Demagogues of the right -- or nationalists -- argue that our troubles are the result of immigrants taking our jobs or foreigners stealing our factories. This is not natural love of home and hearth or reverence for America's founding ideals. It is scapegoating.
Which brings us to the proximate cause of this debate [on whether nationalism is a laudable sentiment]: President Trump. Far from deepening our appreciation of our history or institutions, he embodies the reasons to be wary of demagoguery in the name of country. In him we see strutting nationalism ("America first!") but little true patriotism. He claims to pursue America's interests, yet has shockingly little respect for the nation he heads. He doesn't love the country enough to have familiarized himself with the basics of our system. In one debate, he said judges "sign bills," and in a Capitol Hill meeting with congressmen, he praised Article XII of the Constitution. What patriot can claim that we lack the moral authority to criticize Turkey's crackdown on independent journalists, or impugn this country as no better than Russia when it comes to political assassination? As Trump demonstrates, nationalism is not patriotism in a hurry; it is resentment draped in the flag.
This is why the dichotomy held up by his devotees - the man of action vs. the pointy-headed theorists - makes my teeth grind.
There are immutable principles that a Republican president ought to be guided by.
Presidential leadership ought not to be situational. That leads to chaos, as we are seeing in real time.