationalists (PNs) would be "liberal on economics, conservative on values and realist on foreign policy." The gist of their politics, in Brooks' words, is: "We are the ordinary, burden-bearing people of this country. We are the ones who work hard and build communities. It's time for us to come together and recognize that our loyalty to our fellow Americans comes first."

....On the other side are the progressive globalists (PGs), who "would be market-oirented on economics, liberal on values and multialteral interventionists in foreign affairs." Brooks cites John McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Warner as examples of this orientation. PGs are inspired by economic globalism, "technological dynamis and cultural diversity." They want to build international institutions to share the prosperity. Trade needs to be opened up, not shut down, and new policies must be put into place to manage the flow of people across borders, not close them off. We have to make our economy more flexible, and work together internationally to solve global problems....

"Politics is becoming less about left versus right and more about open versus closed," Brooks concludes (Jim Pinkerton talks about the same conflict under the labels "universalism vs. nationalism."). It's pretty obvious that crunchy conservatism lands squarely on the populist nationalist side of the divide.
Ross Douthat also weighs in and thinks that the elites have been pretty good at staving off populism by co-opting a few hot-button, populist causes now and then:
I think Rod underestimates the power of the elite consensus in American life. Populist nationalism is too, well, popular to be ignored by politicians, but for roughly the last hundred years of American history an overlapping, interlocking series of elite classes has done a truly remarkable job of co-opting and controlling populist sentiment - and I'm skeptical that this will change that much in the new century.
Douthat thinks that Christophere Lasch is the most important read on this topic (The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Liberty, reviewed here for National Review by Judge Robert Bork). Meanwhile, Douthat's fellow blogger Reihan thinks that what is actually ocurring is a splintering among the elites.

Noah at Gideon's Blog has an interesting "Iron Triangle" theory about the Democrats and Republicans.

Nation === Liberty === Virtue


People === Equality === Merit

He also wonders if his formulation can stand up to the nearly entrenched, Euro-style categorization of a Left and Right in America, which he doesn't think is entirely applicable to the American polity.

In Europe, Charles Kupchan sees populist movements leading to a reemerging nationalism in various countries and Andrew Stuttaford gives an acute example in Germany. Finally, Jonah Goldberg mentions that historian John Lukacs made a distinction between nationalism and patriotism:
John Lukacs has many great observations about the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The difference, to me and I believe to him, is that nationalism is rooted in the mystic concept of a nation — most famously in blood and soil — while patriotism is rooted in adherence to a creed or doctrine. A patriot in the Weimar Republic was considered a traitor by most nationalists, for example.
My brain is having a hard enough time considering the possible changes in America's polity, much less adding in changes in Europe. Obviously, nationalism and patriotism often intersect, but that would me a statement such as "My country, right or wrong!" could be viewed as more nationalistic than patriotic, right? I wonder if what's floating underneath the surface is a return to older forms. Or maybe those forms are always there and they don't change: we just keep renaming them.

UPDATE: 6/20/06

NRO's John Miller, in response to a mention about Lukac's take on nationalism (which is derived from George Orwell's, apparently), offers his take, to which Jonah Goldberg responds that Orwell wasn't talking about nationalism as we understand it today, but of "identity politics."

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