Tuesday, March 6, 2018


March 6, 2018

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,
101 Main Street #380
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Dear Congressman

Re: A question

I write this morning to inquire as to the meaning of your tweet yesterday, about the result of Italy’s election. In response to what appeared to be a surge in support for the right-wing populist movement, you wrote: “US policy makers need to recognize that populism=nationalism=patriotism.”

What exactly does that mean? Does it mean, perhaps, since you equate them, that you are in favor of all three? As I’m sure you must be aware, it was the centerpiece of your equation, nationalism, that spawned such upheaval and tragedy in Europe in the 20th century. To my knowledge, it has never done anyone any good.

I will confess that I am not, myself, a patriot. Even the experience of World War II, through which I lived, was not enough to persuade me to love my (victorious!) native country to the exclusion of all others. I wonder if you watched the two versions of the Dunkirk story, both up for Oscars at this past Sunday’s award ceremony? I did, and not without pride in the courage of my countrymen and women. But what was at stake, in my view, was not country, but rather the survival of freedom and democracy in the face of, um… ugly nationalism.

As for populism, I’d be all for it if it had anything to do with democracy. However, as you correctly point out in your tweet, it has more to do with the spirit of rabble-rousing nationalism. Democracy, to have viability, depends primarily on a well-informed and educated electorate—the kind of electorate that proved sadly deficient in our 2016 election, when disinformation was widely broadcast to angry and disillusioned supporters not only by Russian hackers but by candidate Donald Trump himself.

So, Congressman, am I to understand from your tweet that you regard those three with favor? If so, we are once more in radical disagreement.


Peter Clothier, Ph.D.

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