There's a pro-American majority out there with no one to represent them
This is FANTASTIC and articulates way better that I can, what I feel!
As a first generation immigrant, and a politically involved citizen, I went from unabashedly believing in "American Exceptionalism" (heck I worked hard to get here!) and that we were truly a "shining city on the hill" to a more "jaded" but realistic view that "America is the worst country in the whole world, except for all others".
As a "social progressive", the current "public face of the Democratic party" which absolutely belittles the US in every way with little understanding of the "state of the rest of the world" annoys me to no end.
Does systemic racism exist? Absolutely! Does any country debate it with such public fervor? No! Having traveled the world, many times over, my personal experience is that others places are actually more stratified and racist. Harping on the former (existence of systemic racism in the US) without acknowledging the latter is specious
Police! Can the US police do better? Absolutely Does the hair stand up on the back of my neck each time I have to interact with the police no matter in how innocuous a circumstance? Absolutely. And yet, should the occasion arise, I would rather trust my fate to the US justice than in almost any other country.
The list can go on and on!
What I am hopeful of is that the larger, moderate center of the Democratic party is pushing back against the excesses of "The Squad" wing of the party and they will correct sooner.
What's the proof? Look at the recent city election results in Seattle, about as progressive as you can get. The darling of "The Squad" wing, Lorena Gonzales got crushed (65-35) buy the much more moderate Bruce Harrell. The fact that Gonzales's attempt to paint, Bruce Harrell, a mixed race (Japanese mother, African-American father, I believe) as "Trumpist" back fired.
Additionally, for city DA, Seattle elected a nominal Republican, albeit one who was a moderate Democrat till she got "chased out" in 2020. The city resoundingly rejected the Seattle version of Chesa Boudin, the SF DA facing recall.
It's mind-blowing to me that I don't see more left wing flag waving. It's as close to a true, "one simple trick" as you can get in politics.
And I do appreciate your flag waving moments Noah. After all, America's pretty great, look at all the people who want to join!
I really liked this post - thank you, Noah. I haven't read the Perlstein book, but it seems to me that while *patriotism* recovered quickly, faith in government *institutions* did not. Vietnam started a tumbling of American faith in government that has never really stopped. In the United States, more so than maybe any other country, there is a separation between the *people*, who are most closely identified with the "country", and the *government*, which may well betray the people and therefore the country. In any case the government is certainly not conceived of as being equivalent to the country. This separation of government and people is what Bruce Ackerman calls "dualism" and it's arguably an American invention. I think the reason that what you call right-wing "anti-Americanism" usually isn't identified as being actually anti-American is that it often attacks institutions - especially governmental institutions - in the name of the American people and the American true spirit (often in the name of founding ideals or some originalist conception of the Constitution - which remember was ratified by the people, not the government), and so is legibly patriotic to many Americans even as it is antagonistic to American institutions. But you will be hard pressed to find those right-wingers saying that the soul or the core of America is rotten or evil, whereas this is a common theme on the left, even as liberals are mostly quite enthusiastic about American institutions. Indeed, the liberal enthusiasm for institutions and their too-frequent, though sometimes veiled, disdain for the American "people" or "country" fuels the dualist patriotic narrative on the right. So I think if liberals want to attack the right as being un-patriotic, they will fail if the attack comes as a defense of institutions. I think the more promising path to success is the other one you suggest, as a defense of foundational and enduring American ideas of openness and liberty.
This is such a wide open net for Democrats that it should be their #1 priority to quash the cultural influence of the anti-patriotic left.
Progressives are beginning to push back on race-baiters like NHJ. That's good. But I don't think we'll see a truly patriotic left until they discipline their unproductive elements. Among those are "thought leaders" who try to make everything about race and constantly bemoan how there isn't enough racial patronage, such as Serwer, Blow and Bouie.
It's truly cringe inducing how the far left shits on patriotism. As much as they may hate it's cousin, ultranationalism, it's still true that most people don't want to wake up thinking they live in a dumpster. Tossing red meat patriotism is some of the lowest cost pandering thay Dems can do, and it's high time that they disciplined those opposed.
I can never tell what will speak to American voters but this argument obviously speaks to me (Noah and I are the same age and in the same cadre in many ways so that's not surprising).
I've always liked that Clinton quote.
Excellent article and agreed. Too bad its so asymmetric on left/right, though as lefties always a bit crazy, but not really imperil things too badly (assuming folks like Bernie not get elected, and even then ...) but crazy righties are truly dangerous and will destroy the world if given the chance.
Absolutely. One place I see this is that among Western countries the U.S. has relatively very few of its citizens living permanently abroad. Americans, by and large *like* living here.
Bravo! Great piece. I hope it gets read by both sides, and shared and shared.
I'm not sure I know exactly how patriotism is supposed to manifest because it always seems forced, whether at football games or reciting it before school. But in reading this over, I do think Beto O'Rourke's senate campaign had that sentiment. Maybe not outright Patriotism(TM) (flag waving, chest beating, etc) but infectious positivity. Sure, he lost, but arguably did way better than he should have done. His presidential race was silly, and I guess we'll see what happens in his gubernatorial run.
