American Political Thoughts
Race and nationalism are concepts which intrigue numerous historians. Few, however, have combined the two elements to explain a topic as Gary Gerstle did in American Crucible. Gerstle demonstrates the indispensable role race played in shaping, refining, and challenging American national identity throughout the twentieth century. He argues “The pursuit of two powerful and contradictory ideals- civic and racial” (American Crucible), defended America during the period. Gerstle identified “racial nationalism” as the belief America “ought to maximize the opportunities for its racial superiors and limit those of its racial inferiors” (American Crucible).
Gerstle beings his work by analysising Theodore Roosevelt’s civic and racial ideologies. According to Gerstle Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, New Nationalism, and Progressive party outlined twentieth-century American nationalism and articulated the contradictions of national identity that characterized liberal political throughout the 1900s. Although Roosevelt expressed faith in political equality, economic security, and social opportunity for all Americans he maintained that only whites deserved national inclusion. Roosevelt also argued that war benefit the nation by solidifying national loyalty and ameliorating ethnic differences. World War I and its aftermath strengthened the “Rooserveltian nation” through restrictions that limited immigration from countries which allegedly produced radical ideologies contrary to American values. Gerstle argues that the acts made ethnic exclusion “a defining feature of modern America” (American Crucible). Civic Nationalism, however, marginalized race during the new deal because its programs emphasized the economic opportunities available to all residents. Yet, World War II reinforced the importance of racial nationalism in American identity. Many have used the wartime example of Japanese-Americans to prove similar points, but Gerstle use the segregation of the United States military to illustrate his claim. The war strengthened many civic ideals, but the segregation of the armed forced proved “American was, first and foremost, a white nation” (American Crucible). The racial boundaries of America could moreover only be extended according to Theodore Roosevelt to all Euro-Americans. Even the ostracized eastern and southern European immigrant communities, but no further. Rooseveltian civic nationalism needed to be rigorously controlled in racial terms: it retained the racial boundaries fixed by early 20th century common sense: the deep-grounded conviction that "distinctive" ethnic minorities could not fully assume the responsibilities of citizenship. In practical terms, however, Rooseveltian nationalism had been based on a relatively hazy definition of the American nation and citizenship, oscillating between "the