There is clearly some overlap in the political positions taken by traditionalists and white nationalists. But one clear difference is that many white nationalists take as a starting point the principle that politics is an expression of racial self-interest.
There is, of course, some truth to this. Racial self-interest does sometimes lie behind the political positions that people take. And the aim of many white nationalists is the perfectly reasonable one of wanting white Americans to remain the historic majority and to avoid the negative consequences of falling into minority status.
The idea that politics is organised around racial self-interest does, however, have a more problematic side. It means, for instance, that politics will be seen less as a contest between political movements (say, traditionalism vs liberalism) and more as a contest between races or ethnies. So there is considerable emphasis amongst some white nationalists on the Jewish question - on the idea that the core battle line is one between white Americans and Jews.
It is undoubtedly true that Jews in America have a disproportionate influence in the media and that secular Jewish intellectuals are often committed to leftist causes that harm the white American majority. However, seeing politics as a racial or ethnic conflict has its limitations.
First, it often underplays the agency of the class of white intellectuals who are also committed to leftist causes. If politics is about racial self interest, then why aren't these white intellectuals promoting the interests of their own race? A WN might answer that they have fallen under the sway of Jewish influence, but this is of dubious historic accuracy, given that the WASP elite in the U.S. was committed to open borders for much of the 1800s or that serious traditionalist intellectuals like T.S. Eliot thought that English culture was hopelessly liberalised as long ago as the 1930s. You would have to argue that a tiny number of Jews had captured the minds of vast numbers of non-Jewish intellectuals for some hundreds of years. I know quite a number of white intellectuals and I don't believe that their problem is that they have been "captured" by a foreign influence - there are better explanations for why they are committed to a transgressive politics.
Second, although it is true that secular Jewish intellectuals often set themselves against the historic white majority, they are not alone in doing so. I have already mentioned our own white intellectual class, which has swung hard left for generations. But you could add to the rainbow coalition the women's movement, the LGBQT movement, the BLM, unmarried females, the greens, the trade unions and so on. So the dividing line is not just a racial or ethnic one, but also one organised around sex, sexuality and family status amongst others. (You could also add to all this the role of the big economic corporations and the managerial class.)
A third problem with organising politics solely around the idea of racial self-interest is that it hinders the establishment of political alliances. They may be a minority within their groups, but there do exist black conservatives and Jewish conservatives who do recognise the harm done by leftism, both to their own groups and to the larger society. The distrust of Jewish conservatives is especially marked amongst some WNs.
Also, if politics is thought to be organised around racial self-interest, then it opens the way for the idea that a future state should be organised around race rather than around the historic regions or nations or peoples. In other words, it can lead to a belief that the traditional ethnostate is too limited in scope, compared to a new pan-racial state. Richard Spencer seems to have gone down this path:
Then there is the issue that there are no moral limits to a politics based on racial self interest. In theory, if something is in the interests of your race it is morally justified. Nor is there a basis in principle for extending the goods you claim for your own race to other races. If there are moral limits they would have to come from elsewhere, for instance, from a religious tradition existing within the racial group or from the personal character of those upholding the focus on racial self-interest, but the principle itself does not set limits.
Finally, and most controversially, there is some potential overlap at the edges between white nationalism and national socialism. On the one hand, few WNs seem interested in ideas of racial supremacy or superiority, which sets them apart from the national socialist tradition. However, both movements do have a focus on the Jewish question and on organising politics around race. And there does exist a corner of the alt right where there is an interest in national socialism, though it is hard to tell how serious this is and it is sometimes described as "larping" (live action role playing), i.e. as more playing around with it rather than a serious commitment. Nonetheless, it is a pity to observe an interest in a failed politics from the past.
In trying to draw out the differences in the principles of white nationalism and traditionalism I have had to make a number of criticisms, so I'd like to restate more positively that there is much that we agree on, including a support for ethnonationalism rather than civic nationalism.
Which raises a question. If traditionalists do not start with the idea of politics as the expression of racial self-interest, on what grounds do we then support ethnic community?
The answer is that it is our understanding of the nature of man and the nature of the good that leads us to support a traditional ethnic nationalism.
We would argue that the ties of ethnic community form a deep part of human identity and provide a deep sense of belonging. That it connects us to generations past, present and future and also to the land and to the urban and rural landscape we inhabit. That it powerfully motivates our social commitments, including a willingness to commit to a stable family life.
We would also see these ethno-national traditions as having an inherent good in representing a unique expression of humanity. Solzhenitsyn put it this way:
In recent times it has been fashionable to talk of the levelling of nations, of the disappearance of different races in the melting-pot of contemporary civilization. I do not agree with this opinion, but its discussion remains another question. Here it is merely fitting to say that the disappearance of nations would have impoverished us no less than if all men had become alike, with one personality and one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities; the very least of them wears its own special colours and bears within itself a special facet of divine intention.
Individuals often have a sense of this transcendent good embedded within their ethno-national tradition and it can inspire a love of country, culture and people and a desire to serve the tradition by adding positively to it. It can also lend a certain kind of enchantment to life, as well as a "rootedness" - of having what the Germans call a "Heimat" - a place that is felt to be one's home.
It is not just traditionalists who have knowledge of this. Professor Robert Manne described himself as belonging to "a group that I would call the pro-Labor social justice liberal intelligentsia." He defended the existence of traditional Aboriginal communities in terms similar to Solzhenitsyn:
... if the traditional communities are indeed destroyed, one distinctive expression of human life - with its own forms of language, culture, spirituality and sensibility - will simply become extinct. Humanity is enriched and shaped by the diversity of its forms of life. It is vastly impoverished as this diversity declines. If contemporary Australians allow what remains of the traditional Aboriginal world to die, we will be haunted by the tragedy for generations.
It is thought permissible within the terms of left-liberal social justice to recognise this truth for Aborigines. But logically if it is true for them, it is true for us as well.