If that's your starting point then other things follow. If, for instance, your focus is on the self-made individual, then you won't like the idea of people acting as part of an ethnic group. That will make it seem as if the individual is being defined by membership of a tribe or collective rather than being self-made.
And so the right-liberal attitude to ethnicity is mostly a hostile one. Some right liberals can handle a personal, sentimental attachment to an ethnic identity, but a public or collective expression of it is usually ruled out of bounds.
Jonah Goldberg is the editor of the American publication National Review. He wrote a column for the magazine in September in which the right-liberal hostility to an ethnic identity is unmistakeable.
His argument is that in the pre-modern age, tribalism was necessary for survival, so much so that it is in our genes. But once humans arrived at modernity, the story changes radically:
...the story of modernity is the story of how we moved away from traditional, non-voluntary forms of tribalism based on familial, ethnic, or even nationalistic lines and toward voluntary forms of tribalism.
There's liberalism in a nutshell for you. Goldberg still permits the idea of associations, but they have to be based on self-determined connections between people rather than predetermined ones. In the right-liberal terminology, "voluntary" forms of association are the only permissible ones, but the term voluntary doesn't mean ones that we agree to, it means ones that we are not born into. We are born into a family tradition, an ethnic one, and usually a national one - therefore, those are out. But being a member of a sports club, or a local progress association, a service group or a business association - those are permissible.
Goldberg is enough of an intellectual to force these principles to extreme ends. He goes on to claim the following:
The American founding was revolutionary in its embrace of the universality of human rights (even as it fell so short of its own ideals with the institution of slavery). Since then, the West has fought several civil wars to break away from various tribal ideologies, including not just monarchism and imperialism but also Nazism (racial tribalism), Communism (economic tribalism), and fascism (national tribalism).
He is so set against the idea of a "tribe" that he connects nationalism with fascism and he sees the whole arc of Western progress as a war against tribalism.
Should we really be surprised, then, if right-liberals haven't stepped forward in defence of ordinary national and ethnic traditions? How could they possibly do this, if they have such a negative way of understanding these traditions?
In fits and starts, we’ve moved toward ever greater voluntarism, which is a fancy way of saying we’ve moved toward greater individual liberty. According to the American creed, no one, and no thing, is the boss of me unless I agree to it. To a certain extent, that’s even true — at least in theory — about the government, which is a representative institution created solely by and for the people, who are sovereign.
In this he is deeply mistaken. Goldberg's voluntarism does not make me free. If predetermined qualities are ruled out, that means that I cannot be free as a man, nor as a member of a family, nor as a member of an ethny, nor as a member of a nation. I cannot be free in ways that matter. I cannot be free in ways that constitute who I am. And this makes me significantly unfree.
Not to worry, argues Goldberg. In a right-liberal society there are still voluntary associations to belong to:
Bowling leagues, football franchises, high-school rivalries, motorcycle clubs, Goth clubs: You name it, these free associations — what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons” — satisfy our innate desire to belong to “something larger than ourselves,” as so many politicians like to say.
Not sure Edmund Burke really had Goth clubs in mind when he wrote of little platoons. But I do agree with Goldberg that the disallowing of traditional forms of association in a liberal society has led to a greater emphasis on being a sports fan or part of a youth subculture. But it's an aspect of decline, not of progress. Being a Brony or a Juggalo is no substitute for the larger, traditional communal identities.
Goldberg makes one other interesting comment. He admits that right-liberals (whom he labels conservatives) and left-liberals (whom he labels liberals) are really part of the same family:
whatever our differences with American liberals may be, conservatives understand that our argument with them is still within the family. The fighting is intense, but we’re all trying to figure out what it means to live in this country bequeathed to us by the American Revolution and the Enlightenment.
He is being honest here. He recognises that left and right (i.e. the liberal left and right) share the same underlying commitments, regardless of how intense the debate between them might be. He would side with the left against a serious traditionalism.