I’ve started reading Rich Lowry’s new book The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free which came out this morning.
“In an anti-nationalist speech in 2017, George W. Bush said, “Our identity as a nation, unlike other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood.” It is certainly true that “blood and soil,” the rallying cry of ethno-nationalists and the Charlottesville Nazis, is deeply inimical to the American project. Yet denying the contribution of geography and land to our identity is willful ignorance.”
By the American project, Rich Lowry means the New England project. After all, it was only in New England where citizenship wasn’t tied to race before the War Between the States. The American project as it existed outside of the East was certainly tied to “blood and soil.” The South thought of itself as a “White Man’s Country” and was determined to stay that way. The Southern social order was based on whiteness, patriarchy and authoritarianism and rested on the foundation of slavery. Boston was perceived in the South as “a City of Notions.” It was a place which had by then developed a reputation for having stupid, fanatical ideas about everything.
“Of course, America has made itself anew across history, especially regarding race. A country that, at its beginning, granted suffrage only to white males and tolerated chattel slavery gradually opened up, abolishing slavery and recognizing the rights of African-Americans. The national government was the (obviously much-belated) vehicle of this progress, crushing a bigoted regionalism both during the Civil War and in the civil rights era.”
What happened to America?
From the American Founding until the War Between the States, the South was the dominant section of the Union. New England was the deviant and disgruntled section. American Nationalism in the era of Manifest Destiny was dominated by its Southern pole.
When the federal government crushed the “bigoted regionalism” of the South in the War Between the States and the Civil Rights Movement, the country was dominated by its Eastern pole. The Yankee captured American Nationalism and harnessed it to abolish slavery and segregation and extend the scope of liberty and equality. This version of America was equally a bigoted regionalism albeit one that is devoted to liberalism which is a leveling ideology.
There is no such thing as a single, coherent American Nationalism. There are two major versions of it. From the beginning, the country has always been dominated by the rivalry between the South and the East. Southern Nationalism is a version of American Nationalism that sought to discard the liberalism of the East and replace it with organic nationalism.