The definition of a nationalist

During a rally Monday night in Texas, President Donald Trump used a word he had never before uttered publicl...

Posted: Oct 24, 2018 3:56 AM
Updated: Oct 24, 2018 3:56 AM

During a rally Monday night in Texas, President Donald Trump used a word he had never before uttered publicly to describe himself: nationalist.

After telling the crowd that a globalist is someone who "wants the globe to do well" at the expense of the country, Trump made it clear he's not one of those.

Nationalism

Society

Discrimination

Donald Trump

Political Figures - US

Racism and racial discrimination

Right-wing extremism

Societal issues

White supremacy and neo-Nazism

2017 Charlottesville white nationalist rally

Charlottesville

Continents and regions

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

North America

Protests and demonstrations

Southeastern United States

The Americas

United States

US federal government

Virginia

White House

2016 Presidential election

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Political candidates

Politics

US Federal elections

US Presidential elections

Caucasian Americans

Demographic groups

Political Figures - Intl

Population and demographics

Raheem Kassam

"You know what I am, I'm a nationalist. Use that word," he roared, as the crowd erupted in cheers of "USA! USA!"

So just what the heck does the word nationalist mean, and is having a self-declared nationalist in the White House good or bad for the country?

What does the word nationalist mean?

The dictionary's definition of the word seems innocent enough: a person devoted to nationalism (the devotion and loyalty to one's own country). But make no mistake about it. Nationalist is a loaded and controversial term.

It dates back to the 17th century and rose into prominence during the uprisings in the 18th century that produced the American and French revolutions. But the word attained more of a negative connotation during the 20th century as it become associated with the nationalism movements in Europe that helped lead to World War I and World War II. Today the word is often associated with the far-right, racist ideologies of white nationalists.

Nationalism has been on the rise worldwide, as evidenced by the success of nationalist political parties in Europe. And it had a double bang in 2016, as it powered Brexit in the UK and the election of Trump as US President. Steve Bannon, Trump's former top strategist, said Trump used an "economic nationalist agenda" to win.

It's also a word that means different things to different people.

"There are different definitions depending on whose nationalism you're talking about," Paul D. Miller, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, told CNN.

"Scholars generally differentiate between civic and ethnic/sectarian nationalism, that is, between rooting American identity in the ideals of the American experiment versus rooting it in some aspect of our culture, heritage, history, language or ethnicity. Civic nationalism is the same as what I would call patriotism, and it is essential to a healthy democracy. The second kind of nationalism -- sectarian nationalism -- is pernicious and dangerous."

But Raheem Kassam, a former senior adviser to Brexit leader Nigel Farage, rejects this second, more negative definition of nationalist.

"Nationalism is not inherently ugly. It is in fact inherently beautiful," said Kassam, who is currently a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

"Nationalism is a philosophy based around either the nation state, what we know colloquially as 'countries,' or around another identity factor, which could be religion, ethnicity, geography or even interests," he told CNN.

"In the case of President Trump, he is no doubt using the word to outline his belief in a nation of people unified by beliefs, interests and a common history. This is typically what nationalism has meant since the earliest references to it in human history, though there have no doubt been periods where nationalism, just like socialism or other philosophies, has been used to divide rather than unite, which is ironically the antithesis of its purpose."

What do nationalists believe in?

Nationalists' primary belief is that people in similar societies benefit when they are united by shared values and a common belief system.

"Uniting people -- whether under flags, banners, anthems, or constitutions -- is conducive to a more robust civic society and stronger communities," Kassam said.

But Miller dismisses that as an "incoherent" ideology.

"No one has ever been able to agree on what defines the nation. It is impractical because there is no feasible way to make governments overlap exactly with all the supposed nations in the world today," Miller said.

Nationalists are also populists and consider themselves sticking up for the common, working man against the elites and so-called globalists. There are voters in both US political parties receptive to that kind of messaging, and that's why the fiery populist rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Trump during the 2016 campaign ended up appealing to overlapping groups of voters.

Nationalists are also extremely protectionist, preferring to look inward when it comes to matters of foreign affairs and trade.

Trump's political positions have shifted all of his life, but the one constant has been his distrust of international trade agreements and his belief that they're ultimately bad for the United States.

"We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs," Trump said during his inaugural speech in January 2017. "Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength."

This type of thinking is typical of nationalists.

Does the term automatically mean 'white nationalist'?

The term white nationalism originated as a euphemism for white supremacy, the belief that white people are superior to all other races and should therefore dominate society, according to Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

People who hold these beliefs sometimes go by other names, including alt-right, identitarians and race realists. However, these are simply a rebranding -- "a new name for this old hatred," Segal said.

