At American Renaissance, I was introduced to an old guy from VDare, who seemed to experience the world strictly through the search functions of his phone. Someone told him about my site and the first thing he did was search for the site name and “white nationalism” to see if I had opinions on the subject. His first hit was a post where I called white nationalism the dumbest thing going. He tried giving me the business about it and I gave it right back to him. I will forever be off the VDare Solstice card list as a result.
In fairness to him, he was a good sport about it. In fairness to me, my criticism of white nationalism is mostly about aesthetics. The term is not a new one. That means it comes with baggage and that baggage is not easily overcome. When most Americans hear “white nationalism” they think of snaggle-toothed rustics, wearing wife beaters and jorts, complaining about the coloreds. Getting modern whites to overcome the cult of anti-racism is hard under ideal conditions. Having Cletus as your sales rep makes it impossible.
That’s something the white identity people need to accept. For generations, Progressives have tightly associated racism with the South. The good white/bad white thing that John Derbyshire discusses is based entirely on this image. Bad whites shop at Walmart, like domestic beer and hate black people. Despite the fact that blacks have been moving back to the Old Confederacy for decades, black culture holds that the South is still aggressively racist. It’s at the core of the statue toppling and confederate flag burning manias.
Even if you can somehow get past the image problem, white nationalism is not some new concept developed by the alt-right. It has a history and it has a lot of veterans of its prior iterations. Those people are still kicking around. The web site Storm Front, in addition to being an FBI honey trap, is the home of the old White Nationalist guys, who used to follow guys like David Duke. If you borrow the language and symbols of these guys, you are inviting them and their ideas into your new version of white nationalism.
There are two problems with this. One is many of these guys were not the best people or the most stable people. Stepping way outside the moral framework is never easy, but it is a lot easier if you’re crazy. It’s also easier if you have nutty ideas that no one takes too seriously. Even the most generous evaluation of White Nationalism 1.0 says it was mostly a reaction to the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. It never came up with a plausible way forward politically or culturally. It was mostly old racists who just liked to complain.
Again, even if you manage to rehabilitate the language and symbols, you can’t get past the fact that prior efforts were a failure. A pretty good rule of life is that failure is assured if you follow in the footsteps of previous failures. It’s why adopting Nazi symbols is stupid. The Third Reich was most notable for being a disastrous failure. Associating your thing with failure is just bad marketing. It also tends to attract people who find some sort of satisfaction in losing. New Movements need need language and new symbols.
Putting all of that aside, prior iterations of white nationalism always suffered from the fact they were reactionary. At their very best, they could only offer a critique of the prevailing order. They had nothing to offer as an alternative, beyond demands to wind the clock backwards. Reactionary movements always fail in the long run for the simple reason that yesterday can never follow tomorrow. Even if everyone agrees the current arrangements are not working, what comes next is never a return to the old order.
There’s something else that prior white nationalists movements never got right. They assumed that a majority white nation was a given. If they could just get a majority of whites on their side, they would win the political battles over race. America is 70% white at the last census and will be majority-minority in a few decades. The issue today is not about keeping America white. That horse has left the barn. The question before us today is how whites will survive as a minority population in a majority-minority country.
That means the math is not about 50% plus one. Whatever comes to define white identity in the age of identity politics will have to appeal to and serve the interests of the vast majority of whites. That can’t just be a visceral hatred of non-whites. Whites in America are mostly from west of the Hajnal line, which means low clannishness. Old fashioned tribal signalling against the next tribe is not going to work. What comes next has to be an ideology that promotes a positive identity offering a promising future.
That’s probably the most encouraging thing to come out of the Charlottesville protest over the summer. The people involved began to appreciate the need to build new symbols and use new language. Even guys like Andrew Anglin are pushing his people to drop the Hitler images, beyond obviously satirical stuff. Mockery of taboos and irreverence for social norms has a place, but it can’t be the focus of a political movement, if it is going to draw in the skeptical. The white identity people seem to get that now.
The irony here is the New Left went through a similar problem. Before they were able to start the cultural revolution, they existed as an ad hoc counter-culture. The old commies from the CP-USA days tried to glom onto it, but the new radicals correctly saw that as a bad idea. They eventually purged their ranks of the old guys and their old ideas. Now, the cultural movement that seeks to destroy the New Left and the Baby Boomer culture is going through a similar process as it organizes itself.