The Good of Civic Nationalism

The United States was not founded on the basis of race, religion, or culture. It was instead founded on a set of ideals – liberty,  equity, and tolerance. Initially, the United States did not meet these ideals, but the work and struggle of heroic men and women have brought us closer to these ideals over the course of history. The formation and mobilization of a nation around these ideas is known as civic nationalism – and history has demonstrated that this form of nationalism is the most successful form of nationalism.

On the right lies xenophobic, fanatical racist nationalism. Preaching racial or religious identity, these nationalists seek to create ethno-states or religious-states, while purging those who do not fit within their world-concept. But this concept has never actually worked in history. Nazi Germany was obliterated after just twelve years – roughly 1% of the promised “thousand-year Reich”. Arab-supremacist Iraq was smashed by coalition forces in two wars. The religious states of the Habsburg monarchy were destroyed by more modern Prussian, French, and English armies. The Confederate States of America were wiped off the map within four years.  No racial/religious nationalist state can ever succeed, because of a number of factors. First, these states are based on oppression – and an oppressed people will always strike back. Secondly, these states, by excluding themselves of the rest of humanity, deprive themselves of valuable talent and manpower. They put themselves at a tremendous disadvantage compared to other nations, which inevitably leads to their collapse.

On the left lies a similar phenomenon – class conflict, which is essentially a form of class-based tribalism. With their pleas for workers to slay their capitalist overlords, Communism and radical Socialism are both inherently violent, combative ideologies, which divide a nation based on class. The only difference between far-left and far-right wing nationalism is that the left divides on income, whereas the right divides on race or religion. As such, this far-left nationalist phenomena is also a failure. The USSR and its various satellite states crumbled over a two year period. China, while it calls itself a Communist state, is only Communist in name. Other Communist states – even North Korea – have gradually felt the pull of free markets and gradually slid away from their Marxist dreams. Communism fails, because, like far-right Fascism, it firstly oppresses and secondly excludes. Far-right or far-left states have only two choices with regards to their future – stay on their current path and collapse, or move towards a new form of nationalism – moderate, strong, healthy civic nationalism.

Civic nationalism has been the most successful form of nationalism recorded. It has driven America from a colonial backwater to a global superpower in just two centuries. It held the United Kingdom together when German bombs fell en masse during 1941. It has managed to keep India as one, even when India is arguably the most diverse country on Earth. Civic nationalism doesn’t just succeed when it is in power – it can also very easily gain power. Tunisia in 2011 is a recent and good example of this occurrence.

Civic nationalism is powerful because of its strength in numbers. Whereas right or left-wing nationalism can only rally a certain sect of the population, civic nationalism can rally an entire group of people to the common good. The future of America does not lie in class warfare, nor does it lie in a race-war. It lies in the hands of Americans – not blacks, not the middle class, nor anyone else – just in the 330 million of us who work for the common good of America. 


Yet, civic nationalism has suffered in the recent past. It does not require a genius to realize that political rhetoric and the overall political climate in the United States have grown more divisive. This not only creates proverbial “dark clouds” of partisanship over every American street corner, but also weakens the United States as a whole. Divided, the United States is weak. Instead, as a nation, the United States must present a united front to the rest of the World.


In times such as now, how can we foster civic nationalism? We must collectively recognize, as a nation, that politics and country are entirely separate entities. Donald Trump is not the United States of America. Barack Obama was not the United States of America. The Republican Party is not the United States of America. The Democratic Party is not the United States of America. The United States of America is comprised of 330 million Americans – white, black, male, female, rich, poor, and everyone in between. The United States of America is not defined by its politics, parties, or Presidents, but by its spectacular history – the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the landing of man on a new celestial body, the triumph over the Soviet Union – and by its promising future.


America is the greatest nation on Earth. As Americans, we must be united by this fact – and not be divided by our politics, presidents, and political parties.

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