Patriotism? The EIGHTH Recycling of July 4th, With A Twist

Starting on July 4, 2002, and then six times over the years on subsequent July 4ths, I posted a copy of a short piece I’d published in The Nation as part of a collection of pieces on patriotism. (Yes, that Nation, with which, as explained in the posts, I had an association in a former life.)

The last recycling appears below. The “Twist” referred to in my title is a disturbing survey just released by Gallup showing a precipitous drop — the lowest ever recorded — in the numbers of people who state they are proud to be Americans. This decline in patriotism, however, is not uniform. “Young adults, college graduates, nonwhites and women — all Democratic-leaning groups — are below the national average in terms of being extremely proud to be Americans,” Gallup reported.

Indeed, the partisan differences are quite striking.

32% of Democrats — down from 43% in 2017 and 56% in 2013 — are extremely proud. The decline preceded the election of Donald Trump but has accelerated in the past year. Less than half of independents, 42%, are also extremely proud. That is down slightly from 48% a year ago, and 50% in 2013. As has typically been the case, Republicans are more inclined to say they are extremely proud to be Americans than are Democrats and independents. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are extremely proud, which is numerically the highest over the last five years.

With the large decline among Democrats, the Republican-Democratic gap in extreme pride has grown from 15 percentage points in 2013 to 42 points today.

Political liberals are even less likely than Democrats to say they are extremely proud — just 23% do so, compared with 46% of moderates and 65% of conservatives. Extreme pride among liberals has dropped nine points in the past year and 28 points since 2013.

Another striking finding is that currently non-college graduates (52%) are far more likely than college graduates (39%) to say they are extremely proud to be American. This leads one to wonder what those graduates learned, or didn’t learn, in college.


The James G. Martin center describes a new report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni that may go a long way toward explaining what today’s college students have not learned.

Surveying over 1,000 liberal arts colleges, ACTA found that only 18 percent require an American history course for graduation. Almost 40 percent of college graduates didn’t know that Congress holds the power to declare war. And almost 60 percent couldn’t give one method for ratifying a constitutional amendment. “Instead of demanding content-based coursework, our institutions have, in too many places, supplanted the rigorous study of history and government—the building blocks of civic engagement—with community-service activities,” the report noted. Volunteering near campus may be good for some things, but it’s a bad substitute for learning.

Read the whole Martin Center article, which includes much more than just this one ACTA report.

Finally, enough Twist. Below, my now 8th recycled iteration of July 4 comments on patriotism:

Four years ago I posted the following recycled July 4th piece, linking earlier iterations. Sadly, it still seems relevant, and so here it is again.

Here’s my July 4 post from a year ago, which seem worth posting again (and again … and again):

Here’s how I began a July 4th post two years ago:

On three separate occasions over the blog years — 20022006, and 2008 — I recycled a short piece I wrote for a special July 4th issue of The Nation . As I explained in the first of those posts, I was “in sympathetic and close association with The Nation for a number of years, even working there in a couple of different capacities for a while.”

The remainder of that first post follows, making this the fourth recycling of that July 4th piece. Sadly, it’s still relevant.

Since those comments are still relevant, the remainder of that first post follows … for the fifth time:

I continued to publish there a bit after I left, but with decreasing frequency as my views and the magazine’s began to diverge even more. On one occasion the editor, Victor Navasky … , rejected something I had submitted as too far beyond the pale, but, perhaps for old times’s sake or maybe simply a commendable bid for a bit of diversity, he asked me contribute to a special July 4 issue on “Patriotism” that, as it turned out, contained a large number of short statements by various writers in The Nation’s orbit.

I would say, given the company I was it, my piece was way out in right field. But, given that company, it was so far out that it’s a mistake to regard me as having any company there at all. I can’t link it because that was back in the days before the Internet, even before computers. You can find it in Nexis or the library in the July 15, 1991, issue, but you needn’t. I still like it, and so I’m recycling, I mean reprinting, it in its entirety here:

FOR TOO LONG THE LEFT HAS TOO EASILY REGARDED patriotism as the first refuge of scoundrels. Perhaps the main source of this longstanding discomfort with patriotic sentiment is that patriotism celebrates, at least in theory, the national community as a whole while the left, especially in theory, is oppositional, outside, dissenting. Traditionally class based, with workers viewed as the engine driving society to a better future, the left is now largely a collection of racial, ethnic and gender interests plus some academic defenders of multiculturalism–progressives all, but with no agent of progress and hence no real reason to believe in progress, in sight or in mind.

With little to unite it except opposition to the dominant culture, the left today has lost both the desire and the ability to lay claim to any significant portion of the landscape of American values. Equal opportunity? It has a disparate impact. Free speech? It protects racist and sexist epithets. Self-determination? A principle useful only for bashing the Russians or protecting oil sheiks. This is overstated, to be sure, but not by much. From what precinct of the left today could an authentic voice claim something like “This land is your land, this land is my land . . .”? Patriotism is an expression of solidarity, a principle long favored on the left, but the term itself reveals our predicament. Solidarity of whom? With whom? For what? It is a far but revealing cry from “Solidarity Forever” to “Solidarity in Support of Diversity,” a banner displayed during the recent controversy over affirmative action at Georgetown Law School.

That’s a hard flag to rally around.

Say What?