Sunday, March 5, 2023

No, Democrats don't have a patriotism problem

Ruy Teixeira - one of the white pundits Ron Brownstein labelled a "neo-New Democrat - has developed a "three-point plan to fix the Democrats and their coalition." Here's how he defines the problem:

The Democratic Party may be the party of blue America, especially deep blue metro America, but its bid to be the party of the ordinary American, the common man and woman, is falling short.

There is a simple—and painful—reason for this. The Democrats really are no longer the party of the common man and woman. The priorities and values that dominate the party today are instead those of educated, liberal America which only partially overlap—and sometimes not at all—with those of ordinary Americans.

Do you see what he did there? Those who live in "deep blue metro America" aren't "ordinary Americans." Neither are "educated liberal Americans." That kind of split is reminiscent of where this whole MAGA movement started - with Sarah Palin in 2008. For example: here's what she said at a fundraiser in Greensboro, North Carolina:

We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.

So it should come as no surprise that one of Teixeira's three points is that Democrats have a patriotism problem. 

It’s kind of hard to strike up the band on patriotism when you’ve been endorsing the view that America was born in slavery, marinated in racism and remains a white supremacist society, shot through with multiple, intersecting levels of injustice that make everybody either oppressed or oppressor on a daily basis.

That is nothing more than a repetition of the lie Republicans tell about Democrats. It is a fact that America was born in slavery and that systemic racism remains alive and well. But that sits alongside the fact that, for hundreds of years, those who were oppressed have fought valiantly and often risked their lives for this vision of America.

I don't know about you, but THAT'S what I call patriotic. 

I was thinking about all of this as President Biden travels to Selma today to commemorate the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. It was eight years ago that then-President Obama gave his most important speech at the 50th anniversary. It is helpful to remember the context.

Early that year, Rudy Giuliani had set off a firestorm by suggesting that Obama didn’t love America...It became one of those stories that not only swirled around right wing media, but migrated into mainstream outlets as well. The patriotism of this country’s first African-American president was under assault.

In his speech Obama got to the root of patriotism, going beyond the sentimentality of flag-waving and the divisiveness of referring to "real Americans."

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?...

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. That’s America...

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people... 
Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person. Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” “We The People.” “We Shall Overcome.” “Yes We Can.” That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone.

During my life there have been many moments when I didn't feel patriotic. But when I reflect on Obama's words, I realize that those were times when the need to "speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo" was most important. So like any other form of love, patriotism is more than a requires having a vision and working on making that a reality. That's what Obama referred to as the "imperative of citizenship." 

Pundits like Teixeira who regurgitate right wing talking points about patriotism can simply have a seat and maybe read a book or two about some of our real patriotic heroes - like Democrat John Lewis.


  1. All I can say is thank you. When Langston Hughes wrote "I, too, sing America," it was not just an accusation. Now, I'm not saying that some rhetoric on the left may suggest otherwise. Jamelle Bouie in Sunday's NY Times explicitly rejects the idea of unfulfilled ideals, although then, unfortunately, he is not willing to recall a divided America with many heroes to remember, just like today in a polarized country. There are claims in the 1619 Project that America was itself founded to protect slavery, leaving black people to fight for themselves or to look for hope to England's move toward abolition. (England's own story is more complicated than some remember, too. I just reread Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, in which a leading character has a lot invested in slavery in Antigua, and in which readers are free to discuss where things stand.) But there is no elected official or candidate I can name.that states such views.

    And of course this is entirely on a par with GOP lies about the economic policy of the Democrats, again supposedly helping the liberal elite at the expense of real Americans, which the GOP supposedly supports by, well, nothing.

  2. did you see the ditzes in TN wanting to rename John Lewis Way. two "rill Americans".


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