Rich Lowry, The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free
Rich Lowry is a Center Right conservative liberal who inherited the mantle and magazine of William F. Buckley, not a nationalist or a populist. It was people like Rich Lowry who purged Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis and Peter Brimelow who were actual nationalists from the conservative movement in the 1990s and 2000s. It was people like Buchanan, Francis and Brimelow, not Lowry and his True Conservatives, who created the matrix of ideas – immigration restriction, trade protectionism, foreign policy nationalism – that fueled the rise of Donald Trump through the Republican primaries in 2016. Rich Lowry voted for Ted Cruz and National Review did everything in its power to stop Trump in its infamous “Against Trump” issue.
Rich Lowry was so opposed to Trump’s relatively mild version of American civic nationalism at the time that he boasted on FOX News that Carly Fiorina had cut his balls off after one of the Republican debates. He condemned Trump as a populist, not as a conservative. He said that he was wrong for the GOP. He purged Robert Weissberg and John Derbyshire from National Review. David French who Lowry employed at National Review flirted with running as a spoiler candidate in 2016 to elect Hillary Clinton to stop Trump. It is no exaggeration to say that Rich Lowry has been totally opposed to the rise of nationalism for the past 20 years.
Why is Rich Lowry suddenly making The Case for Nationalism in 2019? It is because Lowry and Conservatism, Inc. have been steamrolled like the Center Right has been all over the West by this unstoppable force. It is because National Review was discredited on the Right and has lost so much influence to its competitors after it became associated with Never Trumpism. It is because mainstream conservatives have subverted the Trump presidency, stripped it of its nationalist and populist elements and have used it to their advantage to pass their own agenda. It is because their new strategy is to coopt and tame nationalism and harness its power to prop up mainstream conservatism and their own careers before it fully escapes their grasp.
In The Case for Nationalism, Rich Lowry has four identifiable objectives: the first objective is to position National Review to stay relevant in the 2020s because of his calculation that nationalism will likely only continue to grow in strength on the Right, the second objective is to define the triumph of nationalism in such a way that it is serviceable and manageable by the existing conservative liberal elite, the third objective is to continue to keep real nationalists marginalized and the fourth is to plead with the Left to turn back before it is too late.
In spite of Lowry’s motivations, he devotes the bulk of the book to making some good points which we have made for decades and is being criticized in the mainstream mostly for the points we would agree with. He notes that the American Revolution was an outgrowth of America’s own organic English culture rather than the Patriots suddenly discovering and reading John Locke in 1776 which never happened. He justified the conquest and settlement of the American West. The Statue of Liberty, for example, originally had nothing to do with mass immigration and was seen as a guardian of American purity. The American elite only embraced its current cosmopolitan vision of America as a “Nation of Immigrants” – a sort of miniature version of the United Nations – after the Second World War. This notion that America is only an idea or a proposition or is synonymous with the American Creed is also a product of the mid-20th century. Did anyone else find it amusing that Lowry spent so much time pushing back against the anti-nationalist gospel of conservative liberalism that he himself has cultivated for twenty years at National Review?
There are parts of the book which I agreed with and liked such as the distinction that Lowry draws between fascism and nationalism. The idea that nationalism is synonymous with fascism is an absurd overreaction. Nationalism is an ancient idea and has found expression all over the world. He brings up Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years’ War with France. He brings up ancient Israel and the Greeks who saw foreigners as barbarians. He could have brought up Irish or Scottish nationalism. Nazi Germany was a product of late 19th and early 20th century German cultural currents like militarism, Social Darwinism, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer’s philosophy of the will, eugenics, geopolitical theories that influenced Hitler and countless other things. Adolf Hitler’s aspirations also clashed with British, French and American nationalism.
