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Nationalism: A benefit for America? — with Rich Lowry and Colin Dueck | VIEWPOINT

November 2, 2019


Rich: There is a cultural nation that depends
on our heroes, on our symbols that I think is under assault. And if left undefended, we all sort of strip
away the foundations of the nation. Colin: Rich, welcome to AEI. You’re the editor-in-chief for national review
and you’ve got a great new book. I enjoy reading. It’s called ”The Case for Nationalism.” I enjoyed reading it. Rich: Thank you. Colin: I have a book out as well on the same
topic, ”Age of Iron.” So… Rich: Your title is better I think. More creative. Colin: Well, let me ask you what in your view,
what is the case for nationalism? Rich: Well, I, and we cover broadly the same
ground except for you have more foreign policy focus and I have a broader gauge focus, and
I really make two arguments. One, nationalism as a general phenomenon is
misunderstood. It is unjustly smeared and frowned upon. It’s a very old force. It’s a natural force. It’s powerful force in general. And then the balance of my book though is
about American nationalism. And, you know, there are better and worse
forms of nationalism. I think American nationalism is better than
other forms around the world and that this was just within the mainstream of the American
tradition broadly, you make that case with regard to the foreign policy tradition, and
the country wouldn’t be what it is, it wouldn’t have been able to create the order it has
to advance the ideals it has if it weren’t for this kind of a foundation in nationalism. Our revolution was a nationalist revolution. We could have been Canada, you know, living
within the liberal empire, the British Empire. We decided to go our own way. After the revolution when it seemed as though
the central government was just gonna collapse into these statelets that couldn’t effectively
govern or push back against potential foreign adversaries, we have this great nationalist
event, which is the drafting and ratification of the constitution. We then proceed to take land all the way to
the Pacific Ocean. And a great nationalist enterprise with, as
you described, you know, great geopolitical ramifications because we didn’t want any of
these other European powers hanging around on a periphery, had the Civil War, which legitimizes
and reinforces the American nation state. And then you have the 20th century where American
statesmen broadly support the creation of free independent nation States around the
world. And that gets complicated because it involves
Woodrow Wilson at the outset, and as you so ably describe, he’s a complicated figure,
a nationalist in some ways, but also would wanted to ratify the, resize, this Treaty
of Versailles, which would have been one of the most significant crimps in our sovereignty,
in our history, in all likelihood. Colin: So Rich, you describe the constitution
as a nationalist endeavor. It’s often described as a classical liberal
document, emphasis on individual rights and popular sovereignty. Is that a contradiction? Rich: Well, two things. One, it’s clearly a nationalists endeavor
because the articles of Confederation government was breaking down, and the whole impetus to
draft the constitution, remake the foundational document of our government was to create a
strong and capable government, one that is also limited. Obviously that’s the genius of the constitution
is it manages to do both. But the animating idea is that we needed a
national government or we were gonna fall apart and fall into disrepute all around the
world because our experiment in self-government was going to fail. Now, the question of liberalism is one that’s
obviously a contentious now within conservatism, much more contentious than most of us would
have guessed, you know, even a year ago. And there are some nationalists who call themselves
post-liberal who think there’s a tension between nationalism and liberalism. I don’t think there is. I think the constitution, which is one of
the buttresses of our nationhood, is a liberal document, and I think these kind of liberal
ideas were seated throughout our culture from the very beginning. And I think it’s a mistake for people to think
like , you know, the founders started reading Locke and then they became liberals where
you get these ideas of consent and the importance of covenant from Protestant oratory from the
very beginning. And the first covenant is the Mayflower Compact,
and then it’s replicated kind of over and over in colonies and towns, and then it is
ultimately the model for the constitution. So this is, again, a major theme of my book,
that America is not just an idea. The idea is important, the ideals are important,
but it’s impossible to separate them from the culture at the outset. Colin: Well, let me ask you,. So you mentioned that nationalism is often
used a dirty word, and that’s certainly true today,and you wanna make a strict distinction
between nationalism on the one hand, say fascism on the other. So isn’t fascism just a more extreme version
of nationalism? I mean, aren’t therre some versions of nationalism
that really are insidious, or do you wanna defend all forms or is it just the American
form? Rich: It’s largely the American form, but
people make the mistake that nationalism is inherently fascistic and it’s just not. It’s one, it’s older than fascism. Even the modern form existed arguably for
150 years before we got fascism. And then you get fascism in Europe, most notably
and Italy and Germany, and Nazism’s really, you know, the most extreme and heinous form
