Donald Trump

Stop Telling Us How to Be Patriotic

New president, same kind of cult of personality.

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Politicians have no business directing or defining patriotism, especially when their rhetoric sounds like 1950s-era Soviet sloganeering.

It was creepy when former President Barack Obama declared his first Inauguration Day as "National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation" and called upon us to find "common purpose of remaking this nation for our new century." And it's creepy when President Donald Trump declares his Inauguration Day as "National Day of Patriotic Devotion," one in which "a new national pride stirs the American soul and inspires the American heart."

This kind of self-aggrandizement is what you see under cults of personality, not American republicanism. Far be it from me to lecture anyone on how to love their country, but if your devotion to America is contingent upon the party or the person in office, you're probably not doing it quite like the Founding Fathers envisioned. It's bad enough that these inaugurations are treated as coronations. It can't be patriotic to treat politicians like quasi-religious figures. Moreover, this kind of devotional ties patriotism—either implicitly or in some cases rather explicitly—to a preferred set of policy initiatives or a political office.

We just survived eight years of a messianic presidency with a finger-wagging, patriotism-appropriating administration lecturing us on how to be proper Americans. If you didn't support the administration's point of view, then-Vice President Joe Biden might accuse you of "betting against America."

"What we need as a nation," then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote to Congress in 2014, echoing the president, "is a new sens e of economic patriotism, where we all rise or fall together." Was Lew talking about our unalienable right of free expression? No, he was talking about punishing America-based companies that were trying to lower their tax burden, which happens to be one of the highest rates in the free world.

By the way, if we're going to play this game, avoiding excessive taxation is also one of the most American things we can do.

So it was creepy when Obama was trying to replace American idealism with progressivism and calling it "economic patriotism," and it's creepy when Trump does basically the same thing under the guise of economic nationalism.

Now, judging from the campaign rhetoric, failing to support tariffs or other counterproductive "buy American" economic policies will have you branded seditious over the next four years. Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who probably had something to do with the devotion executive order, has referred to himself as an "economic nationalist," a loaded term that means you only love your country if you support mercantilism.

Economic nationalists rely on a populism that lays blame on others—Mexico, China, whoever—for American problems. It's a philosophy, if we trust Bannon or Trump, that values power over most principles, including liberty. It's a philosophy that sounds like many things, none of them American patriotism.

The idea is amorphous, but patriotism, especially in this country, is driven by idealism rather than chauvinism, ethnicity or "power." As George Orwell famously noted, nationalism isn't the same as patriotism. In the American sense, patriotism is a fidelity to a place and the Constitution and is by nature "defensive, both militarily and culturally." Nationalism, on the other hand, "is inseparable from the desire for power." A devotional to our "new national pride" strongly hints at the latter.

You can hate your president and love your country. You can hope your president fails and still be patriotic. We don't always have a shared purpose. That's because presidents are not only commanders in chief but also politicians with agendas. And sometimes those agendas clash with your worldview. Let's not have devotionals venerating their ascendency every four years.

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  1. Didn’t I already see this damn thing?

  2. Things have changed. President worship is out. Dissent is patriotic again.

    1. The left is sure dusting off the ACLU, womxns groups, pro-abortion groups, etc.

      8 years sure does allow for a thick layer of dust.

      1. Don’t forget the anti-war groups. Also, massive spending is uncool again.

        1. And the homeless coalition.

          Really should have gone long on papier mache back in September.

    2. It makes thematic sense, though, that the presidency the left treated like the Second Coming is followed up by a presidency the left treats like the Antichrist.

  3. “President Donald Trump declares his Inauguration Day as “National Day of Patriotic Devotion,”

    Uhhh North Korea

    1. North Korea actually tweeted about this, I believe. They chided Trump for copycatting their founder Kim Il Sung.

  4. Steve Bannon is just trolling. He thinks he’s being funny but it will backfire. The problem is that he wants millenials to pay for his extravagant expenditures (e.g. the wall and not reduce any services), but he’s only going to piss them off.

    1. “The problem is that he wants millenials to pay for his extravagant expenditures (e.g. the wall and not reduce any services), but he’s only going to piss them off.”

      LOL, no they won’t even notice. The deficit went up by $6.5 billion every day for the last 8 years. Do you think anyone is really going to see the impact of a $15 billion wall?

      1. Don’t feed.

      2. Two things:

        1. 9.5*10^12/(8*365) = 3.25*10^9 or 3.25 billion per day.
        2. It was the national debt that rose by 3.25 billion per day, not the deficits, which are the net change in the debt.

        But your point that it is a big number and everyone ignored it is well taken.

    2. You always think you’re being funny, and you never are, Weigel. And nobody is a bigger expert on backfires than you are. every single one of your political predictions over the last year was complete and total shit and make you look like the fucking retard that you are.

