Donald Trump used a word he's 'not supposed to.' Here's why.

At a ...

Posted: Oct 23, 2018 6:45 PM
Updated: Oct 23, 2018 6:45 PM

At a rally in Houston Monday night for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, President Donald Trump said this:

"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.

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Nationalism

Political Figures - US

Society

US federal government

White House

"Nationalist. Nothing -- use that word. Use that word."

Yeah. That happened.

On its face, Trump seemed to simply be saying that while past presidents -- and politicians -- cared a lot about other countries and what other countries thought about the United States (i.e. globalists), that he cares primarily about the US and what is good for us (nationalist).

The problem, of course, is that words matter. And the American president referring to himself as a nationalist has all sorts of problems wrapped up in it.

Let's start with what nationalism means. Here's the definition, from Merriam-Webster (emphasis mine): "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."

That part in bold is what makes nationalism different than patriotism. While patriotism, like nationalism, shares a pride and belief in one's own country or values, it doesn't include the idea of promoting your values and culture as inherently superior to those of others. (Here's a good breakdown of the differences between patriotism and nationalism.)

Then there the historical context of the word "nationalism." It primarily conjures two close associations: Nazism and white nationalism.

The roots of Adolf Hitler's rise were built around his emphasis on extreme nationalism -- the idea that the only way Germany could be great again was to seize onto the superiority of the German people and drive out those across Europe who refused to acknowledge that superiority.

White nationalism, which reared its ugly head in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year is organized under the principle that Caucasians are inherently superior and in order for society to truly prosper, the agenda of whites needs to be recognized as a first priority -- at the necessary expense of anyone who isn't white.

Now, do I think that Donald Trump was thinking about all of that linguistic and historical context when he called himself a "nationalist" in Houston on Monday night? Probably not. My guess is he was channeling his one-time political guru Steve Bannon, who serves as the self-appointed leader of what he described as an economic nationalist movement that is rooted in the idea that global elites are squeezing out the average Joe all across the world.

"Brexit, Trump, the elections here in Italy -- they are all pieces of the same thing," Bannon said in Italy in September. "They give the little guy a voice. They reject what the elites have been hoisting onto us. And they show we are tired of hearing that if we want to protect our countries, our way of life, it means we are racists, nationalists and xenophobes."

The big problem with Trump's (and Bannon's) open embrace of nationalism is all of the history and context that comes with it. Nationalism is not a new concept. And history suggests that it has often been used not just to promote pride in one's country and values but also to subjugate those who don't share those values -- sometimes with absolutely devastating consequences.

For those who say Trump just used the word "nationalism" and was totally unaware of all that goes with that idea, I say two things.

First, he's the President of the United States. That means that not only do his words matter but also that he has an obligation to understand the history behind those words. Oops, I didn't mean to suggest what I suggested isn't an excuse a president gets to make.

Second, Trump himself makes clear that he knows that he probably shouldn't call himself a nationalist. Here's Trump: "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." That quote should put to rest the idea that Trump didn't know what he was doing with his word choice. He knew -- and said! -- that he probably shouldn't use the word, but did so anyway.

Look, I get that Trump sees moments like the one last night in Houston as a chance to flout political correctness, to "own the libs" by purposely jabbing at their easily offended natures. And I get that the crowd gathered for a Trump rally loves when he does just that. (Following Trump's insistence that he was a nationalist, an extended "USA!" chant broke out in the crowd.)

But let me repeat: Words matter. Especially when those words are coming out of the mouth of the President of the United States. Because he knows that calling himself a nationalist will get the crowd going, Trump uses the word.

But, as President, he should realize that when he embraces an ideology with such incredibly negative historical (and current) connotations, he plays a very dangerous game with few possible positive outcomes for the country at large.

The fact he doesn't speaks volumes about his lack of understanding that the presidency isn't just a job but a beacon of moral leadership both in the country and in the world.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115763

Reported Deaths: 3263
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 158701

Reported Deaths: 2680
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23292377
Mobile16916315
Tuscaloosa10345140
Montgomery10250197
Madison935096
Shelby739063
Baldwin665869
Lee654665
Calhoun459961
Marshall439550
Etowah428551
Houston417034
Morgan416435
DeKalb342629
Elmore320853
St. Clair295542
Limestone287230
Walker279492
Talladega266435
Cullman248024
Lauderdale229442
Jackson215915
Autauga205931
Franklin205531
Colbert202132
Russell19493
Blount193225
Chilton188432
Dallas186627
Coffee177111
Dale176351
Covington174729
Escambia172730
Clarke135217
Chambers135044
Pike134113
Tallapoosa132987
Marion108129
Barbour10339
Marengo101922
Butler101140
Winston92913
Geneva9067
Lawrence85832
Pickens85218
Bibb84014
Randolph82716
Hale76830
Washington74912
Clay74412
Cherokee73814
Henry7176
Lowndes71328
Bullock64917
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60830
Perry5926
Fayette57713
Cleburne5698
Wilcox56812
Conecuh56113
Macon53620
Lamar4965
Sumter47221
Choctaw39212
Greene34216
Coosa2043
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 68°
Columbus
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 72°
Oxford
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 61°
Starkville
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 64°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather