Liberal Nationalism, Next American Nation, and Obama

I mentioned in the previous post on Obama & flag that–and I haven’t seen anyone make this argument before but that doesn’t mean I am the first only I’m unaware of anyone who has–Obama could be the first politician in the mold of what Michael Lind dubbed as “liberal nationalism”. His book on the subject is The Next American Nation. Lind is now at the New America Foundation.

But I didn’t flesh that out, so I thought I would.

Lind’s book begins with a historical overview that categorizes American history into three periods, each of which is based on a compromise.

The three periods he labels Anglo-American (1789-1861); Euro-American (1875-1957); and Multicultural America (1972-present). Lind’s book outlines a view for a Fourth phase “The Next American Nation.”

Anglo-American emphasized Protestant Anglo-Saxonism. Euro-American begins to include all Europeans (eventually Catholics as well as Protestants, Southern as well as Northern Europeans). Multiculturalism exists as a result of immigration policies post WWII and the decolonized world.

For Lind each of the three all survived on a compromise between the upper classes (aristocracy) and lower.

From NyTimes Review of the book:

In the first American Republic, the “Anglo-American nation,” the compromise was between North and South to keep blacks in bondage. The Second American Republic, what Mr. Lind calls “Euro-America,” saw the bargain struck between the oligarcy and the white working class to keep blacks out…Mr. Lind avers, by contrast, that multiculturalism has become the basis for a new grand and highly conservative compromise. The white overclass has used racial labeling to buy supremacy by co-opting token numbers of blacks and other minority group members and giving them overclass status, leaving the vast majority untouched and unhelped.

The difficulty you can see is that all three orders are based on the exclusion of minorities, particularly blacks. [Not to mention Native Americans but that’s a whole other story].

So on the one hand for Lind multiculturalism is to be attacked because it leads to Brazilianization: “a high-tech feudal anarchy, featuring an archipelago of privileged whites in an ocean of white, black and brown poverty.”

The other danger being plutocracy (think Newt Gingrich, George W Bush Republicanism).

This latter point is crucial and one I want to emphasize. The reason libertarianism has serious difficulties (particularly when merged with conservatism) is that it absents itself from the structural issue of exclusion. I raise this now because I know the “Liberal Fascist” term will be lobbed here as a criticism. It doesn’t touch the plutocratic elements in other words. Not that the criticism doesn’t have some validity of possible shadow sides (any nationalism is suspect and dangerous–I would prefer that Lind had not used the word nationalist but I don’t know what an alternative is exactly.

Liberal nationalism is distinguished for Lind from various left-wing movements in so far as it emphasizes core common values/beliefs (as opposed to multiculturalism) as well as criticizing trans-national culture and ethos in law, economics, and globalism (right or left wing–that’s the nationalist part) and internationalist labor movements (i.e. marxism/communism/socialism).

It is distinguished from right wing nationalism because of its support for labor, environment, and “The American Way of Strategy” Foreign Policy (i.e. civil liberties, broad middle class wealth, social mobility and cohesion, concert of powers abroad, and de-centralization of power domestically–all of which have been savaged by the neoconservatism of Bush).

In terms of domestic policy, (Link here, pdf at bottom of page) an article by Lind of the principles of citizen-based social contract for the 21st century (A New New Deal for the network, post-industrial, informational economic age).

Now not all of Lind’s views are ones that I share nor that line up with Obama 100%, but there is a very strong amount of overlap seems to me.

The clearest evidence is Lind’s call for an increased post-multicultural mixing of the races connected to a new patriotism/theme of unity (see my earlier post). Now Obama comes more from within the multicultural (Trinity United, south side Chicago) and out of it then say Lind, but his multi-racialism, experience abroad, and yet strong vision for the American future–even some of (which I’m not a huge fan of) Obama’s populist quasi-economic nationalist talk would link with Lind.

Obama’s plan for health care, environment, and labor and his very sharp understanding of the difference between the middle class and the poor in America and what is needed for each aligns I think. His online fundraising efforts have in a sense dealt with an issue Lind raises in the book though in a completely different avenue (Lind wants a move towards public financing which Obama has been a strong supporter though know he is arguing that his money raising and movement has become the new public financing).

In terms of foreign policy, Obama’s (so-named by Spencer Ackerman) Dignity Promotion Doctrine does not align very well with Lind’s republicanism “make the world safe for democracy” strategy, though again points of contact. As compared to McCain’s League of Democracies and Clinton’s recent call for extending the nuclear deterrence of the US to Israel and the Sunni autocracies of the Middle East against Iran however, Obama looks far wiser. McCain’s League is the continuation and acceleration of what Lind sees as the primary fault of US post-Cold War foreign policy: an attempt to remake the world in America’s image and seek hyperpower status.

He needs to link Dignity Promotion more and more to defeat of terrorism (which Obama has done brilliantly) but also (where I think he could use a little more emphasis) to secure American strength of our republican order.

One area where Obama has given hints at times of pivoting to the right/center that I think he could pull off (and that would again support Lind’s multicultural critique) is moving from a race-based to a class-based affirmative action system.

Obama could also pivot on immigration calling for a massive increase in the acceptance of US citizens–again a “trans-America” in Lind’s term liberal and national–while calling for an end to temporary worker permits, thereby supporting US labor and on account of the degradation of the population and the creation of a very un-American tiered-social and workforce. He could make the pitch to the left on humanitarian grounds.

But on those he has hints but nothing more of such pivots.

Update I:  It occurs to me that Hillary is the perfect embodiment of the white upper class in the multicultural era including her black supporters from that world.  Liberal patrician.

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Published in: on April 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. […] mind his deep patriotism and nationalism (somewhat misplaced at times for me)–because its liberal nationalism not […]

  2. […] Michael Lind comes out and says what I hypothesized back in April–namely that Obama might be a harbinger of the fourth republic in […]


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