White supremacists and their ilk see diversity as a threat, Segal said. A popular white supremacist slogan is "Diversity is a code word for white genocide."

Kassam doesn't buy the idea that this is what white nationalism is, stressing that the term doesn't mean what people thinks it means.

"White nationalism could mean one of two things," he said. "It can mean protectionism along ethnic lines, or supremacy on ethnic grounds, but neither of these appears to fit with the tradition of economic or civic nationalism embraced by President Trump."

The words nationalist or white nationalist may sound innocuous to some whites, said Miller of the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center, but they don't realize how racially insensitive the terms may be to nonwhite Americans because they have a poor understanding of American history and culture.

"That is why patriotism can be and is universal across racial, ethnic, and religious lines, but American nationalism is almost entirely limited to white Americans," Miller said. "They are not necessarily championing white identity, but the lines between American, Protestant and white are too often uncomfortably blurred.

George Hawley, a political scientist at the University of Alabama, said a sense of white victimhood is key to the movement.

"There is a sense that whites are under siege and being deliberately dispossessed by hostile elites who wish to usher in a new multicultural order," Hawley said. "They dislike the culturally foreign immigrants who enter the United States and work for low wages, and they dislike the political and economic elites that invite them in. They are also hostile to the media and academia, which they contend push an anti-white message."

Is it good or bad that a self-declared nationalist sits in the White House?

Kassam said it was good because it would ensure that the ideology of globalism would be "kept in check."

Miller had a one-word answer: bad.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35237

Reported Deaths: 2197
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9978592
Lake3689200
Allen171170
Cass15927
Elkhart138428
St. Joseph130934
Hendricks117773
Hamilton117093
Johnson1117110
Madison59461
Porter54729
Bartholomew52138
Clark51941
LaPorte43424
Howard42934
Tippecanoe4184
Jackson3942
Delaware38540
Shelby37522
Hancock34528
Floyd31940
Boone31635
Vanderburgh2842
Morgan28124
Montgomery24416
Noble23821
Clinton2381
White2389
Decatur22531
Grant21923
Dubois2023
Harrison19622
Henry18412
Vigo1718
Dearborn16921
Monroe16912
Greene16925
Warrick16628
Lawrence16524
Kosciusko1561
Miami1411
Putnam1377
Jennings1314
Orange13022
Marshall1282
Scott1213
Franklin1108
Ripley1086
Daviess9416
LaGrange932
Carroll933
Wayne855
Steuben852
Wabash792
Newton7810
Fayette787
Jasper681
Jay530
Washington511
Clay512
Fulton491
Rush483
Randolph483
Pulaski470
Jefferson461
Whitley433
Starke393
DeKalb371
Sullivan361
Owen341
Perry330
Brown331
Benton320
Wells320
Knox290
Huntington282
Blackford272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Fountain222
Switzerland210
Spencer211
Adams201
Gibson172
Parke170
Posey160
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin120
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0175

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36350

Reported Deaths: 2259
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5996279
Cuyahoga4581245
Hamilton2721156
Marion267430
Lucas2282252
Pickaway209237
Summit1475180
Mahoning1456186
Butler91932
Columbiana88152
Stark74398
Lorain70259
Montgomery68816
Trumbull58450
Belmont43813
Warren38321
Miami36130
Medina35623
Tuscarawas3524
Ashtabula34035
Delaware34013
Portage32957
Lake30912
Fairfield3017
Wood30047
Clark2987
Geauga29233
Wayne28151
Licking25810
Mercer2177
Clermont2155
Allen21233
Richland2053
Darke18123
Erie17816
Madison1577
Washington11819
Crawford1164
Morrow1071
Ottawa10318
Greene1025
Putnam9314
Sandusky8211
Monroe7914
Auglaize753
Ross732
Hocking705
Jefferson662
Hardin610
Huron601
Williams551
Union521
Muskingum521
Hancock511
Holmes451
Wyandot452
Fulton440
Shelby433
Clinton431
Coshocton410
Fayette400
Logan400
Preble391
Guernsey362
Defiance342
Carroll313
Lawrence300
Champaign281
Brown281
Highland261
Knox251
Seneca212
Vinton212
Ashland200
Perry191
Athens181
Scioto170
Henry160
Paulding140
Jackson140
Harrison100
Adams101
Gallia81
Pike80
Van Wert70
Meigs60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 73°
Angola
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 72°
Huntington
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 73°
Scattered Storms Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events