of fascism and is really based on biological racism and a Neo-Imperial vision. So Hitler obviously had a nationalistic appeal,
but it was much more than that. And he wouldn’t have been a Nazi if he was
just a nationalist without all the other poisonous things added on top of it. And nationalism was a basis of resistance
to his projects and other Imperial projects in Europe across the centuries. Colin: So for you, is it a civic nationalism
that’s distinct or is it something else that makes American nationalism different? Rich: Well, mainly that we’re America and
I spent a lot of time going into the cultural predicates of our nation and our national
identity, which are rooted in England especially in terms of the new England here rooted in
East Anglia, which is part of England that was most opposed to the crown, that was most
commercially focused, that was most Protestant. And basically those people come here to Massachusetts
Bay and have an enormous impact on our national identity going forward. And something I didn’t know until I kind of
delved into it was John Winthrop within two or three years of coming here was contemplating
resisting Royal authority because there was a rumors that the King was gonna come and
crack down on this experiment here in Massachusetts Bay and take back the charter which they had
brought over from England because there was a loophole that they took advantage of and
they wanted that legitimizing aspect of their autonomy right here rather than over in England. And they put a beacon on Beacon Hill, which
has been known henceforth as Beacon Hill. They fortified. They trained a militia and 150 years before
the revolution, you had a potential revolt against Royal authority centered in Boston,
Massachusetts. Colin: That’s one of the things I found most
interesting about your book was that American cultural nationalism isn’t just a set of abstract
ideas. It’s things that ordinary citizens value like
Thanksgiving, the Superbowl, Elvis. Tell us, what do you mean by cultural nationalism
and is it actually the government… You say we need to defend it. Is it the government’s role to defend it or
how does that work? Rich: Well, I think it’s the role of the people
to defend it, but there is a cultural nation that depends on our heroes, on our symbols,
on our rights and rituals that I think is under assault. And I think if left undefended, we’ll sort
of strip away the foundations of the nation, and people inherently just through human nature,
they want to be loyal to something,and you potentially will get, and we see some of this
already sub-national and racial loyalties trumping loyalty to the nation and I think
that would take us to a very scary place. I deal a little bit with civic nationalism
because people opposed, they create an opposition between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism. But I don’t think it’s that simple. I don’t think the, America can be reduced
just to ideas or ideals. In the way I think about it an American tourist
goes to a beer garden in Munich, no one says, “I think that guy’s an American because he
believes in the Declaration of Independence.” They think he’s American because of the way
he dresses, because the way he talks, because how friendly and boisterous he is, maybe he’s
overweight, but there are all these markers of our Americanhood that go beyond just our
political ideals. Even those ideals are important. Colin: Sort if cultural nationalism in America
is under assault, who is assaulting it? Rich: Well, the left mainly. And why this has been a long running effort
to dethrone American history, to not teach it or if you do teach it, to make it the story
of vile repression from beginning to end. We see an extreme example of this with the
so-called 1619 project by the New York Times and to undermine our heroes. And, you know, after these, you know, Neo
Nazi March in Charlottesville and the disturbance there, there is a historic church in Alexandria
that removed a plaque honoring Robert E. Lee, you know, maybe understandable, but also George
Washington, which is just absolutely insane. Thomas Jeff, excuse me, Thomas Jefferson is
under a lot of pressure. Wouldn’t shock me if 20 years from now there’s
not a Jefferson Memorial. So these are just pillars of our nationhood
that are under stress. Colin: Are you disturbed by the way American
history is taught in American schools? And I don’t just mean universities, but actually
right down to elementary school, high school. Are there patterns that you’ve noticed over
the years of the way history is taught to American kids? Rich: Yeah. Something I didn’t realize till I got into
it in my book is really history education as we know it was created after the Civil
War where the Union veterans went and pushed and got patriotic education instilled into
our schools. And some of it, you know, it was probably
too saccharin, probably skipped over our nation’s sins too readily, but it was an important
unifying element of this country and its education system, and that’s just gone. You’re lucky if history is taught at all,
especially in our colleges now. And the story has been twisted and increasingly
defined by the work of Howard Zinn, “The People’s History of the United States,” which was explicitly
aimed at taking America down a notch, and for a lot of people has become to go to work
about this country. Colin: Right. So now early American history and the progressive
reading is sort of it’s a history of sins are crimes that are overcome by progressive’s
today, and apologies,just… Rich: Right. And the government is always the, the instrument
