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Democrats Should Reclaim Patriotism

Mona Charen on

In 1984, at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, a lifelong Democrat stood up to denounce her former party. Jeane Kirkpatrick, who had switched parties to serve as Reagan's U.N. ambassador, lambasted her former party for always "blaming America first."

Today, it is the Republican Party that -- despite its MAGA slogan -- is trafficking in dark, anti-American ideas and imagery. The party that claims to put "America first" is led by a man who describes the nation as "failing" or "corrupt" a hundred times for every one mention of an American virtue. Our cities, according to Trump, are crippled by "bloodshed, chaos and violent crime." Our courts are corrupt. Our press is the "enemy of the people." Immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our nation" while committing countless murders and rapes. Our military is "woke." Meanwhile, those who gave the last full measure of devotion are "suckers" and "losers." We are a "failing nation" whose free elections are actually rigged by a stealthy and unaccountable "deep state." Far from a global leader, America is a "laughing stock" around the world.

The Republican Party has traded patriotism and uplift for an apocalyptic cult. This presents Democrats with an opportunity -- if they can seize it.

Most people are patriots. In June of 2023, 67% of Americans said were extremely or very proud of their country. If you add those who say they are "moderately" proud to be American to those who are extremely or very proud, you arrive at 89% of the adult population.

For Democrats to scoop up the banner of patriotism will require rejecting the approach of progressives. I'm a devoted listener to NPR, and they do excellent work. But their progressive bias results in a seemingly endless litany of American sins and shortcomings past and present. Some self-criticism is a sign of maturity. Too much can be demoralizing.

Most Democrats are not progressives though, and they have a golden opportunity to uphold true patriotism in contrast to the nativist nationalism now proclaimed by the Republicans.

 

What is there to love about America?

Let's begin with the Declaration of Independence. Though written by a slave owner, its stirring words inspired not just colonists along the Atlantic coast of the new world, but all of humanity.

The Constitution enshrined a republican form of government, checks and balances, and rights like freedom of speech and worship, the right to trial by jury, and the right to be secure in your home from government intrusion that were practically unheard of in the 18th century and remain too rare today. And where those rights are honored, it is often due to the example and influence of the United States.

Seventy-four percent of Americans believe that, on the whole, America has been a force for good in the world. I'm with them.

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