Let’s Return to Our Civic Nationalism Roots

By The Reader's Turn
The Reader's Turn
The Reader's Turn
August 25, 2022 Updated: August 25, 2022


The U.S. Constitution established the United States of America as a federal republic within the principles of democracy and civic nationalism.

According to Wikipedia, “ civic nationalism, also known as liberal nationalism, is a form of nationalism identified by political philosophers who believe in an inclusive form of nationalism that adheres to traditional liberal values of freedomtoleranceequalityindividual rights and has no ethnocentrism. The definition continues, “Civic nationalists often defend the value of national identity as an upper identity by saying that individuals need a national identity in order to lead meaningful, autonomous lives[3] and that democratic politics need national identity in order to function properly.”

The idea of civic nationalism was debated by European philosophers Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and others in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment and became the foundation for the American Revolution as well as for the subsequent French Revolution.

The spirit of American civic nationalism and its democracy is best summarized by President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address, “This government of the people, by the people and for the people…,” which has become an inspiration for oppressed people everywhere.

Throughout the 20th century, nationalism was used, misused, mislabeled, abused and slandered by various kinds of entities for self-serving purposes—good and evil. On the good side, Sun Yat-Sen used nationalism to overthrow the Manchurian Dynasty’s occupation of China, and the Vietnamese used it to gain independence from French Colonialism. On the evil side, Hitler’s corrupted form of ethnic nationalism led to criminal genocide of Jews and Gypsies in Europe. None of the above is a true example of liberal or civic nationalism, however.

In 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson abandoned civic nationalism in pursuit of his own political theory called liberal internationalism, to expand America’s newly gained economic strength and influence on the international community. His supporters labeled Americans who opposed using the U.S. military to fight wars overseas as isolationists, a derogatory term we still hear today. Shortly thereafter, in 1917, Lenin seized power in Russia, and established the Soviet Union as the main base of international communism, which led to ideological conflicts and wars until the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. U.S. President George H. W. Bush actively helped China to modernize its economy, and the next U.S. President, Bill Clinton, further helped normalize relations and trade with Communist China. Clinton also launched an economic global initiative which facilitated big corporations’ use of cheap labor in developing countries.

The emergence of Communist China as an economic power and the expansion of the European Union to rival that power has led to globalism, which seeks to erase barriers and borders between nations, often beginning with trade. Then, gradually, the global elites may want to impose their brand of globalism in politics, as we are witnessing today.

The last part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century have given us two significant technological advances. The first is in computer science, which created a new digital Information Age that has entered every aspect of modern human life with a cyber world that exists parallel to the real world. Hi-tech globalists dominate the cyber world, where no border exists, and seek to erase the inconvenient borders between nations in the real world. The second is the introduction of the electric motor to replace the combustion engine in automobiles. The electric motor provides a more efficient use of energy for transportation but, unfortunately, has been touted as cleaner for the earth’s climate by many self-serving groups and environmental activists using scare tactics from “global warming” to “climate change.” One negative consequence of coercing consumers to use electric engines over gasoline-fed ones is to drive up the cost of fossil fuels, which negatively affects much of society, causing disproportionate hardship to the poor and the middle class.

The above factors have made the 100 years of Wilson’s liberal internationalism world order obsolete. Globalism and the CCP surveillance state seek to fill the vacuum using hi-tech to govern both the cyber world and the real world in which the traditional liberty of the West will be curtailed, and individual privacy will be violated by technocrats, while the globalist oligarchs can move merchandise and people freely anywhere to suit their needs. There have been pushbacks such as the election of President Donald Trump in 2016 or the approval of Brexit by voters in the UK. However, in general, the globalists are still advancing every day.

As mentioned earlier, Vietnam used nationalism to gain independence from France in 1945. From that year until 1955, Vietnam followed a cultural nationalism model as schoolchildren had to study moral education (Đức Dục) using the traditional Confucian model of virtues. From 1955 until the end of April 1975, the nation of Vietnam had a constitution, and moral education was replaced with civic education (Công Dân Giáo Dục) in the curriculum indicating that the Republic of South Vietnam followed the principles of civic nationalism. There is reason to believe that citizens of South Vietnam who came to the United States after 1975 as refugees are dedicated liberal/civic nationalists who love freedom above anything else in life. Therefore, as a group, the majority of them are uncomfortable with the threat of surveillant globalism, and the limiting of free speech by Big Tech. The fear mongering and dark controlling behaviors of many technocrats during the Covid-19 pandemic brought back bad—sometime even traumatic—memories of communist propaganda and control by fear and force that many of the Vietnamese had to endure prior to coming to the United States.

From 2017 until the arrival of the pandemic in the United States in early 2020, the policies of President Trump aimed to serve U.S. interests and American citizens first, with energy independence and national border protection—which made most Vietnamese nationalists feel comfortable. Unfortunately, since January 2021, President Joe Biden and his administration have gotten back to the old internationalism, which is no longer appropriate and has led to some very bad outcomes such as high inflation and the war in Ukraine, while continuing to govern using fear, intimidation and deception.

Many countries around the world—such as India, Brazil, Israel, and Hungary—are using nationalism to maintain their sovereignty and to protect their citizens from the threat of globalism. The phrase “America First” reflects the nationalist sentiment that the United States, a pluralistic and multiethnic country, should now return to its inclusive civic nationalism roots of the pre-Wilson era to preserve liberty, privacy and dignity for its citizens in view of the insidious and invasive hi-tech surveillant domination by the global elites. We Americans are proud and free nationalists by tradition.

Pham Hieu Liem, MD