Damon Linker has a smart piece in the New York Times book review that ends, in part:
For many liberals, politics involves bureaucratic administration, the management of government benefits and the jostling of interest groups. One party or coalition tweaks the numbers in one direction, another nudges them a different way. Such fiddling with policy is a good part of modern politics. But it's not the whole of politics. At a more elemental level, the one to which Aristotle directed much of his attention, politics is about more existential issues: this bounded community in this place with this history and heritage, determining its own character for itself, deciding who is and who is not a citizen, who will rule and in the name of which vision of the good life.
After the cataclysm of World War II, European leaders concluded that the disaster was a product of an excess of politics in this elemental sense. Emphasizing certain transcendent themes in Western humanism, they advocated the universalism of human rights and denigrated any and all attachment to particular nations or cultures. The Common Market and then the European Union itself were experiments in devising a postpolitical politics that treated particular attachments as morally unacceptable and therefore politically out of bounds. Favoring anything less than open borders became invariably xenophobic, caring about the ethnic and cultural character of one's own nation became invariably racist and fearing outsiders who wish to do it harm became invariably fascist.
For a while it looked as if Europe's experiment in forging an antipolitical politics might succeed. Not so much anymore.
Riemen's book is admirable in many ways, but it is an unusually hermetic example of the thinking that led so many Europeans to believe in the first place that it was possible, necessary and desirable to produce a civilization in which citizens are expected to look down on the love that has always defined citizenship — the love of one's own. We have ample reason to doubt that liberal politics can be saved by more of the same.
That European aspect of the universalism/particularism story is an important part of the story, but it isn't the whole story, either. Another part of the story is the Jewish story, in which the Jewish people reacted to "the cataclysm of World War II" (and before it to the Dreyfus affair) with a turn not toward universalism but toward the nationalism of Zionism. A lot depends on one's definition of "liberalism." Liberalism and nationalism aren't necessarily contradictory or mutually exclusive in the way that Linker sets it up. But he's on to something important and directionally correct here in terms of describing the current moment and disagreements. I think he's saying something similar to what David Brooks said when he wrote "The crucial battleground is cultural and prepolitical."
As much as I have my serious quarrels with the New York Times, it's great to see this sort of piece make it into the newspaper.