of that. Now, there are no doubt that there are sins. And one thing, the lead essay in the New York
times 1619 project I think is dishonest in all sorts of ways, I’ve written about it at
length. But what I think is true and what’s very moving
is the fact that African-Americans, one, they’re more American than most European Americans
if you’re just gonna judge by tenure in this country because they’re brought here, then,
you know, the importation of slaves was stopped and there was no immigration of black people
because the country was racist and didn’t want them and it was hard to get here. So the average African-American has been here
a very, very long time and it’s been African-Americans who have oftentimes had to hold up our ideals
when they were ignored by the rest of the country and have participated in every American
war even when their domestic circumstances were incredibly dire. So I think there’s a very moving aspect of
our history. Colin: That’s a good point. I agree. At the very beginning of your book, you have
a sentence which struck me. You say, “What Trump realized,” something
like that in 2016, the suggestion being that Republicans had forgotten something and the
Democrats had also forgotten something. What was it, for all his unusual personality,
what did he realize that others didn’t? Rich: Well, he’s sensed, and I don’t know
how or why, but that this kind of nationalist appeal had been pushed aside by both parties,
the Democrats, because they’re increasingly beholden to a progressive cosmopolitanism
that’s hostile to the idea of borders and sovereignty and national interest, and then
also among Republicans because, and some of these things are good, but I think they were
just taken to an extreme because you have a business, a globetrotting business elite
that were borders don’t mean so much, where you have a libertarian tendency in the party
that I share this to some extent, but is also thinks we’re just one big world market and
doesn’t value borders very much, and also under the influence of evangelical Christianity,
which is a wonderful thing. I’m a low church Protestant myself, but also,
you know, we saw it in George W. Bush’s statement in, I think it was in 2000 about how family
values don’t stop at the Rio Grande. And that’s true, but something important should
stop at the Rio Grande. And Trump, you know, in an exaggerated and
crude way, he was onto that. And “America First,” you know, when we initially
heard that phrase, I can’t speak for you Colin, but for me initially I was like, “Ah, let’s
not, we don’t need to revive that. We don’t need to go back there.” But most people don’t know the history and
they’re just hearing someone say, “Well, we’re gonna put our interests and values first,”
which was a corrective to the overreach of the Iraq war, the disappointments of the Iraq
war. But now we’re getting into to your territory. So what do you think that Trump realized that
others didn’t? Colin: Well, I think on foreign policy, there
was a wing of the party that had come to see well-intentioned interventions in the Muslim
world as problematic, not only in retrospect but also, you know, during the Obama years,
you know, Libya and so on. I mean, I think there was a shift. And there was still one wing of the Republican
Party and Conservatives who continued to believe that, you know, the US needs to promote a
freedom agenda. But I don’t think it was a coincidence. If you think about that moment where Donald
Trump said in the debate,an early debate, that Iraq was a mistake, and that was sort
of something you weren’t supposed to say as a top Republican candidate unless you were
Rand Paul. But he said it and it didn’t seem to hurt
him. So it sort of broke open the possibilities
on foreign policy, I think. Rich: Right. And then everyone said it was a mistake. But he didn’t just say that, he said it was
a war waged on lies, which I think he said that in the South Carolina debate, and this
is one of the moments I thought, I would’ve thought day before yesterday, this would destroy
someone saying this, but it’s clearly not going to, and we’re in a different place,
a different world. So what does his foreign policy harken back
to some, you know, people look back to the Jacksonian tradition. I’ve written about that myself. Is it that? Is it something else? Colin: Good. And by the way, just as a side point, I’m
sure you probably agree, but I don’t think Bush did lie. Rich: No, of course, not. Colin: But that was kind of a talking point. But I think in retrospect there were some
mistaken assumptions in 2003 just the ease with which the US could democratize that country. So… Rich: I mean, the problem is we didn’t know
anything about Iraq. Colin: Yeah. Well, that’s the problem. Rich: And then we learned lots of, of unwelcome
things weren’t true once we were there. Colin: Right, right. So I see different tendencies. Like you, when I first heard “America First,”
I thought Charles Lindbergh, but, you know, it’s not clear that Trump had that in mind. He probably didn’t have that in mind at all. He just met American interests first. Trump clearly wants to reject the Bush legacy. He doesn’t really remind me of much of Reagan. Reagan had that kind of muscular idealism,
although he was very practical in reality. I think Nixon is a comparison just in the
sense that you have a Republican come in very hardnosed after some frustrating quagmire
or perception of such. And the President says, “You know what? We’re going to have new possibilities on diplomacy
with our former adversaries. We’re gonna retrench a little bit. We’re gonna stay tough on defense of, but