    3. The problem is that he wants millennials to pay

      FTFY

  5. Sorry, but this a bad point for an article:

    “This kind of self-aggrandizement is what you see under cults of personality, not American republicanism. ”

    No, those are exactly the kind of self-aggrandizement we routinely see in American political leaders. What makes us an “American” republican is our ability and habit of then making fun of such behavior. And not being arrested and shot for that behavior.

    So, this article is exactly the kind of Americanism, I would expect, but stating that this kind of self-aggrandizement is unusual is not.

  6. if your devotion to America is contingent upon the party or the person in office, you’re probably not doing it quite like the Founding Fathers envisioned.

    Well said.

    1. Washington achieved the adoration of the American people by willingly giving up his power when he could have had it the rest of his life. He did this twice, first when he resigned command of the Continental Army and second when he set the two-term tradition.

      There’s simply no way in which a man of such quality would be compatible with what people expect of the modern presidency today. And it’s a damn disgrace.

      1. The American Cincinnatus. Washington is one of the few major figures from history who only grows more impressive as your learn more about him. What incredible fortune that he was there at that place and time.

        1. Basically, he was being constructively lazy. He didn’t want the jobs.

          1. This reminds me of the four types of workers:

            1) stupid and lazy
            2) smart and diligent
            3) smart and lazy
            4) stupid and diligent

            The stupid and lazy are good for menial tasks, but only respond to direct orders. The smart and diligent are good middle managers who dot every I and cross every t. The smart and lazy are like Washington – the great leaders, since they are always looking for ways to be more efficient.

            The stupid and diligent are just useless, and there is no end to the damage that they do. They are very common in government.

            1. I consider myself smart BUT lazy, not smart AND lazy. I think there’s a difference, but I’m too lazy to figure it out.

          2. theres always more money to made after being president than during, otherwise i think Obama would have tried to mandate a third term.

      2. Washington followed the example of Cincinnatus, one of many things about him I adore. And he did set a fine example for the rest of we veterans.

    2. “you’re probably not doing it quite like the Founding Fathers envisioned.”

      As the scope and extent of government grows this will ever be more true.

  7. “You can hope your president fails and still be patriotic.”

    You can hope he succeeds in doing what he promised in his oath of office: to faithfully execute his office and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Of course, that would mean violating many of his campaign promises.

  8. Why does David Harsanyi hate America? 🙁

    Trump’s mercantilism is easily the most disturbing thing he’s pursuing. Hope that shit goes nowhere in Congress. Go get em, Rand.

    1. My senator Jeff Flake went on a tweetstorm last night extolling the benefits of NAFTA both for the nation at large and the state of Arizona, which obviously benefits from Mexican trade. There’s probably enough bipartisan opposition to derail insane proposals like tariffs.

      1. You’d only need Flake, Paul, and one more person to have an anti-Trump Republican bloc that could check his legislative ambitions (not that he won’t just try to get away with using EOs for everything he can–thanks, Obama).

        So that’s something.

      2. I will believe it when I see it. Right now, the GOP seems to have all of their lips firmly glued to the president’s

  9. If you’re not jacking your hog to the seal of the president every morning then eff you, go back to Russia, you commie. And that goes double for women.

    1. “jacking your hog”

      Makin’ bacon?

  10. The problem here is that the “president as spiritual leader” role exists in response to market demand. It seems to be something that a lot of people want. This demand is objectively dumb, but we shouldn’t ignore that it exists.

    A president who says “you won’t hear from me much. I’m just going to sign documents and hold staff meetings” would be a better president, and certainly vastly preferable from a libertarian perspective. He’d never come close to getting elected though.

    1. Hence, no one bats an eye if your “greatest Presidents” list includes Woodrow Wilson (unapologetic racist, hypocrite, sent soldiers to die for pointless political reasons, imprisoned political opponents, and on, and on) but will look at you like you’re crazy if you name, say, Calvin Coolidge (mostly quietly administrated the federal government without embarking on any wild grand crusades to recreate America in his image).

      1. http://www.slate.com/articles/….._him_.html

        According to Slate, Coolidge Prosperity was merely the benefit from Wilson’s policies. Coolidge on the other hand basically caused the Great Depression.

      2. “Great presidents” (especially the 20th century ones) are great at fucking things up.

        1. Largely because they ignore Coolidge’s advice on “ten troubles.”

      3. Ask people what they want in a president and they will say “peace and prosperity” yet presidents who presided over both are invariably condemned as “do nothing” presidents. Harding and Coolidge had peace and a booming economy so they are reviled. Roosevelt’s policies prolonged and deepened the Great Depression and led us into the second most horrific war the US ever endured so he is the greatest president of all time except, of course, for Lincoln.

        Honest Abe gave us the worst slaughter of Americans in history, implemented conscription and commandeered the entire northern US economy. He imprisoned his enemies and shut down newspapers. Had he lived we likely would have seen mass deportations of former slaves to Africa since his writings and comments indicated that he doubted that blacks could ever become full members of American society.

        If Trump wants to be considered among America’s greatest presidents he will need a war that kills millions and leaves the US economy in shambles. Eight years of peace and prosperity will doom him to Grover Cleveland like obscurity, a fate worse than death for someone like Trump.