The problem with Rich Lowry’s account of American nationalism, however, is that what he is describing is Yankee nationalism. The Yankees of New England and the Deep North are a peculiar people with their own customs and history which sharply differentiate them from other Americans. By Yankee, I mean the actual descendants of English Puritans, not to be confused with Northerners, who Lowry describes as migrating from East Anglia to Massachusetts in the 17th century in the time of King Charles I who lost his head in the English Civil War. The Puritans were a Calvinist and covenanting people and their historical experience and the regional culture that they created in the East was unlike anything else in colonial America.
Rich Lowry devotes pretty much his entire account of colonial America and the American Revolution to discussing the Yankees. The American mainstream at the time, however, had far more in common with Virginia than with New England. From New York to Georgia, the American Revolution was much more controversial with resistance to it being concentrated in New York and the Middle Colonies. Pennsylvania was founded as a Holy Experiment by the Quakers, but the colony was full of Scots-Irish and Germans who took over the colony and who did not come to America to partake in a utopian pacifist religious community. New York was a commercial entrepot that was established by the Dutch. The Southern colonies were agricultural and commercial colonies and were settled by people from the mainstream of English culture.
The biggest failing of this book by far is Lowry’s dismissive attitude toward the enduring cultural and ethnic differences between Yankees and all other White Americans. The Scots-Irish, obviously, who settled Appalachia and the Southern backcountry were Presbyterians who believed in individual freedom, but the culture of the Borderlanders was never anything like the Puritans of our Eastern states in spite of coming from Britain and speaking the English language. Similarly, the slave driving, easy going, latitudinarian Anglicans of the Tidewater and the Low Country who came to the South from the West Country and Barbados and replicated its culture of manorialism were never anything like the Puritans of East Anglia either, nor was the bulk of the White population in the South which immigrated here as indentured servants and who were drawn from the mainstream of English society, not from a highly self conscious, dissenting minority.
I could easily write a book about all the marked differences: the founding settlers of the South saw their sunny, fertile region as the Garden of Eden waiting to be filled up with enterprising planters and agricultural laborers, not as a frigid, howling and threatening wilderness like the founders of the East. The West Country gentlemen who first envisioned an English Empire in North America were motivated by geopolitical rivalry with Spain and commercial success. They came as conquerers to Virginia like the Spanish in Mexico. In addition to the difference between Anglicanism and Scottish Presbyterianism and English Puritanism, the South and East differed from the beginning in everything from settlement patterns to religious attendance to racial demographics to foodways to the orientation of their respective economies. Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia were all named after English royals. The Southern cultural elite modeled itself on the English gentry of the West Country and Southerners came to the New World from different parts of Britain for different reasons.
The American Nationalist tradition also runs through the Virginia Dynasty (Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe) and through Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk in Jacksonian America through Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. Jefferson envisioned a White Republic of small farmers that would disperse out across the North American continent to create his “Empire of Liberty.” This ideal of America as being a White Man’s Country was affirmed in the Dred Scott decision in 1857. Jefferson wanted to avoid creating large metropolitan areas teeming with urbanites who were alienated laborers with corrupted morals who were prone to social revolution. It was largely Southerners who wrote the Declaration of Independence and who created the Constitution for their posterity (every Southern state defined posterity as White), who dominated the country from Washington through Lincoln, who as the Democracy acquired virtually all the territory of the continental United States (Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, California and the Southwest, the Gadsden Purchase) and who cleared out the Indians over the objections of the Hamiltonian nationalists of the East who opposed the Louisiana Purchase (Jefferson’s Swamp), blocked the annexation of Texas and opposed the Mexican War before destroying the country in the War Between the States to abolish slavery and enfranchise blacks.
As a Yankee and Eastern conservative who lives in New York City as an isolated Ted Cruz voter surrounded by a sea of liberals, Rich Lowry is deeply uncomfortable with White identity and White Nationalism. The Southern pole of American Nationalism, however, has historically had no problems with it. White identity emerged in the Chesapeake even before plantation slavery was established there through vicious wars of extermination with the Powhatan Indians. From the 1640s to the 1960s, the South had a racial caste system. The Age of Jackson was the age of Herrenvolk Democracy. There was a marked retreat in the Early Republic and antebellum era from the egalitarianism of the American Revolution with even Pennsylvania changing its constitution in 1838 to eliminate black citizenship. Rich Lowry sees slavery, white supremacy, segregation, racism, populism and so forth as “sins” of the South’s bigoted regional culture. Presumably, we were all evil down here until we were redeemed by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965.
