At a Texas rally on October 22, Donald Trump declared that he was a “nationalist”:
And yet it was singularly unnerving on Tuesday—in the context of a midterm election campaign in which he and his Republican allies are appealing to racism and anti-immigrant sentiment and fear in a strategy so explicit that The New York Timesfelt comfortable calling it out—to hear him declare, loudly and proudly, that he is “a nationalist, OK?”
The juxtaposition here between “globalist” and “nationalist” is a Steve Bannon joint—a nice hat-tip to the guy on a day where he could be found playing a near-empty conference room on Staten Island. It’s the kind of binary nonsense that authoritarian types feed on, an us-or-them formulation where the United States can succeed, or the wider world can succeed, but you can’t have both. In the context of a globalized, entirely interconnected world—a development Trump is powerless to reverse—it is fantasy. But it gets the people going.
Now that the President of the United States has embraced it as his own, it’s worth digging into what the term “nationalist” actually means and the historical baggage it carries. For this, we can turn once again to George Orwell, the legendary British theorist who, more recently, has become a prop for diaper-wearing right-wing propagandists who looked him up on brainy quote dot com. The essential point, also made eloquently by Charles de Gaulle, is that not only are nationalism and patriotism not the same, the gap between them is not some difference of degree. They are often wholly contrasting emotional forces, as Orwell writes in his Notes on Nationalism:
Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism…By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
The term “nationalist” is not used in normal American political discourse for a reason. It is a term that has been used to describe Nazi Germany:
Aggressive German nationalism and territorial expansion was a key factor leading to both World Wars. Prior to World War I, Germany had established a colonial empire in hopes of rivaling Britain and France. In the 1930s, the Nazis came to power and sought to create a Greater Germanic Reich, emphasizing ethnic German identity and German greatness to the exclusion of all others, eventually leading to the extermination of Jews, Poles, Romani, and other people deemed Untermenschen (subhumans) in the Holocaust during World War II.
And it is a term that has been used to describe neo-Nazi groups in America:
White nationalism is a type of nationalism or pan-nationalism which espouses the belief that white people are a race and seeks to develop and maintain a white national identity. Its proponents identify with and are attached to the concept of a white nation. White nationalists say they seek to ensure the survival of the white race, and the cultures of historically white states. They hold that white people should maintain their majority in majority-white countries, maintain their political and economic dominance, and that their cultures should be foremost. Many white nationalists believe that miscegenation, multiculturalism, immigration of nonwhites and low birth rates among whites are threatening the white race, and some argue that it amounts to white genocide.
White nationalism is sometimes described as a euphemism for, or subset of, white supremacy, and the two have been used interchangeably by journalists and other analysts. White nationalist groups espouse white separatism and white supremacy. White separatism is the pursuit of a “white-only state”; supremacism is the belief that white people are superior to nonwhites, taking ideas from social Darwinism and Nazism.[10
Donald Trump has shown repeated proclivities to sympathizing with both Nazi German Nationalism and White Nationalism. His recent speech to the United Nations was incredibly reminiscent of speeches given by Adolf Hitler:
They both touted their accomplishments as being unprecedented:
Trump: “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”
Hitler: “Four years have passed since the greatest national revolution and reformation that Germany has ever experienced began.”
They both touted themselves as being responsible for a jobs renaissance:
Trump: “Jobless claims are at a 50-year low. African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have all achieved their lowest levels ever recorded. We’ve added more than 4 million new jobs, including half a million manufacturing jobs.”
Hitler: “When I took over power there were more than 6,000,000 unemployed and the farmers seemed doomed to decay. Today you-must admit that I have fulfilled my promises. The Four-Year Plan will give permanent employment to those workmen who are now being released from the armament industry. It is significant for the gigantic economic development of our people that there is today a lack of trained workmen in many industries. There will be no strikes or lockouts in Germany, because every one has to serve the interests of the entire nation.”
