Then again, the 19th-century marriage of liberalism and nationalism ended in a very ugly divorce in the first half of the 20th century. What about the dangers of reviving nationalism today? “There is no a priori guarantee that it could not devolve into something nasty,” Mr. Manent says. “But if we don’t propose a reasonable idea of the nation, we will end up with an unreasonable idea of the nation. Because simply: However weakened the idea of the nation, nations do not want to die.”
Then there is the example across the Atlantic. Like Tocqueville, Mr. Manent sees much to admire in the American experiment. Even as Europeans have sought to pool or even abandon their sovereignty, he says, “Americans remained very much attached to the idea of a people making its laws to protect itself.”
True, “this people was open to the world, since of course it was formed by immigration. But people came from all over the world, not to be human beings but to be citizens of the United States, which had a keen sense of its exceptionalism and unique character.” In the Second Amendment, the persistence of the death penalty, and the reluctance of U.S. courts to follow foreign precedents, Mr. Manent sees “not a proof of American barbarism” but of democratic vigor.