From the time of Lincoln to FDR, Rich Lowry’s Yankee ancestors were ascendant over America. The American nationalism that he appeals to as a force for good during the War Between the States was a sectional Northern nationalism. The GOP dominated America until the Great Depression when Herbert Hoover and conservative liberalism was discredited by the Crash of 1929. FDR came to power by winning all the Southern states and combining them with Northern Catholic voters who had previously been divided over cultural issues like Prohibition during the 1920s. The Northern WASP elite lost control over America in this period to the Jews and their black and Catholic allies in the Democratic Party especially during the JFK presidency.
As with Rusty Reno in Return of the Strong Gods, Rich Lowry addresses the Jewish Question without explicitly naming it as such. He focuses on Horace Kallen who he blames for multiculturalism and Howard Zinn for deconstructing and vandalizing American memory in his highly influential work of revisionist history A People’s History of the United States. He alludes to our hostile Jewish elite on the Left and their ongoing project of tearing down and deconstructing the historic American nation. In his book, Reno brought up the influence of Karl Popper and Jacques Derrida in forming what he calls the postwar consensus around the weakening of Western culture, but of course we know the Jewish Question is much larger than either Lowry or Reno are willing to candidly discuss due to the power of the charge of “anti-Semitism.”
In the final analysis, Rich Lowry has nothing to offer in The Case for Nationalism but an inclusive and milquetoast American nationalism in which we tear down all of our Confederate monuments and miscegenate to become a coffee colored race that finally becomes one with the American negro, an embrace of our future as the Brazil of North America while convening around a Samsung flatscreen television to watch the Dallas Cowboys at the Superbowl:
“We should have a more capacious and merciful self-understanding. We all are Thomas Jefferson and W. C. Handy, the Pilgrims and Frederick Douglass, British and African, black and white, sitting at a vast Thanksgiving table within sight of an an enormous flat-screen tuned to a Lions or Cowboys game under the watchful gaze of a red, white, and blue–bedecked Eagle, sharing, laughing, squabbling, commiserating, and doing it all loudly in the distinct, instantly recognizable American style that makes its indelible imprint on us all.”
As someone who also has blood from East Anglia, I do not wish this fate upon our Yankee cousins (they are our next of kin) who in their foolish and neverending utopian quest to assimilate the American negro based on the assumption that racial differences are the result of prejudice – a project which has failed miserably since the Brown decision in 1954 – have only succeeded in dissolving their own identity and culture. If our blacks are finally absorbed and fully made equal in America at the cost of erasing us at the genetic level, Rich Lowry is fine with that too.
“The conception of America as an ethnic nation, dominated first by British American Protestants, then more broadly by white Christians, and buttressed throughout by a racial caste system, wasn’t sustainable and shouldn’t have been sustained.”
The South is still dominated by White British Protestants.
It was sustainable here and it should continue to be sustained too. Forever.
Reminder: Conservatism, Inc. wants to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman https://t.co/AZQznth8IX— EMPEROR WHITEPILL (@CptBlackPill) November 17, 2019
If America is to have a future, then it will have to be dominated by our version of American nationalism, which is equally American, not by Rich Lowry’s flaccid Eastern conservatism. We need to return to the spirit of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson and plain spoken populism, not Alexander Hamilton’s elitism. The only nationalism and conservatism that we need is that of our ancestors here in the South – one that is more mindful and respectful of the rights of the states – and I suppose in the Midwest too which has been wisely cautious about foreign wars.
Can someone please tell Rich Lowry that he is not a negro because he listens to jazz? Both the Southern White man and the Southern black man find that hilarious.