The difference between a “nationalist” and it’s purported antithesis of “globalism” (said boogie-man being variously trans-national corporations, international Communism, the Stonecutters, &c.), is for many, more of a proxy for the division of the hoi polloi and their populist white knights vs. elites who are seen as conspiring against the people.
An interesting example of this come from Glenn Reynolds (AKA “Instapundit”) and his response to a quote by Congressman Justin Amash, who quite the Republican Party over Trump. Amash is quoted as saying:
“I started to hear [the word] nationalism more and more. And that’s a concept that really is about a love for your people simply by virtue of being your people, not related to any principles you hold or what your country stands for, what ideals you’re striving for.”
Clearly, Amash is denouncing a collectivist form of nationalism that substitutes unity of a people through common mores, folkways, traditions, and heritage (that is, the American Essence) with a blind loyalty based on mere common government or, worse yet, blut und boden. In that vein, he is right to condemn those who eschew defining traits to settle into an intra-tribalism wherein one defends one’s own defined “tribe” be they right to wrong. The irony that those who push this are seeking to divide and destroy the nation by destroying the common society and community is lost on them, but then that is why they need a globalist conspiracy to blame rather than admit that they see tens of millions (if not a hundred million or more) of their fellow American as an enemy to be crushed, and who in turn would crush them first.
Mr. Reynold’s response seems to miss Rep. Amash’s point.
“Yes, Justin. Voters like the idea that the people who govern them are loyal to them”
The loyalty of the people who govern us ought to be not to some majority, or plurality, of voters, but to those common social norms and beliefs that define us as a united people. An elected representative, judge, or executive officer work on the behalf of all Americans they represent, rather than be a promise list that some subset of those people wanted to inflict on the rest. No, they have no duty to be loyal to any trans-national governance or globalist ideology, and would disserve the people they represent or govern for if they had such loyalties just as much as if they let factionalism denigrate the common and beneficent governance of all the people they represent or govern for; it is not, then a manichean choice between the two.
“Nationalism is unpopular with elites because it involves such loyalty, and loyalty to one’s own people limits one’s options in ways that our governing class finds unacceptable.”
Nationalism does not equate with loyalty to those common social norms, traditions, and heritage that defines us. The reason that the term patriotism is superior to nationalism is because the former necessarily elevated those common elements that defines us as a people, while for the later it is ancillary. After all, a nationalist could very well demand a fundamental transformation of America if that is what the “nation” wants (or what the leaders decide the collective will demands). A patriot would defend those beliefs and traditions that are part and parcel of what makes America America. A nationalist, on the other hand, may very well also be a patriot and hold those things sacred, but then one could be an American Nationalist and believe in collective ownership, lack of basic civil liberties, or of disenfranchising those they deem enemies of the nation and “outside of the body politic”.
Nationalism is unpopular with some because so many who claim the mantle of nationalism are disloyal to that common heritage, and are willing to replace the American Nation with their more tribal “right or wrong” view. Rather than limiting one’s options by placing one’s loyalty with that which binds us rather than populist sentiment, it frees us from the ochlocracy of populist rule by placing loyalty not with a fickle mob, but with enduring ideals and defining beliefs that stand above both those who govern and those are governed.
“I don’t think supporting the governing class here is either principled or libertarian.”
It is not a question of “supporting the governing class” or any other class within America (including identity groups), but in not falling into the Foucauldian fallacy of “oppressors vs. oppressed” that is the hallmark of modern Leftist thinking. For some it seems that at best, principles are an excuse to hurt the nation that they define, and at worse, principles are a fetter that prevents the people from defending themselves from an oppressive elite.
Those who bemoan and belittle those who would seek to not “save” the nation by destroying what defines it with the taunt of “muh principles”, have substituted a true love of their nation for a more factional belief wherein they define themselves as the “the people” and anyone else as an oppressor or tool to the point where there is absolute loyalty not to those one would govern, let alone their common principles, but to an increasingly narrow-minded worldview that seeks to elevate their in-group over others seeking to rule rather than to govern with rules that bind the rulers just as much, if not more so, than the ruled.
One of the things that is integral to that American Essence, and from which we inherited from the broader Anglo-sphere, was the belief that the rules (i.e. “muh principles”) were elevated above the rulers, who would be bound by said rules/principles, with loyalty lying not to any person or group of persons, but to those elevated rules and principles. Rather than bind us, making us vulnerable to those who played by the “new rules”, those principles protect us and serve as guideposts to reverse the damage done. By eschewing “muh prinicples” and endorsing those “new rules”, one, rather than “fighting back”, one finds themselves on level ground with an enemy who is far more prepared to fight.
Those who abandon their loyalty to their American principles in order to gain power over their political enemies deserve neither loyalty nor power in return.