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In 1890, the nearly-defeated Native Americans of the northern plains embraced a religious movement commonly translated as “Ghost Dance”, which promised to unify the Indian peoples and drive out European settlers. After the disastrous battle at Wounded Knee in December of that year the movement collapsed and Indian resistance to settlement faded into insignificance. It is tempting to dismiss the New Nationalism as a sort of Ghost Dance in which enervated and encircled traditionalists offer a final hopeless last stand against the inevitable encroachment of the globalised economy and postmodern culture.


No one seems more confused about the import of the New Nationalism than the nationalists themselves. In Germany,  the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is a coalition brought together by anger at the Merkel government’s decision to admit well over a million Middle Eastern migrants, but otherwise has no unifying characteristic. After a brief moment in the sun that included dinner with President Trump and a star slot at America’s leading conservative conference last February, Nigel Farage has fallen off America’s radar, and his most prominent admirer in the Trump White House, Steve Bannon, has left the Administration.

Mr Farage campaigned under the Cross of St George rather than the Union Jack; that is, as an English nationalist. But the United Kingdom is not a nation so much as an imperial monarchy, whose head of state is the sovereign of 32 countries. If the Brexit vote embodied more than passing rancour at the meddlesome European Union, what sort of national sentiment does it express? Does President Donald Trump’s call for “America First” mean anything more than a bilateral approach to trade negotiations rather than the multilateralism of the recent past? If that is the case, any change is more likely to be superficial rather than substantive. Mr Trump seems less interested in defining himself than the pundits whose job it is to pigeonhole him. He is neither the creature of the alt-Right nor an Establishment mogul in mufti, but a pragmatist more in the mode of Franklin Delano Roosevelt than Ronald Reagan.

The one European movement that can be termed “nationalist” in the strict sense of the term, namely Catalan independence, has occasioned scant resonance among populist parties on either side of the Atlantic. The Catalans have their own language, after all, and never wanted to be part of Spain; to the extent that a pro-independence majority is in doubt, it is due to immigration into Catalonia from other parts of Spain. Marine Le Pen, the defeated National Front candidate, took the side of the Spanish central government against the Catalans. The Scots Nationalists endorsed the Catalans’ right to hold an independence referendum, a costless call after having lost their own. The Catalans make the formerly separatist Lega Lombarda in Italy squeamish.
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December 5th, 2017
9:12 AM
When people talk of the sacred, they usually mean murder. All of us have a sense of the sacred. We just differ as to what precisely.

December 5th, 2017
4:12 AM
there is no such thing as a new nationalism, as there is no such thing as an illiberal democracy. There is a good, old fascism.

December 4th, 2017
9:12 PM
Anglo-American identity is built on the individualism of Appalachia and the pragmatism of Colonial Virginia as much as the Utopianism of the Puritans.

Warren Bonesteel
December 4th, 2017
4:12 PM
A great start...but... imposing your own belief system upon a movement comprised of several billion people, from a wide variety of ancient and modern cultures and sub-cultures, who hold a wide variety of religious and spiritual beliefs? That supposition is unfounded. Instead of religion, try 'freedom' and 'personal liberty'. I think you'll find a better fit, with that premise.

Marvin J. Greenberg
December 4th, 2017
8:12 AM
I greatly appreciate the way Goldman takes the usually superficial level of political discussion to a much deeper level, as he does in this essay emphasizing the vital importance of the sacred.

December 4th, 2017
2:12 AM
Alan Vanneman, America will not go gently into that bad night of sharia. Enjoy Europe, while its women are not yet required to wear burqas!

Alan Vanneman
December 1st, 2017
3:12 PM
"occasionally vulgar"? Don't you mean "constantly vulgar and utterly meretricious"? What fools these mortals be.

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