we’re gonna try to do something creative and a sort of a fighting retreat in a number of
places.” There’s a little bit of Nixon in Trump, I
think, in that way. They’re very different personalities. I mean, Nixon had much more experience in
these things. But there is a bit of a Nixonian quality. The other thing you can do is you can go even
further back and say that Trump, it really is kind of hearkening back to pre-World War
II traditions, let’s say the ’20s where you had a very popular Republican formula at the
time, which was to say, you know, we’re gonna have tariffs, we’re gonna try to remain detached
from foreign wars. We’re gonna have more restrictions in immigration. And for Republicans in the ’20s that was the
popular until it wasn’t. Rich: Right. So go, I mentioned Wilson a little bit. Obviously, you deal with this at much greater
length and know it much better. So there’s kind of a lazy conventional wisdom
on the left or just maybe among everyone that it was, the League of Nations was brought
down by isolationists, and this was a bad thing, and created the predicate for World
War II. So one, who brought it down? What were the different strands among the
people who opposed the treaty and what role did it play in the subsequent conflict? Colin: Really, it was Wilson that brought
it down by being so uncompromising. I mean, his vision was we have to make a formal
commitment to defend to every other country on the planet. And actually, a lot of Republicans, most Senate
Republicans like Henry Cabot Lodge, for example, Massachusetts, the key figure really said,
I’m happy to make an Alliance with France and Britain. Something like NATO. You could have had NATO 30 years earlier. It helped deter Nazi Germany. Lodge was ready to do that, and actually most
Senate Republicans were as well. So they weren’t isolationists. They were just skeptical of Wilson’s particular
concept that we’re gonna make this universal global binding multilateral commitment. And their argument was, we know we’re not
gonna defend every other country on earth, so why pretend we will. Of course Wilson disagreed, insisted on his
version, and so couldn’t get the votes, the two-thirds of the vote. There was a faction of Republicans in the
Senate, mostly Western populists and progressives who really didn’t want any such commitment. They just wanted the US to go back into kind
of strategic disengagement after World War One. But, you know, in the ’20s it was kind of
the most non-interventional swing that one in the end. Harding decided, he just said, “We’re not
even gonna talk about the League. I’m done with the League.” Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover. So that was fine for as long as it lasted. In the long-term of course it didn’t because
it meant that the US was locked into this very disengaged posture and wasn’t really
doing much to stop Hitler until he was, you know, well on his way. Rich: So that might be getting us down to
a rabbit hole. But if we had done more to buttress Britain
and France, is there anything they could have done preemptively that would’ve stopped the
conflagration or stopped Hitler from marching across much of Europe? Colin: You know, Winston Churchill called
World War II, the unnecessary war because he thought that if Hitler had been face down
earlier, you wouldn’t have needed this incredibly violent catastrophe for the planet, you know. And so if you’d had a U.S. Alliance with all
of the economic and potential military weight that the U.S. had allied with Britain and
France, at a minimum it’s possible it could have deterred Hitler. Something like a NATO would’ve been worth
trying, it seems to me. But ,you know, we didn’t try. And what we found in the end was we had to
do strategic re-entry, which is to say you completely disengage then you have to go back
in. So D-day 1944 is an example of strategic re-entry. It’s expensive. It’s costly, not just in money. Rich: Boy, that was a hell of a strategic
re-entry. Colin: Exactly. So that’s the worry I’ve always had. One of the reasons I was initially quite concerned
about Trump is it sounded to me like he was tinkering or experimenting with really deep
forms of disengagement. And in the end, he hasn’t actually done that. Obama actually did that in Iraq by just walking
away from Iraq ,2011. Rich: Right. And we had a strategic re-entry. Colin: Exactly. Rich: Not like D-Day, but we had to go back. Colin: And we had to go back a few years later
because of ISIS. So the lesson I think in American history
has been when you completely disengage, you actually end up having to go back at greater
cost. Rich: Right. So why has that not, why has that initial
fear of yours not been realized or why don’t you think, even the very serious people that
think president Trump represents a threat to this liberal system of values that we’ve,
and rules we’ve created around the world, that he’s not vested in, push comes to shove,
he’s not gonna defend it and you’ll have chaos or Chinese-based rules or something that’s
much better, much worse for us in the long term? Colin: Right. That is a concern. It’s a widespread concern. However, I don’t think Trump gets up in the
morning and thinks to himself, “How can I wreck the liberal world order?” I don’t think he thinks about one way or the
other, which in a way is the point. Rich: Right. But isn’t that a bad thing? Colin: Well, you know, I think he’s trying
to promote what he views as US relative interests in the world, trying to carve out gains in
relation to competitors and also allies. I’m not a big fan of trade wars with U.S.
