In a statement even more explicit than his declaration that the torch-wielding neo-Nazi mob at Charlottesville contained “some very fine people,” Donald Trump appeared at a Ted Cruz rally on Monday night to embrace the labels of “nationalist.” And to ward off the inevitable “He didn’t mean it that way” defense that was sure to be launched on Tuesday morning, Trump made sure everyone knew that he did mean it that way. Very much so.
Trump: You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I am a nationalist. Use that word.
In response, the Houston crowd roared back a chant of “USA! USA!” A chilling coda. Because when Trump says that the word is “old fashioned” he means it fell out of fashion with World War II, where 418,000 men and women of USA, USA died fighting that poisonous philosophy of self-satisfied hatred.
Nationalism is not patriotism, though it hides behind the same flag waving sentiment. Nationalism is jingoism, that distorts patriotism into aggression and anger and “don’t you dare kneel.”
Nationalism is xenophobia, that says it is okay to deny rights to the other, whether that other is defined by race, religion, or gender identity. That says it is okay to cage children. Or imprison without trial. Or worse.
Nationalism is chauvinism, that says the idea of equality by gender, race, or social class is a lie. It doesn’t seek to address the wrongs of the past, because it doesn’t believe they were wrong.
And Trump is right. Use that word. Use it for every candidate who belongs to the party that used to call itself Republican. The Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump is the party of nationalism. That’s been obvious for some time, and now it’s explicit.
Though some Republicans may try to distance themselves from that term, others—like David Duke—are already cheering Trump’s statement. Ted Cruz certainly didn’t try to disown it at the rally. Give it to midday, and expect plenty of explanations of why being a nationalist is a good thing.