An Identity-Free Conservative Discourse
After a local Pennsylvania political council included a self-identified white nationalist on its scheduled debate panel, a Republican candidate for Congress led a call to deplatform him and proponents of white identity politics generally. Other conservative political boosters amplified his signal in the regional press, pejoratively insisting that respectable political discourse lacks space for those whose ideological starting point is a shared white identity.
Having been born and raised in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area (and having experienced a similar instance of officialized Republican denunciation), I sought to reply. My response, which PennLive.com Opinion Editor John Micek declined to publish, appears below.
In a statement that would not seem out of place on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center or in a monologue by CNN’s Don Lemon, Lewis decried the “spew” and “hate” of another of the invitees, a white nationalist named Sean Donahue.
Lewis insisted that what makes our country great is its lack of a defined ethnic identity, and its openness to anyone around the globe to come and make of it what they will.
Lewis fought in our armed forces to protect this principle of transnationalism, he said, as did those Americans who helped defeat the Axis powers during World War II.
Although I am unfamiliar with Sean Donahue, I do have a stake in this debate. Last July GOP leaders took steps to marginalize me after I joined the National Policy Institute as its Executive Director. NPI is best known for the activity of our president, Richard Spencer, the most recognized white nationalist figure in the world.
Although I likely have much in common with Lewis, his reference to World War II confuses me. I doubt Americans fought so that their grandchildren could be called Nazis for holding mid-twentieth-century social and political views.
Americans fought in World War II to protect the world they knew and to preserve it for themselves and their posterity. The world they knew was racially segregated and bounded by a restrictive immigration policy that specifically preferenced newcomers from Northern Europe.
Americans were not dreaming of gay rights, transgender bathrooms, religious decline, and their own racial displacement through mass immigration when they landed at Omaha Beach.
Nonetheless, Lewis and his supporters assert that, in order to win elections in the current year, the GOP must disavow white nationalist candidates.
In a piece superficially styled as serious political analysis, Britt Parker, one of Lewis’ defenders, indicated how deeply it upsets her when white people organize and express their shared identity and interests through political means.
One might ask why her personal feelings should be taken as political reality. But, is she right?
Perhaps. Certainly one can be effectively purged and blacklisted from the GOP by too-openly embracing white nationalist causes and figures. I am an example of this.
That does not mean, however, that Republicans must rush to disavow white identity politics.
For example, where McCain and Romney failed in their presidential bids, Trump succeeded, and reached the White House in part because he refused to close himself off to the hitherto untapped energy of movements like the Alt Right and the white consciousness lying behind it.
Trump was wise to do so. To win, a party needs an energized base. The base of the Republican party is white.
Although many in its base may express agreement with conservative notions of free markets, limited government, and a strong national defense, policy issues are not what energizes them.
They are energized by their own shared identity—their sense of kinship and belonging to an American community, with its proud history and inherited traditions.
The Democrats, by contrast, rally their coalition of the fringes by repeatedly striking perhaps its single common denominator: loathing and resentment against, primarily, white males, and the civilization whose character they define.
Even when Democrats lose at the ballot box, the Left continues to dominate our culture and society precisely because it always remains open to its most radical, poetically-expressed dreams of fairness and equality.
By adhering to its inspired vision, the Left drives change. Decades of Left-directed change have given rise to a society that is strange and unrelatable to many white people, and in which they feel threatened and demoralized.
Meanwhile, the conservatism promoted by Parker and Lewis has conspicuously failed to conserve anything of value. Although the conservative movement is inordinately well funded, it lacks its own inspired vision, and instead carefully frames all of its ideas in polite terms that are acceptable to the Left.
It’s also worth noting that while conservative figures like Ms. Parker angrily resist white identity politics, they fully embrace their own forms of ethnic networking and activism.
In speeches, articles, and social media posts, Parker frequently highlights the centrality of her Latina identity to her political outlook and activity. Her position towards the white Republican base is, apparently, “Identity politics for me, but not for thee.”
She, I, and Andrew Lewis at least agree that Sean Donahue appears not to be a serious candidate. Although I have never heard of him, his conviction for threatening a district attorney seems to speak for itself.
Lewis might simply have disavowed Donahue on that basis. Instead, he went out of his way to clownishly define our country exclusively in terms of pathological openness and tolerance.
But when Americans fought in wars of the past, they did not have tolerance in their hearts. They had glory, strength, heroic courage, and racial feeling, qualities that must be restored if America is to be made great again.