allies, but that seems to be what he’s doing. He’s trying to address what he sees his free
riding by U.S. allies. Get them to spend more in defense, you know,
and then push on Iran, push on North Korea, push on China and see if you can get a deal. That wouldn’t have been my ideal foreign policy
as of 2016 but that’s what he’s doing. That’s not the same thing as saying I’m out
to wreck liberal world order. I mean, a lot of these institutions like NATO
have actually survived for all the controversy in the stylistic problems. I mean, they’re still there. In fact, there’s more of U.S. troops in Poland
than there were under Obama. So, you know in reality… Rich: And your train’s getting more javelins. Colin: Right, exactly. Rich: But just a little hiccup there. Colin: There was a little hiccup. There was a little hiccup. Yeah, no, I mean actually in reality on Ukraine,
I mean, you look at the administration, you had increased military aid, diplomatic aid,
economic aid. I mean, it’s, so ever since 2014, the U.S.
has actually been bolstering Ukraine against Russia. So, you know, I think your question was why. I think it’s probably a combination of things. It could be partly that Trump himself was
never fully convinced in the first place that you needed to completely disengage. It’s possible that what he wanted was just
to carve out gains for the U.S. in his own mind and then say, you know, “Hey, I’ve got
some wins. Re-elect me.” Now, he is unpredictable. We don’t know what he’ll do in his second
term on foreign policy. But I imagine that going into the reelection
campaign, he’ll say, “Look, I’ve downsized in Afghanistan. We rolled back ISIS. I’ve got new trade agreements. I’ve pushed hard on China. Maybe there’s a ceasefire agreement on that,
on the trade dispute. I’ve got our allies to spend more in defense,
you know. It’s a win.” I mean, that’s gonna be his platform and then
people will decide for themselves whether they buy it. But I think, you know, I shared a lot of the
concern initially, but just watching, if you just sort of turn the volume down and… Rich: It’s impossible to do. Colin: …try to filter out what people are
speculating about motives or the worst possible thing could happen and just watch what he
does on foreign policy, not to say that it’s all great by any means, but it’s actually
not as crazy as I think the most vociferous critics are suggesting. Rich: So let’s go all the way back. I write about this and you do as well, the
George Washington’s farewell address, which is just a great state paper. And Hamilton is such a great founding father. I mean, he drafted this for Washington, but
Washington, you know, very carefully paid attention to it and edited line by line. But how do you read it? Because, the conventional reading is that
it’s almost an isolationist statement, which doesn’t seem correct to me and doesn’t take
account of the context where he’s trying very deftly to walk this tightrope between Britain
and France, which at that time were more powerful than we are, and knows if we just kind of
hold our power and muster our strength, we’ll be in a much better position decades hence. Colin: Absolutely. I mean,at that time it made perfect sense
to stay out of a war with either Britain or France from the American point of view, and
it also helped dampen domestic political disputes, which I think was part of Washington’s concern. So when he lays out this concept that we can
have temporary alliances, we can have commercial agreements, but no permanent alliances, it
makes sense at that time. And I think like you, I see a sort of nationalist
American tradition right back to the founding with Washington as the key figure. The farewell address lays it out. Now, the real question today is what are the
implications? What should a conservative nationalist believe
today? It seems to me that some believe really that
we should be disengaging from a lot of these alliances. My own view is that we don’t, we don’t have
to. But I think that’s going to be a debate in
the coming years. Rich: Definitely. Colin: I’d be curious to hear your take on
this. There’s the political side of it. Among people who call themselves nationalists,
conservatives in the U.S. there is a deep disagreement over how engaged should we be? How active should we get? There’s an agreement on U.S. sovereignty’s
fundamental, there’s an agreement on we promote U.S. interest, but there’s a disagreement
about how to do it. Rich: Right. Yeah, definitely. And I just gets down to a question that there’s
not any formulaic answer to. What’s in the national interest and how do
you best promote the national interests? And just in any given instance, they’re prudential
considerations that have to be taken into account. There’s just not any hard and fast answer. I think in general, like you, it’s a forward
leaning posture and we get more out of these alliances than they cost us. Even if you, you know, even if you’re Donald
Trump, you know, sitting at the resolute desk and adding up, you know, how much we put in
