FDR used to call the contingent of isolationists who were strongly opposed to war with Germany “Shrimps” because they had a spinal cord but no brain. At the time, America had its share of Hitler admirers: Lindbergh, and Ford just a few notables. The country was lining up with conservatives very much against the war and liberals for it. Roosevelt was certain that if we did not attend the war, the war would come to us. This was the last time in American history that liberals got to play the patriot card. For World War II, liberals were the patriots and conservatives labeled as fascists and worse. Most, of course, were simply isolationists who believed that Europe could solve its own problem, but that didn’t stop the left from playing the patriot card and eventually joining the war.
From the end of the war until now, conservatives have claimed that patriot title. Immediately after the war, the U.S. began to see its former ally The Soviet Union with different eyes. It was impossible to ignore the atrocities coming from Stalin’s government, and as America witnessed the violent, heartless logical extreme end of the left wing thought, we endured the “red scare.” Anyone who had a progressive idea was suspected as traitors. The result was that conservatives grabbed hold of the patriot badge and refused to let go.
The rolls were pretty much cemented into place with Vietnam, with liberal “hippie” protesters aligned against the “serious” authoritarian advocates of a vigorous cold war. War protestors were labeled cowards, while war advocates were seen as patriots and troop supporters. In popular culture and mythology, so-called hippies spit on returning troops to protest war atrocities committed by American servicemen overseas. The right wing has never forgiven the left for mistreating American Soldiers, even as the mythology is far worse than the actual treatment.
But with the election of a Russia-loving buffoon who cannot name a constitutional amendment, a cabinet full of know-nothings whose (in some cases) stated aim is to dismantle government, and a foreign policy which seems to have more in common with a game of spin the bottle than any cohesive strategy, there has never been a better time for liberals to reclaim the Patriot card and all the inherent power that comes with it. Conservatives want to:
- Prevent the opposition from voting by gerrymandering and voter suppression laws
- Ignore evidence of foreign election interference
- Ignore the first amendment and suppress Muslims while elevating Christianity
- Openly rail against the judiciary
- Advocate violence against flag burners or protesters
- Attempt to pass laws making it OK to run over protesters who block traffic
In these and many other ways, the empowered right wing seeks to undermine or ignore the constitution of the United States. They must be called out, not just for being callous to suffering, not just for doing anything to cut taxes on the wealthy, and not just for failing to know or understand history. The must be called out for being un-American. They hate democracy, and therefore deep down hate America.
This represents the way forward. Liberals are the true lovers of democracy, and right now conservatives aren’t even pretending to like democracy. Trump embraces and praises strongmen dictators while insulting democracies around the world. Republicans try any mad scheme to limit who votes to their own supporters, from extreme gerrymandering, to voter ID to closed polls and closing other polling places early. Instead of crying that it’s unfair, which it certainly is, democrats need to call it what it is: A betrayal of the principles of this country. Never mind who talked to or took money from Russians; the real treason is the subversion of democracy itself.
Now, more than any time since WW2 have conservatives shown that they hate America and American values. They despise democracy when it doesn’t support their agenda; they work tirelessly to prevent those who disagree from voting. They threaten the courts, they bully the opposition, they risk American lives, and put American soldiers in harm’s way without a comprehensive strategy, or even a goal. They change the rules of government when they don’t get their way. Republican congress-people ignore their constituents, as we have seen in the recent healthcare vote in the house of representatives, and actively try and deny millions of Americans coverage. Americans! All of this is proof that conservatives hate America. America is, after all, its citizens. If you harm its citizens you are harming the country itself.
Consider the cry of Trump supporters who claim that they won so now the other side should shut up. Essentially, they want to opposition to stop participating in democracy itself. The very idea is a betrayal of democratic principles and ideals. The founding fathers of this country would go to war for less. To them, democracy meant nothing without an honorable opposition. They didn’t seek to squash dissent, they cherished it.
Surveys show over and over again, that progressives are better informed, more educated, and more knowledgeable in history, civics, the arts, and of course, science. We need to remember and reclaim that the founders of this country were supremely educated! They were “Elites” in every way. John Adams would sneer in disdain at any politician who bragged that they did not read. In fact, he would say that educating yourself and improving yourself daily, both in knowledge, logic, and morals is every person’s obligation to society.
If liberals truly want to resist this wannabe dictator and his cadre of treasonous slime, they need to take back the title “Patriot” and talk forcefully, confidently, passionately, about what America stands for as shown so well in the Constitution, and in the papers of the founding fathers. Liberals are the last hope for democracy and the only true patriots.
Shout it from the mountains.