Ross Douthat: Four Things That Are Not White Nationalism

His list:

  1. It is not white nationalism to recognize limiting principles on liberal universalism, and a justifiable role for particularity — ethnic, cultural, religious — in many political arrangements.
  2. It is not white nationalism to believe that countries like the United States would be better off with more babies.
  3. It is not white nationalism to believe that growing ideological uniformity in the commanding heights of culture makes American politics more polarized.
  4. It’s also not white nationalism for conservatives to try to find ways to persuade and reel back people on the right who are tempted by bigoted ideas

As always, it is the specifics that indicate whether the beliefs and principles are inclusive or exclusive, positive or negative.

Useful reminder not to automatically label or dismiss:

The American right in the Trump era has a racism problem. It’s fed by a Republican president who race-baits, a media ecosystem whose guardrails have collapsed, the lure of far-right ideas after various center-right failures and the influence of toxic forms of internet community on impressionable minds.

At the same time, the American right in the Trump era faces a liberalism that’s eager to discover and condemn racism where it does not actually exist. Positions that any de-Trumpified conservatism would necessarily hold are conflated with white nationalism, figures who opposed Donald Trump are hammered as enablers of racism, and progressives indulge a political fantasy in which the racist infiltration of the mainstream right is an opportunity to delegitimize conservatism entirely.

The coexistence of these two realities was usefully illustrated in the last two weeks. If you want evidence that bigotry on the right is a bottom-up problem as well as a feature of the president’s birtherism and Twitter wars, just read last week’s SplinterNews exposé on the email group where a cluster of youthful and not-so-youthful right-wingers gathered to play at white nationalism while holding down normal jobs for conservative publications and institutions. What was reported in the piece I can confirm anecdotally: Every extended conversation I have with 20-something conservatives includes a discussion of how to deal with racist flirtations in their peer group.

But if you want evidence that unjust delegimitization is happening as well, consider that in the very same period that the email exposéappeared, a succession of mainstream media outlets served up bogus accusations of racism against prominent and not-so-prominent conservatives.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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