“It is worth considering the meaning of patriotism because the question of who is – or is not – a patriot all too often poisons our political debates, in ways that divide us rather than bring us together.” -Barack Obama, June 30, 2008
Throughout the Bush years, particularly in the wake of Iraq's liberation, liberals from coast to coast grew increasingly paranoid about patriotism. Virtually anything conservatives said about anything could be twisted and perceived as a dig—subtle or overt—at any given liberal’s love of country. Here are some illustrative examples of this phenomenon, circa 2004:
Conservative A: "I support the troops."
Liberal A: "Dissent is patriotic, chicken hawk."
Conservative B: "God Bless America."
Liberal B: "How dare you suggest that I don't want God to bless America! For your information, I hope that he or she blesses America, and every other country for that matter."
Conservative C: "I'm flying American Airlines today."
Liberal C: "Stop questioning my patriotism!"
Suffice it to say, they seemed a tad insecure about the whole thing. Left-leaning pundits and talking heads continually insisted that Republicans, particularly those within the administration, reflexively tarred anyone who dared to deviate from the party line as a traitor. In most cases, these accusations were figments of the Left's collective imagination. Still, to liberals, it was very real and totally outrageous, so America was introduced to a new Golden Rule of politics: Questioning someone else's patriotism is strictly verboten in all circumstances.
A Congressman from Pennsylvania maliciously slanders US Marines by falsely accusing them of murder? Don't bring up the P-word. A former haughty-looking presidential candidate encourages young people to educate themselves, lest they get "stuck" in the military? He won three purple hearts. Bite your tongue. A certain Democratic leader in the Senate prematurely declares an active US military mission "lost" for partisan gain? He loves the troops! He has many friends who are troops!
The lesson, time and again, was that ascribing patriotism (or the lack thereof) based on someone's statements, positions, or actions was out of bounds. To use patriotism as a political badge of honor was an unforgivable—even un-American!—tactic of the warmongering, bloodthirsty Bush/Cheney death machine. In fact, perhaps the purest form of true patriotism, we were told, was the act if dissenting from the creeping fascism promulgated by the neo-con cabal at the helm of Amerikkka's government.
To the astonishment of no one, these once-sacred rules are suddenly vanishing now that the Left has taken power. In fact, three of the most powerful Democrats in America have already gone to the patriotism well to help reinforce support for specific policy preferences.
While still a candidate, Vice President Joe Biden faced questions from an ABC News about his ticket's plan to hike taxes for "the rich." The term "rich," incidentally, was defined at the time as households making $250,000 or more—though that figure crept steadily downward as the campaign wore on. These rich Americans, Biden explained, could afford to fork over more of their earnings to Uncle Sam. In fact they should be proud to do so: "It's time to be patriotic," he explained, flashing his patented painted-on grin. (No movement from his forehead, of course). Got that, "rich" folks? You will surrender more of the money you work hard for, and you will do so merrily. Out of patriotism. Why, to even complain would be unacceptable—don't you love your country? Considering this new standard he constructed, one wonders what the Vice President thinks of, say, his administration's current Treasury Secretary. Never mind. One ought not get bogged down with such distractions.
This past week, the President of the United States abandoned his June 2008 position by eagerly expanding the politicization of patriotism. In his efforts to woo public support for his entirely pork-free, catastrophe-preventing, crucially-crucial stimulus package, Obama hoped to enlist some Republicans patsies to help create the mirage of bipartisanship. He succeeded, winning over three whole Republicans out of the 219 in Congress. For those keeping score at home, that's a .014 batting average for the post-partisan healer. According to the New York Times, after the northeastern trio knuckled under, the president called each of them to "applaud them for their patriotism." What a thrill it must have been. After all, it's not every day that one gets the opportunity to condemn future generations to mind-bending piles of debt, all in the name of promoting a non-stimulatory "stimulus" plan that rewards Lefty interest groups and furthers the sweeping policy goals of the party that—technically—represents your opposition.
When the final deal was struck a few days later, Harry Reid echoed the president's kudos, albeit with his renowned cloying charmlessness: "I’m really at a lack of words how to express my admiration and respect for the love of our country, the patriotism, and the courage of three brave senators," Reid said, "Specter from Pennsylvania, Snowe and Collins from Maine. I don't think I need to say more than that." No, he needn't. There's a new patriotism in town. This time around, 98 percent of Congressional Republicans failed to reach the patriotic plateau. Not to worry, though. They'll have three years and 42 more weeks, at least, to redeem themselves and display their genuine love for America by supporting the president and whatever emergency/apocalypse-averting policies he may have in store.
God Bless Omerica.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography