Then there is the original vision of the Anti-Federalists, which was eloquently conveyed by Patrick Deneen at the recent National Conservatism conference in far more coherent form than Trump and most of his intellectual apologists typically achieve. A movement that focuses its hopes and aspirations on the nation as a whole will never (outside of wartime or another existential crisis for the community) realize the goals of social cohesion and homogeneity, let alone republican self-government. If those are the goals, decentralization and localism are the only options. And they can only be compatible with a form of nationalism that, in Deneen’s words, actively “supports the parts” of the national whole and views the nation as a “community of communities” that ultimately understands itself to stand under the authority and judgment of a God who transcends and limits its power and ambitions, inspiring humility on the part of the citizenry and its elected officials.
Short of a revival of coherent Anti-Federalism as an alternative to coherent Federalism, our politics are likely to remain torn asunder by rancorous disagreements — with the country poised between antagonistic forms of exclusivist nationalism that entertain fantasies of eliminating those who stand in the way of achieving an always elusive national unity.