and how much others put in, it’s still hugely important and a force multiplier to have these
relationships. Now I’m skeptical of big multinational ventures
and treaties and institutions. Obviously the worst is the UN, the EUs right
up there with me, for me. But just alliances are important and especially
if the main national challenger of going forward for the next 20 years is gonna be China. It’s huge advantage to us to have a better
relationship with all those countries, smaller countries around his periphery that think
they could be in the path of a growing China. Colin: No, I agree. I mean, I’m actually by the logic of Trump’s
own position, if you think China’s the number one challenge, you’re gonna need allies. And fortunately, we still have them, allies
and partners in the region. And so we should really be working with them
on trade as well as diplomacy and strategy to counteract China. We’re not going able to do that by ourselves. And the Chinese will certainly take advantage
of any US disengagement Rich: But one argument. If Trump loses in 2020 which is not a foregone
conclusion by any means, but if he does, one interpretation will be that he hit on this
powerful thing, this populism and this nationalism and just didn’t follow it through to its logical
conclusion, that he is too conventional. You know, he adopted a very traditional Republican
domestic policy with the exception of tariffs, maybe another thing here or there. And despite sort of the bombast and the, you
know, theatrical meetings with Kim, it was a very standard issue, Republican foreign
policy and what the party needs next is to take Trumpism to the next level. So that’ll be one argument if he loses. The other will be, well, he lost because he
took Trumpism to the level that he did and we need to climb back down to the old Republican
status quo. And I tend to think neither of those are a
good answer. And it’s important for people to, even if
Trump faceplants in 2020, and again, I’m not predicting that, I’m not even sure it’s gonna
happen, but to think through what we’ve learned from him and from this phenomenon and learn
the next step. And I think the foreign policy community can
learn that from your book, and I’m hoping conservatives also can begin to think about
that with my book as well. Colin: Right. So the answer is, what do we learn from Trump
without either accepting every single thing or rejecting every single thing.? Rich: Right. Yeah, exactly. Colin: Now on immigration, this is a key argument
in your book. I mean, if America isn’t just an idea that’s
gonna have implications for your immigration policy, and you talk about that quite a bit. Rich: Yeah. So people matter and immigration flows matter,
you know. I’m sure Mexico, if it had to go, do over
again, never would have let white Anglos settle in Texas in such numbers. It created a big problem. And I reject the cliché that we’re a nation
of immigrants. It’s true to some extent, but that doesn’t
mean that we’ve always had very high levels of immigration. It’s gone up and down. Sometimes when it’s gone down it’s been for
bad and bigoted reasons. But I think we’ve been at elevated levels
of legal immigration for quite a long time now. We haven’t paid enough attention to basically
recruiting people around the world who have the skills best suited to thrive immediately
in a 21st century economy of the sort we have now. In the late 19th and early 20th century, you
could take the inflow coming through, you know, New York Harbor, and just plug them
into manufacturing jobs, I’m simplifying, and it worked. But skill difference between the immigrants
then and natives wasn’t nearly as high as it is now. And we don’t have that great industrial mall
anymore to feed low-skilled labor into and all the kind of instruments of assimilation
that we had. And it’s just amazing when look back, it’s
just the foundations, the schools, business, nonprofits, everyone was focused on how do
we Americanize these folks and took it as just a given that was a good thing. And that could be uncomfortable, you know,
for the immigrants. You’re kind of pushing them one way rather
than just letting them find their own way. But it was good for us as a society. And then also part of that story that people
neglect is after 1924, we go radically down in our levels for the next 30, 40 years. So the ethnic enclaves that you saw developing
when levels were particularly high at the beginning of the 20th century dissolve, you
know, and just the chances are you’re an Italian-American, you’re gonna marry someone who’s not an Italian-American
and you still might have fond associations, you still might eat certain kinds of food
that you might like the old country, but your really strong attachment to Italy has been
dissolved. And then just final point, it was just harder
to maintain a connection to your old country then than it is now because travel was harder. There was no texts and TV. So once you’re here, you’re here. Colin: So if I go down a checklist of lets
