We're the Patriots
By Bernie Horn
June 29, 2008 - 8:47pm ET
Liberals, lefties, Democrats, environmentalists, unionists, consumer advocates—all progressive types—suffer from negative stereotypes. Some of these stereotypes were invented by the right-wing messaging machine, and others are self-inflicted. The stereotype that we progressives are unpatriotic is a product of both.
It is true that the right wing has been engaged in a concerted campaign to persuade voters that progressives “hate America.” As far back as the 1984 Republican National Convention, Americans were told that progressives are the “blame America first” crowd.
Here’s the right wing apostle of hate, Ann Coulter, on the show Hardball:
MIKE BARNICLE: But do you believe that—do you believe that liberals hate America and the flag? Do you believe that?
ANN COULTER: Yes. In fact, I have documented it and written columns about it. They hate it much more than I had imagined.
BARNICLE: What about Bob Kerrey? What about Bob Kerrey? He’s a liberal. Does he hate the flag? Does he hate the flag?
COULTER: The anecdotal evidence is just, is just preposterous in this regard. I have footnotes. I do back this up. I have quotes in the book.
More recently, conservatives tried to smear Barack Obama on the grounds that he attended a “hate America sermon” preached by Reverend Jeremiah Wright. You can bet that the right wing will wave their “Democrats are unpatriotic” banner this fall—because they’ve got little else to say.
It should be easy to rebut this attack. The problem is, we progressives often lean into the punch.
We do hate injustice in America. We are eager to make our country better, and fast. Sometimes undecided voters hear our frustration and take it to mean that we don’t love America. And it is awfully hard to persuade those Americans to join us if they don’t think that we’re on their side.
So let’s all understand: By wanting to fix our nation’s problems, we show that we love America. There’s nothing more patriotic than standing up for our democracy. There’s nothing more patriotic than defending our Constitution.
- When we oppose warrantless wiretapping and domestic spying because they violate our Constitution, that’s patriotic.
- When we support unions because they strengthen the American economy, that’s patriotic.
- When we work to provide health care for all, because that makes Americans more secure, that’s patriotic.
- When we seek to save the lives of our soldiers by bringing them home from a reckless, unnecessary war, that’s patriotic.
- When we fight to turn our nation into a true land of opportunity and struggle to make the American Dream a reality for millions of Americans, that’s patriotic
So this Fourth of July, hold your head up. It’s a celebration of revolutionaries who loved America but hated the injustices in their society and government. It’s a celebration of political ideals—“that all men are created equal” and that we have “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those are progressive ideals.
Let’s make it clear to all Americans that we progressives are the partisans for equality and justice; we are the ones trying to lead our country closer to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. We’re the patriots.
(For more about how to communicate the patriotism of progressives, see the author’s recent book Framing the Future.)
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future