    2. Far better for me to ignore the worshipful; if I engaged with them things would get bloody.

    3. AFAICT, King Log is always better than King Stork.

  11. If we were doing things as the founding fathers intended, DC would be uninhabited for 6 months every year.

  12. 1) I don’t want to be patriotic. The various levels of government we endure are nothing to be celebrated, other than to say that they sometimes are less bad that other governments elsewhere.

    2) If I somehow wanted to be patriotic, the last people I’d want to be taking lessons on that from are statist fucks who got elected and promptly started violating their oaths of office and ignoring the limits on government in the founding document.

    1. I’m very patriotic. My patriotism is for my country and the constitution, not some scumbag politican.

  13. Apparently you have the First Amendment Right to burn a flag. But, you don’t have the right to start a fire without a permit in a public mall without a burn permit.

    http://www.press-citizen.com/story/ne…..e87279c7fa

  14. Patriotic? I feel like this guy. Literally.

    Tell you what, politicians and et al, when Americans stop killing themselves voluntarily and accidentally by overdosing on their self-medication just to get away from the bubbled-up motherfuckers blessed utopia, and so many of them that it drops the life expectancy for a population as big as ours, I’ll be patriotic again.

  15. “Patriotic Devotion” is at least as creepy as “Homeland Security”, but nowhere near as dangerous. Now if you could combine them both into some sort of “Volksland Uber Alles” slogan, you’d really be on to something.

    1. DHS is an entry level jobs program for the rest of the government.

  16. This kind of self-aggrandizement is what you see under cults of personality, not American republicanism

    We left the small-r republican virtues behind a generation or two ago. The cult of personality is utterly unsurprising, and a fairly minor issue, with the Imperial Presidency that we have devolved into.

    1. Back in the pre-Civil War days, random people could call on the president at the White House.

      1. If we restored DC to the malarial swamp it once was this practice could resume.

  17. Joe Biden might accuse you of “betting against America.”

    I never bet against America (except in the World Cup…), but I’ll always bet against Double-Barrel Joe.

    By the way, if we’re going to play this game, avoiding excessive taxation is also one of the most American things we can do.

    I have it on good authority that paying taxes is like the most patriotical thing you can do.

    In the American sense, patriotism is a fidelity to a place and the Constitution and is by nature “defensive, both militarily and culturally.”

    And here I was thinking that patriotism was eating apple pie while shooting guns while wearing and American flag as a cape.

  18. You anti-American heathens will never stop me from expressing my love of country in the way i know best

    Same goes for my wife

    1. I dunno that bristling bush strikes me as rather French.

      1. In 1976, it was very American too.

  19. You think Patriot Day is bad wait until he wants to name a month after himself.

      1. Well, orange IS a predominant color that month.

      2. More likely “Trumpanuary” since he has to be the first at everything.

  20. I really like the United States of America.

    1. Slow your fucking roll, fascist

  21. Stop telling us to be patriotic too.

  22. Can’t we just wear red, white and blue, like Captain America, or Kellyanne Conway?

  23. You know who’s not Patriotic*? Drew Carey’s kid, that’s who.

    *If you don’t spell it with a capital P, you’re probably a dirty Ruskie,

  24. “What we need as a nation,” then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote to Congress in 2014, echoing the president, “is a new sense of economic patriotism, where we all rise or fall together.”

    I’m almost speechless at this statement. So, winners are obligated to share with losers? Does that mean that Jack would suggest that the green energy industry should share its profits if it ever starts to really succeed at the expense of fossil fuel industries? If democrats actually start to succeed with gun control, does the rest of the economy need to ensure that the gun industry rises with them?

  25. RE: Stop Telling Us How to Be Patriotic
    New president, same kind of cult of personality.

    Hey, don’t knock the cult of personality.
    If it worked in Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s PRC and Castro’s Cuba, it’ll work here.

  26. I could not agree more with this article. Patriotism is about the collective, over the individual. It blinds people to reality, and leads them to believe giving (many times their lives), is justified in the name of the State, even though most of the time it’s BS. It is a big part of the problem, and why we have many of the problems we have. Placing importance on the individual, benefits the collective.

  27. Patriotism – – comes before the fall. It says so right there in one of the holy books.

  28. They have the Freedom of Speech, you have the freedom to ignore it.,

  29. Republicans and democrats are converging on at a point, if you think of the range of political opinions as a circle, just about 180 degrees away from libertarianism. Libertarian moment indeed!

  30. What you survived is eight years of a President that, for some reason, was hell bent on advancing the Islamic State, PERIOD! Obamas refusal to act encouraged the proliferation of radical Islam, gave them a safe haven in which to assemble and grow, gave them access to college campuses where they called the shots claiming protection under Sharia law.

    These folks had the catalyst needed to flourish and build a foundation to destroy the U.S. Obama would not and could not intervene because he was a party to it.

    Well, now President Trump is taking care of business the right way.

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