First, once nationalists control the government, they feel tempted to insist that they have succeeded in restoring greatness long before any restoration is accomplished. In Trump’s case this temptation is a compulsion: In a little over two years we have gone from “American carnage” to yesterday’s tweeted proclamation that America “has never been stronger than it is now — rebuilt military, highest stock market ever, lowest unemployment and more people working than ever before. Keep America great!”
In other words, the problems that brought me to power can’t be problems any more now that I’m in charge — which requires, in turn, that anyone who insists that there actually are still problems must be the problem themselves. It’s in this spirit that nationalists-in-power often end up scapegoating some group of malcontents or critics within the nation, implying that they are saboteurs and wreckers, that their complaints are treasonous, that they should be expelled.
And it’s this spirit that infuses the strange-but-predictable spectacle of Trump, just over two years removed from a campaign that constantly emphasized his country’s failings, railing against a squad of left-wing congresswomen for their own criticisms of America and demanding that they go back to the foreign countries whence three of them did not in fact arrive.