Excellent piece Noah. Not dissimilar to the arguments we've been making at The Liberal Patriot! https://theliberalpatriot.substack.com/
I spent this afternoon listening to the defense of questions on an assessment, added for the sake of "equity". Their inclusion is not supported by data. I was told that "too many" whites scored positively on some questions - but when rated against what metric? They couldn't say. What data was the question trying to surface? They weren't sure. Was it successful in doing so? They didn't know. But they knew it -seemed- more equitable.
In fact the assessment would seem to center a white, suburban, protestant, well-off reality. It seemed to make unfounded assumptions about people of color. It seemed to minimize the gay experience, and exclude trans folk entirely. I say "seem" because we cannot know for sure. There is no data. And it can't be defended with data, either.
But the assessment didn't arise in a vacuum. A narrative was constructed around equity, and this was the response to it. It is not concerned with truth. It is not even altogether concerned with fairness. It is instead concerned with righting perceived wrongs, data be damned, and any questions raised are treated as hostile, and as if any question mark might as well be replaced by a swastika.
But the outcomes of this assessment will have very real health outcomes, and will very likely drive disparities.
The tool itself lives in the same realm as the topics (and warnings) of Trepagnier's "Silent Racism: How Well-Meaning White People Perpetuate the Racial Divide". Or Bonilla-Silva's "Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America". It is well-meaning, yes, but misguided. It is "equity-washing" the issue - not doing the very real work of addressing it, but slapping a label on assumptions, and patting themselves on the back over it.
Separately, I have long known - been friends with, even - people for whom patriotism is terminally uncool. In the weeks after 9/11, when flags hung from windows and balconies, they cringed. When Mary Beard suggested the US "had it coming" (she's walked that back, since), they agreed. To them there is no difference between patriotism and nationalism.
They think America should be removed from the world stage, with no thought as to what would realistically replace it. They see problems related to, and amplified by, power as intrinsically American, nevermind that whether Pax Americana, Britannia, or Romana, there were seedy underbellies to be had. Life and history are too complex for there not to be.
At any rate.
These impulses seem to have collided, to find resonance with one another, each raising the other higher in the (especially online) culture, and driving them deeper into the societal bedrock. They are as post-truth as any Trumpian, many of them. And although it may seem they are unrepresentative, and a minority, that is its own problem.
It is many of our policy makers, politicians, activists, non profit board members, committee leaders, social service providers, who are drinking this particular flavor of kool-aid. They have an outsized impact upon disparities and outcomes. And they do it all from positions of insulated privilege.
Not only do they undermine the very causes that are important to them, but they drive voters in the other direction, while undoing - making terminally uncool - the societal glue which is so desperately needed to hold us all together.
If anyone is well-prepared to ride out the coming storm, it is them. The privileged them. And equity be damned.
The right isn't against diversity, they're against forced diversity. Forced diversity often comes at the expense of meritocracy, which is a core piece of the universal American vision- the idea that anyone can get some success if they work hard enough. Also, criticizing institutions in America for their political leanings doesn't itself make one "anti-patriotic"
When I give presentations on Moral Foundation Theory, I talk about how we (all humans) have natural sense of belonging and community, but we each choose the group to which we feel we belong. Progressives tend to view themselves as "global citizens" while others have a greater sense of belonging to the actual place that they live in. But I believe the real issue is that we take so many things for granted. In the discussion guide to my book (Persuade, Don't Preach: Restoring Civility Across the Political Divide) I give away free, I ask people to consider what the world they live in would look like if the country they live in wasn't well protected. If anyone wants one, email me at email@example.com
It feels like a lot of the weirdness on the left side of this divide comes from the idea that teaching people about historical injustice isn't just valuable for it's own sake (in the same way that teaching people about Ancient Rome might be), but can serve as a mechanism to get people to actively want to rectify that injustice.
The things is, I don't see a lot of evidence that it's a particularly good tool to do that? At most, it seems to go the other way around -- people already concerned about marginalized groups start looking into their history to give it more context.
And that would seem to undercut the idea that there's a huge moral imperative to talk about America's dark past all the time.
Do you really think there is a patriotic silent majority that isn't already polarized? That is, maybe the majority of Americans do love America, but aren't up for grabs. Some people love the idea/history of America but think Democrats, the squad, communists, etc. are trying to destroy it or have basically already done so. Some people dislike the idea/history of America and are trying to make it into something new that they can support. Democrats can't just start saying "America is great, down with CRT!" and get support from people who think Democrats are destroying the country. The disagreement over patriotism, and over what America actually represents, is so much wider than that.
Also, I feel like liberal anti-Americanism was going strong in the 00s, not just the 2010s. As a Republican-turned-Democrat, it's one thing I've never become accustomed to.