“Post-Cold War America – and much of ‘the West’ – had no story at all apart from a vague materialist argument about increasing the national GDP,” Woodard wrote in the essay published Dec. 17. ” A void opened up, and demagogues and charlatans stepped into the breach.”
The U.S. is particularly vulnerable to authoritarian ethnonationalism, the dominant ideological force in the federation in the 1910s and 1920s and in lowland southern regions from colonization until at least the end of the 1960s. The civic national story — that the U.S. is defined by fealty to the set of natural rights ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence — has only been dominant federation-wide for a little over half a century and has been neglected since the U.S. triumph in the Cold War.
“American civic nationalism has had its failings – arrogance, messianic hubris, a self-regard so bright as to blind one to shortcomings,” Woodard wrote, “but at its core, it is built on unifying, inspirational and genuinely good ideals that a supermajority of Americans can get behind, be they conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, or something in between.”