“Cultural nationalism” vs. “Programmatic nationalism”

Jonah Goldberg responding to the president’s citation of TR as a campaign tactic:

Obama cherry-picks TR’s “new nationalism” as a justification for his own agenda and proof that today’s Republicans are extreme… TR left the Republican party to promote his “new nationalism” philosophy and run as a Progressive — a “super socialist,” in the words of the New York Times in 1913.

As a Republican president, Roosevelt had been a “trust buster.” As Progressive gadfly, Roosevelt believed in making the trusts bigger, stronger, and more entwined with the federal government, orchestrated by an all-powerful “Federal Bureau of Corporations.”

Concentration, cooperation, and control,” he explained in his acceptance speech at the 1912 Progressive convention, “are the key words for a scientific solution of the mighty industrial problem which now confronts this nation.”

It’s no surprise Obama would find the Progressive Teddy so reasonable.

Obviously, there’s more to be said about Obama’s Kansas speech. An excellent place to start is  NR’s editorial. You might also want to see my column today. But here are a few more points in rapid fire:

1. Nationalism = socialism. I’ve been saying for years that the presumption that nationalism and socialism are opposites — an idea ingrained in many Marxist minds — is nonsense. Nationalism, in terms of public policy if not necessarily culture, is socialism. When we nationalize health care, we socialize medicine. Teddy Roosevelt’s “new nationalism” was a call for a “new socialism” — a point his advisers, Charles van Hise, Richard Ely et al., would have happily conceded.

2. President Obama has been shockingly nationalistic. Sputnik moments, “Beat China!” “We owe it to the troops to support green energy,” “Kneel Before Zod!” And now he disinters Teddy Roosevelt’s “new nationalism.” In actual policy terms, he’s been vastly more nationalistic than George W. Bush was. The difference is that liberals hate cultural nationalism. They hate it so much they even see overt displays of patriotism as scarily nationalistic. But they love programmatic nationalism — Everyone shut up and build things liberal like! The danger is when you get cultural nationalists joining forces with socialists. In fact, that’s called national-socialism. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
3. Where the hell are the “new ideas”? Perhaps because I wrote a book arguing that liberalism remains loyal to the progressive philosophy first laid out over a century ago, or maybe because my next book is in no small part about how they try to hide this fact, I’m particularly vexed by the fact that conservatives are supposedly in thrall to “old ideas” but liberals are all about new ones. In his Kansas speech, Obama kept insisting that conservatives are beholden to the failed ideas of the past. Er, okay. And that’s why you dusted off a 101-year-old speech by a failed third-party candidate? Got it. Obama talks as if raising taxes on rich people so they can pay their “fair share” is a new idea when “let’s take more from that guy to pay for stuff I want” was an old idea when proto-humans were drawing stick figures on cave walls with saber-tooth-tiger scat. And yet somehow Republican politicians never turn the tables on this incandescently stupid argument. It vexes me. I am exceedingly vexed.

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One Response to “Cultural nationalism” vs. “Programmatic nationalism”

  1. Paul Marks says:

    “Teddy” Roosevelt (like Woodrow Wilson) was a follower of Richard Ely.

    Richard Ely got the collectivism of much of German political philosophy and put it in American terms (rather than open worship of the state – there is much waffle about the “people” and “communities” in the work of Ely).

    As for the principles of policy …..

    Of course the “trust busting” of T. Roosevelt is every bit as statist as his later support for trusts. In both cases he sees government as deciding how the economy should work out, and he sees wealth as only justified if it “serves the community” (just not attacking anyone will not do – wealth is only justified if it serves “the people” and GOVERNMENT decides if private wealth is doing this task). The view that wealth is only justified if it serves the people is just present in the work of John Rawls (the so called “Theory of Justice” 1971 – which is really, of course, a theory of SOCIAL JUSTICE) and does not have just a Germanic root – it can also be seen (for example) in the founding documents of the French Revolution (that look so similar to the American founding documents, till one reads closely).

    And YES all this goes back to the “morality” of the hunter gatherer packs of humans (as F. A. Hayek points out).

    However, there is also a far more radical strain in the thought of Barack Obama (as there was in his family, both sides, and in his associates and mentors in life) – the more radical strain in his thought can be traced to a German philospher who took the thinking of Hegel in a radical direction. The dates of this philosopher are 1818 to1883.

    Such a person (someone influenced by the thinking of the “Red Prussian”) may pretend to tolerate the existance of very wealthy people (as long as they serve the “Progressive” cause), but in his ideal end state, they (the wealthy) would be terminated. And all property (in the means of production, distribution and exchange) would be a collective matter.

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