They both decried the ability of international organizations to make sound decisions:
Trump: “America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again. This is true not only in matters of peace, but in matters of prosperity.”
Hitler: “If it is to be the task of the League of Nations only to guarantee the existing state of the world and to safeguard it for all time, then we might as well entrust it also with the task of guarding the high tide and the low tide, or of regulating for the future the direction of the Gulf Stream. Its continued existence depends on the extent to which it is realized that necessary reforms which concern the relations of the nations must be considered and put into practice.”
They both portrayed their countries as victims of unfair trade:
Trump: “We believe that trade must be fair and reciprocal. The United States will not be taken advantage of any longer.”
Hitler: “I do not believe that there can be durable economic cooperation except on the basis of a new mutual exchange of goods.”
Trump: “We will no longer tolerate such abuse. We will not allow our workers to be victimized, our companies to be cheated, and our wealth to be plundered and transferred. America will never apologize for protecting its citizens.”
Hitler: “Germany has an enormous number of people who do not only want to work but to eat. I cannot build the future of the German nation on the assurances of a foreign statesman or on any international help, but only on the real facts of production.”
They both tried to level charges of hypocrisy against international organizations that dared to criticize their human rights abuses:
Trump: “I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.”
Hitler: “Only a few months ago honorable British citizens felt they must make a protest to us for detaining in a concentration camp one of the most criminal subjects of Moscow. I do not know whether these honorable men have also protested against the slaying and burning of tens of thousands of men, women, and children in Spain.”
They both charged that international organizations are illegitimate:
Trump: “The United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.”
Hitler: “The League of Nations has never been a real league of peoples.”
They both stated that international organizations were a danger to sovereignty and world peace:
Trump: “Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination.”
Hitler: “It is impossible to maintain peace so long as an international, irresponsible clique continues its agitation un-checked.”
They both complained of an invasion of people to their country that was being ignored by the international community:
Trump: “Illegal immigration funds criminal networks, ruthless gangs, and the flow of deadly drugs. Illegal immigration exploits vulnerable populations, hurts hardworking citizens, and has produced a vicious cycle of crime, violence, and poverty. Only by upholding national borders, destroying criminal gangs, can we break this cycle and establish a real foundation for prosperity.”
Hitler: “If Europe does not awaken to the danger of bolshevist infection, commerce will decrease in spite of all the good will of individual statesmen. Therefore I am not in a position to judge the economic future of Europe as optimistically as Mr. Eden apparently does. I rejoice at every increase of our foreign trade, but in view of the political situation I shall not regret anything that will guarantee to the German people their existence when other nations have perhaps become the victims of bolshevist infection.”
They both bristled at mutual defense treaties:
Trump: “And we expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defense.”
Hitler: “It is impossible to make one nation responsible for armaments or another responsible for armaments limitation.”
They both then claimed that they actually wanted to “reform” the international organizations they had excoriated:
Trump: “The United States is committed to making the United Nations more effective and accountable.”
Hitler: “The League of Nations, to be effective, must be reformed.”
They both expressed their nationalist agenda as a restoration and protection of their country’s sovereignty:
Trump: “We must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all.”
Hitler: “German sovereignty and equality have been restored, and that Germany will never sign a treaty which is in any way incompatible with the honor of the nation and of the Government which represents it, or which otherwise is incompatible with Germany’s vital interests and therefore in the long run cannot be kept.”
And Trump famously sympathized with the neo-Nazis who protested in Charlottesville by claiming there were “fine people” on both sides:
President Trump defended the white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville on Tuesday, saying they included “some very fine people,” while expressing sympathy for their demonstration against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It was a strikingly different message from the prepared statement he had delivered on Monday, and a reversion to his initial response over the weekend.
Speaking in the lobby of Trump Tower at what had been billed as a statement on infrastructure, a combative Trump defended his slowness to condemn white nationalists and neo-Nazis after the melee in central Virginia, which ended in the death of one woman and injuries to dozens of others, and compared the tearing down of Confederate monuments to the hypothetical removal of monuments to the Founding Fathers. He also said that counter-protesters deserve an equal amount of blame for the violence.