say, some practical policy applications, give me a sense of, would you be in favor, you
know, a shift from family unification to skills-based, the border security wall, actually reducing
levels of legal immigration? What’s your view on those? Rich: Yeah, I think, I don’t know, I don’t
have a well-formulated thought view on what overall numbers should be in terms of legal
immigration, but I think less would be called for and certainly a different mix. Now, you always have to have some element
of family, you know, reunification, spouses and minor children. But we’ve gone way overboard on that and haven’t
paid attention to skills the way other advanced English-speaking countries do. Canada and Australia are the examples. And this is just a theme that’s throughout
my book and was really brought home to me, the profound wave language is so important. That’s kind of the ultimate cultural glue
of any people. So I would wanna value people who were already
speak English. Now there’s some who will say, “Oh, there
you go. You just want white immigrants.” Well, that’s not true. I think that the country with the most English
speakers is probably India or Philippines and Nigeria way up the list, and all sorts
of people in other countries learn English. But I would, you know, have a point system
that in included levels of education, business experience, and English acquisition. Colin: So coming back to the earlier topic
on sort of the future of American nationalism after Trump, whether it’s one term, two terms,
we’ve talked about what should happen, right? Learn the right lessons, don’t learn the wrong
ones. What do you think is most likely? What does the future look like? If you were gonna make some, some tough predictions,
you know, 5, 10 years from now, what is the Republican party gonna look like? It seems as though it’s becoming a more blue
collar party in some ways. Working class voters over long-term period
of time have become more important and Trump just accelerated that. It’s almost been a flip between the two parties
on this. So does that mean, for example, that you have
a party that’s more Rust Belt, protectionists working class as a long-term trend or do we
think of Trump has just kind of a temporary blip? Rich: Right. So you’re right that this was a trend, the
more working class element of the Republican party before Trump, and the two parties basically
swapping, you know, Republicans trading upper middle class and suburbanites to the Democrats
in exchange for white working class voters. So that was a trend prior to Trump, but Trump
accented it and really underlined it and accelerated it. So this is just, I’m out of the prediction
game forever. But based on straight line trajectory, you
would say yes, that Republicans,couple elections now Texas could be a purple state. And it’s possible to make it up, but the only
way you make it up is through the upper Midwest and Pennsylvania. So it’s gonna have to be some sort of more
populist and nationalist appeal that Republicans had prior to Trump, that those States need
to be really competitive going forward. And how you do that, you know, consistent
with some important elements of Republican orthodoxy, including, you know, spending and
debt and entitlement reform is a really big question. I think there’s probably some way to square
the circle, but it will require a lot of thought. And just one last thing on Trump. And this is the promise. The promise of this populism and nationalism
that he hasn’t realized because he is not interested enough in it, and just, you know,
he’s so combative and divisive is, you know, patriotism is really important to a lot of
people and not just white people, right? Populist economics oriented around working
class concerns is important to a lot of people, can connect with a lot of people and not just
white people, right? It’s not just we tend to think, we’d say the
white working class, but there are tons of black working class people, Hispanic working
class people. And I think Trump would have a natural appeal
to a certain kind of working class, middle class, black, Hispanic male, if he really
worked it every single day and thought about how do I reach those people? And made a more truly a nationalistic appeal
because a huge element of nationalism is this common feeling and the sense of national unity. It runs through every nationalist document
and statement of importance through our history. And that’s something that unless Trump’s on
the teleprompter, he totally leaves aside to his own detriment and that of the party
in the country. Colin: Well, it’s been a great conversation. Thank you, Rich Rich: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Colin. Congratulations on your book. Colin: You too. Hi everyone. That’s the end of our discussion with Rich
Lowery. Thanks for watching. As always, let us know what other topics you’d
like AEI scholars to cover on viewpoint. And to learn more about conservative American
nationalism, check the links in the description below.

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