Love of country must not depend on partisan politics.
As always on July 4, I’ve been thinking a lot about how truly lucky I am to have been born in the greatest country on Earth. I have a deep and abiding love for this place and cannot imagine it any other way. I have great admiration for and interest in other countries – I do write about foreign policy and European history, after all – but nothing compares to America in my heart. Patriotism matters to me and always will. But this seems not to be the case among a growing proportion of our citizenry.
Increasing partisan rancor over the past 15 years has made basic love of country a tricky thing, on both sides of the political divide. Since 2013, polling on patriotism has shown a consistently downward trajectory, with the percentage of respondents saying that they are “extremely” or “very” proud of being American decreasing by 20 points over the decade. The meager 38% of people expressing extreme pride is the lowest in Gallup’s polling history by four points. The partisan split on patriotic feeling – polling shows that Republicans are, on average, prouder of being American than are Democrats – remains, but both sets of voters have seen their patriotism decline markedly. (Similar trends have held true for independents.) These shifts in patriotic feeling tend to correlate with the party in power in Washington. Democrats saw their extreme pride rise under Obama to a peak of 56% in 2013, hit rock bottom under Trump at 22% in 2019, and increase mildly to 26% under Biden in 2022. Over the same period, Republican extreme pride stood at 78% in 2009 to start Obama’s term, dropped to a low of 68% at the end of his stint in office, shot up to 76% in 2019 under Trump, and totally collapsed under Biden to a trough of 58% in 2022. Note the vast differences in similar years, especially 2019 and 2022.
Why this stunning general decline in patriotism? It varies by partisan affiliation, but events and ideology have both played important roles.
Israel is celebrating 75 years of existence this week. Here’s a smattering of thoughts on this miracle nation’s fascinating history and culture.
The Jewish State turns 75 this week, and Israelis are celebrating their Independence Day, known in Israel as Yom Ha’atzma’ut. The date changes each year, as it is referenced by the Jewish calendar, but it falls from April 25 to 26 in 2023.
Israeli independence is dated from the declaration of the State by the nation’s first Prime Minister and the dominant figure in Israel’s early politics, David Ben-Gurion, only a few hours before the official end of British Mandate Palestine. The state was declared despite the desires of the British (one of the few times you’ll see me fault the British Empire is in its treatment of Israel). It was declared knowing it would trigger a massive, all-out, genocidal invasion of the country by its far larger and better-equipped Arab neighbors. It faced down that war of extermination, along with several others, coming out victorious each time. It has dealt with constant terrorism for nearly its entire history, often funded or promoted by various nations and international institutions – including the United States. And still it is here, thriving, in spite of the gale-force headwinds. The existence of such a state is a prophecy fulfilled – whether from the Bible or from Theodor Herzl. (My money is on the latter.)
Somehow Israel seems both older and younger than its seven and a half decades of national life; this is just one of the many paradoxes that makes Israel one of the most interesting countries on Earth.
Reports of the death of American Democracy have been greatly exaggerated.
A constant refrain for the past few years has been the so-called decline of American democracy. It is most prevalent on the political left, but it has been embraced by sections of the Trumpian right as well. In this telling, America either is no longer a legitimately democratic state due to non-existent election shenanigans, or it has lost that status due to political and legal decisions which run counter to the prevailing progressive narrative. None of that is true. American democracy has been alive and kicking, in one form or another, for nearly 250 years now. Our history is the story of an evolving republic gradually and incrementally progressing to a further embrace of our founding values. But those values – freedom of speech and of belief, participatory politics, and the innate and God-given equality of man – have remained unchanged and unchangeable since they were put down in ink 246 years ago. Don’t take my word for it, look at what one of our greatest foreign allies has to say:
ex-cep-tion-al (adjective): unusual; not typical; extraordinary; unique; special
American exceptionalism is an oft-used phrase that is generally taken as a bit of patriotic pablum that few people actually earnestly believe in the modern day. The concept’s critics suggest that it is inaccurate and jingoistic, and claim that ‘American exceptionalism’ ignores all of the country’s many flaws, past and present. Some who embrace it are naive in their understanding of America as purely good and entirely perfect, and use ‘American exceptionalism’ as a club with which to beat political opponents. Both are completely wrong. American exceptionalism is real, it matters, and it’s why I could never see myself living anywhere else.
Two-hundred and forty-four years ago today, fifty-six brave men took their lives in their own hands and signed their names to a document almost unprecedented in human history. The Declaration of Independence is a profound statement of Enlightenment principles and has guided the progress and development of human rights and liberal constitutionalism in this nation and across the world. Our nation, and the men who founded it, did not always live up to the lofty principles espoused in our founding documents; chattel slavery, forcible relocation of Native American tribes, Jim Crow, and Japanese internment all are examples of horrendous episodes in which we fell short of those ideals. But to abrogate them entirely because of past hypocrisy or failure is a fool’s errand. In 2020 America (despite all of its flaws), we can say what we wish without fear of government action, worship (or not worship) however we please, advocate for our favored policies without concern for our liberty, and defend ourselves to the fullest extent possible. No matter who resides in the White House, who controls the Congress, or who sits on the Supreme Court, our natural rights remain protected from the avarice or evil of those who would wish to deny us them. In no other society on earth does the individual have more control over his own choices in life, personally, politically, and professionally. We live in the most prosperous, liberal, diverse society that has ever existed in human history; it would do us well to remember that and to see ourselves as lottery winners in a broader world full of tyranny, slavery, and oppression. The United States of America has been a shining city on a hill not only because we have grand ideals of freedom and liberty, but because we have worked incredibly hard over myriad generations to fully embrace and fulfill the promises of the founding. Let us as Americans continue that worthy mission and move our great nation even closer to the full flowering of liberty. Happy Independence Day.