Donald Trump’s statement that he is a “nationalist” should be an opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans to condemn the horrible nature of nationalist movements. The GOP, especially, has their own internal neo-Nazi problem, as several politicians running for office this year either have ties to neo-Nazis or are neo-Nazis themselves:
Lou Barletta – Republican nominee for US Senate from Pennsylvania
Rep. Lou Barletta, an immigration hardliner running in a crowded US Senate primary in Pennsylvania, came in contact over the years with fringe organizations and individuals with views far outside the mainstream of American politics, a CNN KFile review of his public appearances over the past decade reveals.
Prior to serving in Congress for the last seven years, Barletta was the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he enacted tough measures to crack down on illegal immigration, including an act that allowed the city to impose fines on landlords who rented to undocumented immigrants and deny permits to businesses who employed them (the ordinance was struck down in federal court).
As mayor, Barletta did an interview with a fringe publication that promotes Holocaust denial and headlined a rally where a political activist and musician who has questioned the Holocaust and promoted conspiracies about the September 11, 2001 attacks also spoke and performed. As a congressman, Barletta appeared on a panel put on by the controversial Youth for Western Civilization and spoke at an event hosted by a journal that pushes extreme anti-immigrant views.
Ron DeSantis – Republican nominee for Florida GovernorThe newly crowned Republican candidate for Florida governor apparently was one of 52 moderators of a Facebook group full of racist, Islamopobic, and anti-immigrant content. The group, which is named “Tea Party” (but not affiliated with any political organizations), has 97,000 members. Other admins of the group include Kelli Ward, the Arizona Senate candidate who lost her primary election yesterday, and Corey Stewart, the “neo-Confederate” running for Senate in Virginia, according to a Twitter thread by Media Matters reporter Natalie Martinez and reporting by American Ledger.
John Fitzgerald – Republican nominee for US Congress from California
Throughout the country, a record number of white nationalists and anti-Semites are running for election this year, many of whom have shown no signs of hiding their views. Among them is John Fitzgerald, who since winning enough votes in June to compete for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives this November has reportedly appeared on several neo-Nazi podcasts.
Matt Gaetz – Republican nominee for US Congress from Florida
The Anti-Defamation League wrote an open letter to Gaetz denouncing his choice to invite Johnson and urging the politician to cut ties with him. “It is an insult to the memories of those killed in the Holocaust, to their families, and to the Jewish community to bring to the State of the Union as your guest a Holocaust denier,” the group said.
Johnson, who was permanently banned from Twitter in 2015 after asking for help “taking out” a Black Lives Matter activist, denied the Holocaust in a 2017 Reddit Ask Me Anything. “I do not and never have believed the six million figure,” he said. “I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the camps from typhus are more realistic.” Johnson also added that he thought the second world war was the result of “the efforts of communism to spread itself throughout the world”.
On Thursday, Gaetz insisted in an interview with Fox Business that Johnson was “not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist”.
Seth Grossman – Republican nominee for US Congress from New Jersey
New Jersey Republican congressional nominee Seth Grossman used his Facebook account to share articles from well-known white nationalist websites, Media Matters reported Monday.
One article, published on the white nationalist website American Renaissance and shared in 2014, claimed that black people “are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.”
“Oy vay!” wrote Grossman, who is Jewish, in his comment above the article. “What so many people, black, white and Hispanic, whisper in private. But which nobody dares say out loud in this once free country. Just posting this as an individual and not on behalf of any organization.”
Arthur Jones – Republican nominee for US Congress from Illinois
Jones, a Holocaust denier and self-described former leader of the American Nazi Party, won the nomination by running as the sole candidate in Tuesday’s GOP primary for the 3rd District outside Chicago.
