The Corner

Politics & Policy

National Conservatism Conference: Why Nationalism, and Why Now?

(Jim Young/REUTERS)

Washington, D.C. — The second day of the National Conservatism Conference opened this morning with a series of short talks addressing why speakers believe a renewed commitment to American national identity is the solution to the present social and political divison in the U.S.

David Brog, former executive director of Christians United for Israel and a member of the conference presidium, spoke about Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, all of whom he said were economic nationalists.

“The woke Left is bullying us into a neo-segregation in which we are judged by the color of our skin and not the content of our character,“ Brog said. He noted that patriotism, unlike nationalism, isn’t enough to fix the divisions in America: “Patriotism asks us to love our country. What we need now is more than love of country. We need to love our fellow citizens. We must feel connected to each other and a connection that is deep enough to overcome our superficial differences.”

“Now that President Trump has declared himself a nationalist, this idea is the subject of heightened interest and preemptive attack,” Brog added. He focused much of his remarks on Lincoln, citing a famous line from the 16th president’s first inaugural address:

The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

“Our American soil has been the burning ground upon which events transpired that forever bind us to one another,” Brog said. “Only those who know our history can develop this requisite memory. Only those rooted on our soil can feel these cords reverberating down to the present day. Our identity has never been defined by blood or clan. . . . Anyone can become an American, but to do so they must undergo a transformation through which they acquire an American spirit and set down roots into the soil from which this spirit came.”

Yoram Hazony, author of the recent book The Virtue of Nationalism, closed the session by explaining the characteristics of what he sees as a successful nationalism that would help American division, what he called “this perpetual revolution.”

“God gives Israel borders. He doesn’t say, ‘Go out and conquer all the nations of the world,’” Hazony said, emphasizing the need for national independence. “We want others to leave us alone and we’ll leave them alone. Not because we don’t care, but because that’s the best way to care.”

He also stated that “national cohesion is the most important thing to be thinking about right now.” “You can’t have cohesion over nothing,” Hazony added. “You have to have cohesion over something shared.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article named Brog as executive director of CUFI rather than former executive director.

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