The Old Paths with Grant Allen

The Old Paths with Grant Allen

Want to know more about Grant Allen? Get his official bio, social pages & articles on 100.7 WFLA!Full Bio


12. What Is An American?

Welcome back to the Old Paths. I want to direct your attention to two things. First is an old Tweet by former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy where he discusses what it means to be an American.

“Being American isn’t about whether you can ‘trace your ancestry on this land,’” Ramaswamy said. “It’s about whether you’re committed to our nation & its core ideals. The problem I see is too many people who *can* ‘trace their ancestry’ don’t actually give a damn about the nation.”

As one might expect, this caused somewhat of a firestorm at the time and brought to the forefront what it means to be an American. Here, Ramaswamy is espousing what many have called propositional nationhood. The thinking that political organization in a nation-state is tied to a set of ideals alone, and as long as someone can affirm those ideals they can take on the moniker of “American,” or “Frenchman,” or “Englishmen.”

Propositional nationhood is in opposition to an older form of nationhood which can be described more along the lines of blood and soil nationalism. Now that I’ve mentioned the boogeyman of blood and soil nationalism and gotten that out of the way, no, I’m not referring to a particular early-to-mid 20th century political party in Germany.

We can see strains of both styles of political organization in the history of the United States. One could make the argument that the United States is a mixed regime with aspects of both propositional nationhood along with deep ancestral ties to the land. After all, the Founders themselves did establish the early republic “to ourselves and our posterity.” That literally means their physical descendants.

Old Stock families that can trace their American lineage to the earliest English colonies are among the most American. Nor should it be controversial to say that someone who just arrived on the shores of North America is less American than those Old Stockers.

But the United States also has aspects of creedalism to it. A hero of the Old Stockers is Antonin Scalia. He himself is of Italian descent, but he famously defended the common Anglo-American Protestant culture.

But, the team over at IM-1776 undertook a great effort to define what being an American is, and did the United States ever possess an ethnogenesis? It is a great read. Check it out.

Grant Allen can be reached by email at If you’re interested in reading his other posts, check out his archived content or learn more about him by checking his short bio here.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content