Steve King – Republican nominee for US Congress from Iowa
A far-right Austrian political party whose leaders visited Washington last year to witness the Trump inauguration with Steve King caused a stir this week after proposing a law that would require Jews and Muslims to register with the government in order to purchase kosher and halal meats, respectively.
The proposal came from the Freedom Party of Austria, or FPÖ, which was founded in 1956 by former Nazis, including a member of Adolf Hitler’s SS, and in last October’s legislative election made major gains amid the wave of anti-migrant nationalism sweeping Europe.
It wasn’t King’s first encounter with FPÖ leaders. In October 2016, he traveled to Vienna to endorse Hofer’s candidacy, praising his anti-immigration platform. An Associated Press article titled “Austrian presidential hopeful meets US Trump backer,” translating a report from the Austria Press Agency, noted that King said “after meeting Norbert Hofer that Western civilization has to be defended and that Hofer speaks moderately but very clearly on this issue.”
Dana Rohrabacher – Republican nominee for US Congress from California
The publication noted that Rohrabacher, a California Republican, “brought along top aide Paul Behrends and conservative journalist Charles C. Johnson.”
Johnson, an internet troll and vocal “alt-right” defender, is well-known for false attacks against political rivals, both on the Democratic side and within the Republican Party.
He is also a Holocaust denier. In a since-deleted Reddit discussion, Johnson argued that the number of Jews killed in the camps was around 250,000, not six million, and questioned the existence of gas chambers. And while stating in the post that he is not a Holocaust denier, he wrote: “I agree with David Cole about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real. Why were their swimming pools there if it was a death camp?”
Corey Stewart – Republican nominee for US Senate from Virginia
When he was running for governor in Virginia last year, Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, made several appearances with Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who would soon organize the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. (Kessler has been charged in state and federal lawsuits with conspiring to incite violence at the neo-Nazi rally.)
Russell Walker – Republican nominee for North Carolina General Assembly
Walker’s website that touts his candidacy for the North Carolina General Assembly suggests a wide variety of claims about race, Jews and the Bible.
For example, on his website Walker claims:
What is wrong with being a white supremacist? God is a racist and a white supremacist. Someone or group has to be supreme and that group is the whites of the world … there is no such thing as equality. Someone or something has to be superior and someone and something has to be inferior.
Steve West – Republican nominee for Missouri House of Representatives
A Missouri Republican who has made anti-Semitic and other bigoted statements handily won a primary for the state’s House of Representatives.
Steve West, who promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on a radio show he hosts, defeated three other candidates Tuesday in the bid for a seat representing Clay County. He won with 49.5 percent of the vote; the second-place finisher had 24.4 percent.
“Looking back in history, unfortunately, Hitler was right about what was taking place in Germany. And who was behind it,” West said on KCXL radio in January 2017, The Kansas City Star reported Thursday.
Republican politicians who are not neo-Nazis should be denouncing Donald Trump’s statement that he is a “nationalist”. To be silent on this issue is to encourage neo-Nazis. But, even worse than silence, some Republican politicians, like Texas Senator John Cornyn, are choosing to defend Donald Trump’s statement:
This is what fair-minded listeners – apparently not including some members of the press – heard when POTUS referred to himself as a nationalist. https://t.co/z3NdpouZsK
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 25, 2018
When Trump struck a nationalist note—“We are Americans, our hearts bleed red, white and blue. We are one people, one family, one glorious nation under God”—Alfred heard a message of inclusion. “This is the nationalism we need,” he said. https://t.co/ATUUBN5hXo
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 24, 2018
Make no mistake, Donald Trump’s declaration that he is a “nationalist” is not an aberration. It is just another in a long line of instances that shows Donald Trump’s clear fascist sympathies. It is yet another case of Donald Trump emboldening white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Rather than condemn Donald Trump’s fascist rhetoric, Republicans like John Cornyn are condoning and defending it. This is how fascism takes hold. It must be stopped.