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Goldberg: Resentment behind waning patriotism of liberals

POSTED: July 4, 2014 12:30 a.m.

You wouldn’t think, five years into the Obama presidency, that so many liberal Americans wouldn’t like America.

A new Pew survey found 44 percent of Americans don’t often feel pride in being an American, and only 28 percent said America is the greatest country in the world. Respondents who “often feel proud to be American” were overwhelmingly conservative (from 72 percent to 81 percent depending on the kind of conservative). A majority (60 percent) of “solid liberals” said they don’t often feel proud to be an American.

The polling data only proves what has been obvious for a while.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis recently said, “If the Civil Rights Act was before the Congress today, it would not pass, it would probably never make it to the floor for a vote.”

Lewis is right. If it came before the Congress today, it wouldn’t pass. You know why? Because we passed it 50 years ago. If, somehow, we had Jim Crow today, the American people — and Congress — would vote to abolish it in a landslide.

In fairness, Lewis was primarily condemning congressional gridlock, not GOP racism.

Primarily.

A legitimate hero of the civil rights era, Lewis has adopted the liberal habit of suggesting political opponents have a burning desire to return to the era of Jim Crow.

Contrary to what you hear on MSNBC, Republicans don’t want to force Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Tim Scott or any other African-American to the back of the bus.

Lewis isn’t the only Democrat incapable of giving the American people some credit.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, Hillary Clinton insisted we are following in the footsteps of anti-democratic Middle Eastern theocracies. According to Clinton, the majority on the court were like Iranian mullahs, behaving “in ways that are disadvantageous to women but which prop up them because of their religion, their sect, their tribe, whatever.” The stupidity of this analysis is outdone only by the stunning ease with which Clinton offered it.

She’s not alone, of course. To listen to some responses to the decision, you’d think the government in Washington is the only thing thwarting the desire of millions of businessmen to drape female employees in burqas.

This glib anti-Americanism manifests itself most readily on issues of race and gender, but it hardly ends there. MSNBC host Chris Hayes celebrated soccer’s growing popularity in the U.S. because it strikes a blow against “anti-soccer trolls” who believe in American exceptionalism. “Part of embracing a truly worldwide competition,” Hayes cheered, “is accepting the fact the U.S. cannot simply assert its dominance. Turns out we have to play just like everybody else.”

It’s ironic. In 2009, conservatives (myself included) pounced when Barack Obama seemed to dismiss American exceptionalism as an empty platitude. “I believe in American exceptionalism,” Obama explained, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

By this standard, American exceptionalism isn’t exceptional, it’s a vague and meaningless form of national self-esteem, rather than a complex concept describing the uniqueness of the American founding.

In May, Obama took another stab, telling West Point graduates he believes in American exceptionalism “with every fiber of my being.” But he immediately qualified what he meant by insisting “What makes us exceptional is not flouting international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”

Translation: We prove we’re exceptional by playing just like everyone else — just like playing soccer!

Why liberals have become so comfortable running down America is no doubt complicated, but I think part of the answer is obvious. Liberals tend to equate patriotism with the government. Obama was supposed to usher in a new era of big government. He’s failed, though alas not entirely. But in the attempt he aroused a populist movement — the tea parties — full of people who wore traditional patriotism on their sleeves and tricorn hats. The forces of American exceptionalism proved formidable, taking advantage of our exceptional constitutional structure to thwart European social democracy.

And liberal resentment over that fact is palpable.

Jonah Goldberg is an editor at-large for National Review Online and Tribune Media.


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