Nationalism vs. patriotism.

I came across a very interesting blog called “Noahpinion”. One post that particularly caught my eye was one that relates to the issue of the Southerners and the Tea Party, which has been under discussion here lately. The author, Noah Smith, makes a lot of great points in it, but he also makes what I think is a somewhat significant error. He writes:

“It seems to me – and this part is a guess and a supposition – that white Southern conservatives just don’t have a lot of nationalism – at least, not for the nation they currently inhabit. They seem to feel, instinctively, that the United States of America is only “their country” when one of their own is in power… 

When Southern white conservatives talk about the “real America,” or cry “I want my America back!”, my instinct says that they are talking about an America that the United States has never been – a white racial nation.” 

This description of their behavior is largely true, although I am by no means certain that just because they are nationalistic means they long for a white-only nation. But the behavior described here is, in fact, textbook nationalism. Nationalists are frequently in direct opposition to their own government, if they feel that government is run by cosmopolitan intellectuals. I consider this one of the defining characteristics of nationalism.

As longtime readers may know, I like to quote from, of all things, Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism on this subject:

“Patriots revere ideas, institutions, and traditions of a particular country and its government. The watchwords for nationalists are ‘blood’, ‘soil’, ‘race’, ‘Volk’, and so forth.”

And this quote requires I briefly quote myself from another post on the subject: “This definition, I think, makes it too easy to categorize Nationalists as simple racists.” I do think nationalism, although often associated with racism, is not the same thing, and the two need not always go together.

So what Smith is really describing here, I think, is the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Ultimately, of course, what’s really important is that he describes their behavior quite well, even if he uses unconventional terminology.

(Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan.)

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