American Idealism, American Identity – Thread by @dhnexon, with Brief Comments

The main counter to Pillsy’s last tweet points beyond the Twitter fences as well as the framework within which Daniel Nexon was working: From my point of view such lower-level identities are not authentically identities unless they are identities experienced as worth the giving or giving and taking of lives. Otherwise, expressions of supposed “allegiance” would be inauthentic: not truly significant or seriously recognizable, and would in this sense reflect mere affinity, if not affectation, possibly as delusion to be exploited or unmasked or ignored, but in any event not worthy of an irrevocable stance “unto death.” Though further discussion could lead us in many different directions, I’ll just submit here that the problem is implicit in the invocations of “thymos” and, in America, “Jacksonianism” in attempts to explain the rise of the Alt-Right and possibly similar movements.

Tweetstorm re-posted with permission of Daniel [email protected]

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I think it’s a common liberal desire, and one that isn’t at all easily obtained, to allow people to commit to those identities without ever having their commitment tested to the point of destruction. One of the great triumphs of American liberalism (mostly accomplished before left-liberalism was a distinct thing) was to allow Christian sectarian identities to peacefully coexist without the “unto death” part.

Viewing this as some sort of anodyne state of nature is where, I think, left-liberals tend to veer into “hollow universalism”. It’s a wonderful and rare form of freedom, and to quote from the more traditional American right (ctrl-right? Top 40 right?), freedom isn’t free. It’s taken a lot of work, sacrifice and care to make it possible.

As an aside, I wonder if the reason jihadists seem to pose a challenge to liberalism wildly disproportionate to any level of physical threat (relative to, say, communism in the 20th century) is because jihadism is maniacally focused on mass murder/suicide as a demonstration of authenticity.


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If there's anything mitigating the bad news for the White House here, it is that Comey may have also sent subtle signals that the matters under investigation are not principally about the personal conduct of Trump himself. While this is speculation, I do not believe that if Comey had, say, validated large swaths of the Steele dossier or found significant Trump-Russia financial entanglements of a compromising variety, he would have said even as much as he said today. I also don't think he would have announced the scope of the investigation as about the relationship "between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government" or "coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts"; these words suggest one step of removal from investigating the President himself. If the latter were the case, I suspect Comey wouldn't have used words suggestive of the Flynn-Manafort-Page cabal.

But that's reading a lot into a relatively small number of tea leaves. What is clear is that this was a very bad day for the President. In it, we learned that there is an open-ended Russia investigation with no timetable for completion, one that's going hang over Trump's head for a long time, and one to which the FBI director is entirely committed.

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