The new coin in the political realm is Nationalism.  Trump proclaimed it, much to the dismay of historians for whom this summoned the demonic spirits of Hitler and Mussolini.  Since then, many Americans have fallen into line behind our homegrown Il Duce.  A highly regarded New York Times columnist claims the Democratic party isn’t going anywhere until it produces its own national story.

There is something to that, especially if the story is about a healthy, inclusive, democratic, tolerant nation, instead of the Trumpian country cowering behind border walls, jailing refugee children, severing economic and security ties with allies, and thumbing the national nose at the destruction of our children’s future climate.

So, taking our cue from the New York Times, let’s construct a positive national narrative, one that combines humility with claims of greatness.  It might look like something in this vein:

America is a commonwealth.  We are individuals working in a capitalist economy.  But we are also citizens of a great nation with riches we hold in common for the public good and for future generations.  The public ownership of land, natural resources, water, air, and climate, plus interstate transportation systems, we hold in trust for future generations.  We are stewards of these blessings and responsible for their protection.  We are governed by a Constitution that distributes power, prevents its consolidation, and places sovereignty in the hands of all the people.  Without seeking hegemony, we seek to provide leadership toward peace and harmony among democracies and nations that wish us well but are prepared to align with other nations of good will to prevent or confine others who seek hegemony.  We are a free people and wish freedom for all others.  We respect the rights of fellow humans throughout the world.  We aspire to the highest ideals and, though we sometimes fail, we correct our shortcomings and return to the path toward those ideals.

That paragraph may or may not be what the New York Times columnist had in mind in advising Democrats to construct a national story.  It could go on page after page.  But many aspiring leaders could seek office on a brief statement like this and be successful.

It states our beliefs and principles succinctly.  It stands in contrast to a nationalistic narrative that separates whites from people of color, encourages concentrated wealth, privatizes the public’s resources, antagonizes democratic allies, embraces authoritarian and totalitarian systems, and vulgarizes public discourse.

Everyday Americans will see the graphic disparity between these contrasting national stories.

There is the nationalism which destroyed millions of people around the world in the 20th century and a nationalism of hope, good will, humanitarianism, and a better future for all.  That should be the story of the Democratic party.  It will resonate with Americans seeking a more respected and respectful nation.

5 Responses to “Nationalism and the American Commonwealth”

  1. Gary Hart Says:

    Haste makes nonsense: obviously we don’t “own” the air and the climate, but we do try to regulate them, or at least did until last year, for the common good. So, forgive the awkward syntax. GH

  2. Jack DuVall Says:

    Any democratic nation which has had to struggle over many decades to live up to its founding principles — which is certainly true of the United States — has necessarily had to define if not codify a national purpose. Senator Hart’s version of that is stellar. Can it be called “nationalist”? Only in the sense that it proposes goals and values that should be sought by citizens as well as civil servants of the nation. But in the long wake of a hugely destructive war in the mid-20th century, which was launched by hyper-nationalist authoritarian states, we should be clear in our explanation of why we’re embracing a national purpose rather than nationalism as a way to justify policies that would conflict with our longstanding goals and values.

  3. Gordon Parker Says:

    Style and message matter. If the Blue Team wants to move the ball towards its’ goal it needs to rethink glomming on to credos like Socialism Now/Socialism Forever as we move towards 2020. This county has flourished protecting the rights of individuals to share in the spoils of the economic gains the country reaps. Stripping working Americans of what little they now make to give back to a “common good” or throwing open the door for interlopers of dubious character so they can partake of the fruit of our labor is also not a winning concept. Nationalism generally evokes the ideal of keeping a bigger piece of the pie at home and keeping our children and families safe and secure than about global domination. For a lot of people talk of Global Villages does little more than evoke images of burning huts and marauding gangs of terrorist carrying AK47’s.

    The message this election season has been one of us versus them. Labeling Republicans and their leader the Vile Nazi Red Team seems to have worked so far. I doubt it is a message that will carry through for Booker, Warren, or for the rest of those in the pack as the need to stand out in the kennels of Congress approaches for the next presidential dog fight. Hypocrisy has a way of leveling the playing field.

  4. Gary Hart Says:

    In response to Mr. Parker: As a Franklin Roosevelt, then John Kennedy Democrat, I will resist efforts to make the Party socialist. Big tax cuts for the wealthy make that more difficult, but overwhelmingly Democrats are for our current economic system with more financial regulation and a fairer tax system. No one I know is for “stripping working Americans of what they now make” or “throwing open the doors for interlopers”. In the past, nationalism has often been evoked by very right wing forces, including now in Poland, Hungary, and even the UK, to frustrate legitimate international cooperation on trade and security. The phrase “Vile Nazi Red Team’ is new to me and not used by the many responsible American Democrats I know. And, as a loyal American, I am appalled by phrases such as “kennels of Congress”, hardly a “winning message.” GH

  5. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    A terrific article and responses.

    In my country, the UK has a Conservative party supposedly akin to the Republicans.It, as with most of our politics, is way to the left of that wretched Trump cabal. But it’s right have made it more centre right than of old under past decent centrists like John Major, or the late great Harold Mcmillan or Winston Churchill.Theresa May is prisoner of the anti European laissez faire High Tories, Brexit shambolic.

    The Labour Party ha for decades been even broader, it in no way mirrors the Democratic party enough.It runs from Blair to Corbyn, centre to left. If it were like the Democrats I would have pursued professional politics with gusto.

    The Liberal Democrats is my party. A combined merging thirty years ago, of the great Liberal party, and the Social Democratic party, a break away on the centre right of the Labour party, in the early eighties.

    My party closely resembles the traditional philosophy of the Democrats. After agreeing to a crisis induced recession saving coalition with the Conservatives, my party is reduced to a dozen mps and less then ten per cent in votes.

    I prefer your two parties broad and able to win, or the european systems of multi parties all in their way able to with a system that gets them elected.

    My party is not nationalist, or socialist, it is liberal , democratic. Would that it could win more.

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