What does it mean to be a citizenist? I think this is a very important question, and Steve Sailer should be thanked for spurring the debate on this subject through his exchange with Jared Taylor. Steve Sailer provides us with a good starting point when he describes, I think fairly, the rival positions:

By “white nationalism”, Taylor does not mean white supremacism, but simply that American whites should feel free to follow their own interests, as African Americans, Hispanics, Zionists etc. already do. By “citizenism,” I mean that I believe Americans and their government should be biased in favor of the welfare of our current fellow citizens over that of the six billion foreigners.

Stated in this way, it is puzzling why there should be an argument at all. On the one hand, Mr. Taylor’s position says that white Americans should act in their own interest and should cease acting directly against their own interest. His view does assume that there is enough similarity or homogeneity among white Americans that they share a common group interest. On the other, Mr. Sailer’s citizenism holds that Americans should pursue the welfare of all American citizens. In particular, we should work to bring an end to the elite tyranny that has betrayed our nation, sovereignty and the integrity of our borders through mass immigration. Any republican would see the virtue in the citizenist position: it is the duty of citizens to help preserve the commonwealth and make it to flourish for the benefit of the whole. The disagreement seems to stem not from the two original claims, which are eminently compatible. The point is, I suppose, that man does not live by citizenship alone (neither does he live by race or nationality alone–these are all elements of the composition). Even if Mr. Taylor’s position is not as pragmatic when it comes to pushing for immigration restrictions, this would amount to a limited disagreement over political maneuvering but for a couple of important qualifications that Mr. Sailer makes.

Mr. Sailer ties Mr. Taylor’s position to a way of life that is not as individualistic as the present arrangement:

And that points out a big problem for American white nationalists: white Americans don’t want to act like the rest of the world, as the white nationalists advise them to, they want to act like white Americans. They don’t want to submit their individual freedom to their extended families, they want to marry whom they want to marry and then focus on their nuclear families. They want the law to treat them not as members of a clan but as individual and equal citizens under the law.

Mr. Sailer has hit upon an important aspect of the problem here, albeit for what I think may be the wrong reasons. For my part, it is because Mr. Sailer’s citizenism is being cast intentionally as the artificial and individualistic alternative to Mr. Taylor’s organic, potentially corporatist position that I find I cannot quite get behind it. In my view, it is to be lamented that Westerners have abjured extended families, clans and all the rest of it, not least because they threw the baby of cultural tradition out with the bathwater of so many of these social relations. Elsewhere Mr. Sailer says in a paragraph I’ve quoted before:

In contrast, the Middle East is full of ancient ethnic groups like the Yezidis and Druzes that have made group self-propagation rather than the welfare of their individual members their highest priority. For example, a few hundred Samaritans, good, bad, and indifferent, are still around after 2000 years, living on two hilltops in the Holy Land. These groups have preserved their ethnic purity because it is taken for granted that elders will arrange the marriages of the young, and will do it to insure the ethnic identity and separateness of the tribe rather than the romantic fulfillment of the couple.

Whatever good can be said about the romantic fulfillment of couples, this is really something fairly trivial. Traditional societies have never taken something like this into account for anything as serious and socially significant as marriage. What Mr. Sailer’s example shows us that peoples that wish to endure impose obligations on their members, just as polities impose obligations on their citizens for the sake of their survival, on the assumption that the members have received who they are, their nourishment, their upbringing and whatever culture they have from their people and ancestors. Those peoples that do not impose such obligations may or may not survive, but if they do it will either be by chance or because of the lingering natural preference of members of the group to remain with their own. But that preference is markedly strengthened if children are raised to believe that continuing the traditions of their fathers matters. If it is a matter of indifference to the elders, why should the young care? To the extent that Mr. Sailer’s citizenism seems to be premised on encouraging this indifference, I am against it. If it means only what he said in that initial statement given above, there should be no argument.

Inter-ethnic marriages have become something of a commonplace in the last century, it remains the exception to the rule in those ethnic communities where there is strong social and family pressure to marry within one’s community. It is especially strong in those communities that place a high value on the transmission of their cultural inheritance. Once ethnic Americans lose that sense, intermarriage follows very easily as there is no longer as much of a sense of distinctiveness to preserve. That resistance to intermarriage is a healthy reaction, and giving up that resistance will lead to the dissolution of a people and the traditions it bears.

My ancestors come from across Europe, though they tend to be concentrated in the northwest and the British Isles, so it might be thought that it is absurd for me to make these sorts of arguments, but as sure as there has been a great deal of ethnic intermarriage in my family there has likewise been a total failure to pass on any real traditions, be they cultural, linguistic or religious. As I much as I respect my ancestors for everything else they have done, I acknowledge that this is a failure, and it is encouraged by deemphasising, indeed rejecting, ethnicity. If ethnicity and culture were not connected, as Dr. Francis believed them to be, there would be no real problem in my view, but they are intimately connected and the breakdown in ethnicity will mean the breakdown of the transmission of the culture of that people. It is no less, indeed even more so, the case with marriage between races, especially where there is no abiding religious unity that might provide some common ground and shared tradition.

All that being said, raising entirely different questions of living according to clans and extended families obscures the issue exactly at the point where it needs to be clear. Mr. Taylor’s nationalism, as simply defined by Mr. Sailer at the beginning of his response, says nothing about clans, extended families and arranged marriages. I doubt very much that these have any place in Mr. Taylor’s nationalism, and I am also not clear on why group solidarity politics would necessarily create or lead to any of these things. Mr. Sailer is undoubtedly being very practical in acknowledging that white Americans don’t want to be judged according to clan, and don’t want to have powerful extended families and arranged marriages, but even that doesn’t establish that what they want is correct or in their best interest.

It really is a separate question. But what troubles me about Mr. Sailer’s position is that if Mr. Taylor were arguing for an entire new social organisation based on extended kinship groups he would have, from a paleoconservative perspective as I understand it, a potentially much stronger and more powerful argument. In addition to arguing for white self-interest, it could become an argument against the socially destructive, atomising tendencies of modernity. But I don’t think that Mr. Taylor is making that argument, at least not here. Someone please correct me if I am going astray here.

What Mr. Taylor’s claims involve is much more simple and elemental: white people in this country constitute a recognisable group with shared interests, and they should be able to pursue those interests unabashedly and without reservation. To use the language of liberals, it is a claim for a kind of self-determination, premised on the idea that every people should determine, as much as is possible, how it lives and not have its way of life determined for them. Cast in those terms, it doesn’t get much more “American.” But we should not need to use the language of liberals to affirm the basic rightness of the idea that each people should be able to pursue its legitimate interests.

In fact, white Americans by and large already do this privately regarding where they live, where they send their children to school and with whom they associate. In their everyday life, they seek to improve their lot, provide for their children and ensure that their families are safe–and this means, as we all know, that they will live only in certain neighbourhoods where most, if not all, of the people are like themselves. It is normal and natural to do this. As near as I can tell, what Mr. Taylor is saying is that they ought to be able to admit that they are doing this and should be able to do it in policy debates and lawmaking just as they already do in private life. What white Americans refuse to do, what they have been taught not to do, is to make the same kinds of private decisions they have already very willingly made in terms of housing, education and association in the public square and to pursue policies to that effect in the open without hiding behind euphemisms or catchphrases about equality. Mr. Taylor’s position is based in part on the recognition that racial and ethnic identity politics cannot be banished from political discourse, because the realities on which these politics are based cannot be made to go away.