The Debate Over Trump’s Nationalism


Robert Taylor, Opinion Editor

Over the past month, President Trump has self described himself as a nationalist. To quote the president: “A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that. You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist.” News outlets such as CNN have expressed displeasure at President Trump’s adoption of the term, saying “It primarily conjures two close associations: Nazism and white nationalism.”

While this is an op-ed piece, I will put both side’s arguments in context before explaining which side I support and why. President Trump’s argument implies that he is a nationalist because he cares more about our country than he cares about the world, a view that is supported by Webster’s dictionary, which states that nationalism is “a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups”. CNN and other news outlets argue that to be a nationalist is to place oneself among the ranks of Hitler, Mussolini, and other fascists, all of whom were self described nationalists and took the meaning and implications of the word to extremes.
My view on this is that both side’s arguments have merits. President Trump is correct in asserting that he is a nationalist because he is putting his country’s needs and industry above all other countries, and CNN is correct in saying that, historically, self-declared nationalism is often found in people who express severe and outrageous viewpoints.

Even though the word “nationalist” has a negative historical context, President Trump is well within his rights to describe himself as a nationalist and is accurate in doing so. Many, if not all, of his policies are nationalistic. His desire to improve America’s trade deals and stance militarily can easily be described as nationalistic because he puts the interests of Americans above those in other countries. His desire to place America’s culture above those of others have led him to increase restrictive immigration policies and say improper things to and about immigrants and their families.

While I disagree with many of President Trump’s policies, I feel obliged to point out that what he has done does not put him on the extreme wrong side of history. He is on the wrong side of it for many reasons, but none of the reasons place him even close to other self-proclaimed nationalists.

To conclude, I will express my view in a short sentence: nationalism correctly describes President Trump’s policies, however even though he has self-declared as a nationalist, he is not automatically a horrible person.