The United States of America is, among many other things, a nation, and the Left has long made clear its contempt for nationalism, patriotism, and other relics of what it considers to be humanity’s benighted “tribal” past. It is partly for this broad ideological reason that many liberals reject the symbols of America – the Stars and Stripes, the pledge of allegiance, the Constitution, or a statue of George Washington, for instance.
Nationalism is not the only reason, however. Leftists also believe that America is not merely a nation, but a badnation – a nation defined by oppression, which liberals see everywhere. It is telling that, as racism and sexism have ebbed in this country, by any objective measure, the Left nonetheless perceives an increasein prejudice and discrimination. No wonder, then, that many liberals feel justified in rejecting the most popular symbols of America. They have concluded that ours is a country beyond redemption. The election of Donald Trump as president confirms them in this belief.
The result has been a cratering of liberal patriotism: the gap between the percentage of Republicans and Democrats who are “extremely proud” to be Americans has ballooned to 42 points (74% compared to 32%) in 2018. Just 23% of self-described liberals are “extremely proud” of this country. (Incidentally, even during the Obama years, conservatives and Republicans were more patriotic than liberals and Democrats.)
Consider the anecdotal evidence as well: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shamelessly declared recently that America “was never that great”! A government-funded charter school in Atlanta abandoned the pledge of allegiance in deference to the negative “emotions” it evokes in students and parents. A local elected official in Connecticut has begun to kneel during the pledge of allegiance, in imitation of the protests that recently swept through the world of professional sports. This month we’ve witnessed a renewal of those protests by NFL players, who seem indifferent to the lasting damage they are inflicting on “America’s game”. Meanwhile, churches, municipal parks, schools, and universities are reconsidering their public memorials not only to Confederate heroes, but to Founding Fathers like Washington and Jefferson. The New York Timespublished an article recently claiming that the U.S. Constitution is an “outdated relic” and that “the subversion of democracy was the explicit intent of the Constitution’s framers.” The American flag was also desecrated at a demonstration in support of firebrand Congresswoman and Trump-hater Maxine Waters. It seems as though the much-reviled “War on Christmas” is being replaced by a “War on America”!
One of the most telling pieces of evidence that anti-American sentiment is viewed as legitimate on the Left is the oft-repeated threat by liberal celebrities, and even ordinary Democrats, prior to November 2016 that they would leave the U.S. if it elected Donald Trump as president. Virtually none of them were foolish enough to follow through, of course, but the mere fact that they would give voice to such ideas is a testament to their lack of faith in American democracy, the American people, and the American spirit. Quite a few leftists are more loyal and devoted to their cherished ideals of political correctness and creeping socialism than they are to the United States of America as a nation and as a people. That is a sad thing to have to say about one’s fellow countrymen, but it is inescapably true.
The last time that the symbols and basic institutions of America were under such sustained assault was during the Johnson and Nixon years, when the U.S. public was sharply divided by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era. The Left succeeded in ushering President Nixon out of office, yes, but it didn’t succeed in pulling the wool over the American people’s eyes.
Americans saw every night on their television screens confirmation of the extremism, spitefulness, and anti-American apostasy of left-wing activists. In those days, as is the case now, liberal rage boiled over and produced criminality and violence, usually on a small scale, but sometimes in the form of mass protests, riots, and terrorism.
The result was predictable: the American people recoiled. They increasingly turned to the right, to the voices of patriotism and “law and order”, and to the Republican Party, which flourished and achieved its greatest electoral successes since the 1920s in the ensuing decades. The ultimate product of the leftist descent into anti-Americanism and radicalism was therefore the election of President Ronald Reagan, a principled conservative, in 1980.
One has to wonder whether the American people’s response to the stridency, extremism, and disloyalty of the modern Left will be the same as it was in the 1970s and 80s. President Trump says that the 2018 midterm elections will bring a “red wave,” and Americans will definitively reject liberals’ hysterical Trump-hatred, their obsession with impeachment, their advocacy of open borders, their dalliance with socialism, their ill-considered embrace of identity politics and political correctness, and, perhaps most of all, their contempt for America itself.
The talking heads guffaw, but history suggests that Trump may be right.
Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears weekly on the Newsmaker program on WLEA 1480.