Friday, February 28, 2020

The Democratic Party's Patriotism Deficit

Analyzing the Bernie Sanders candidacy, Joseph Sternberg offers a comparison between Sanders and Britain’s biggest loser: Jeremy Corbyn.

He explains that however much the British people rejected Corbyn’s socialism and his bigotry, the more important point was that they saw Corbyn as less than patriotic. Corbyn lost because he was suffering a patriotism deficit. Brexit, I daresay, had become a patriotism issue:

Sternberg writes:

What British voters really, really didn’t like about Mr. Corbyn wasn’t his economics. It was his culture.

To a remarkable extent the December election wasn’t a vote on Brexit or socialism or Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s economic “leveling up” of poorer regions. It was a referendum on Mr. Corbyn’s Britishness: Does he have enough of it, yea or nay?

Nay, said voters in Labour’s traditional heartlands. Michael Ashcroft, a former Conservative deputy chairman and veteran pollster, this month released a postmortem on Labour’s campaign. His surveys and focus groups with former Labour voters who defected in 2019 are devastating.

“He is not patriotic,” one participant said of Mr. Corbyn. “He meets all those terrorist parties. You want someone with good old values.” Quoth another: “He said he would never press the [nuclear] button. We need protection. He should have said he would, even if he didn’t mean it.”

Among those who voted Labour in 2017 but not in 2019, the most common reason for switching allegiance, cited by 53%, was that they didn’t want Mr. Corbyn to be prime minister. That sentiment outranked Brexit as a motivation even among voters who defected to Mr. Johnson’s get-Brexit-done Conservatives by 75% to 73% (respondents could choose more than one option). These voters decided the election.

Unpatriotic and indecent… these were the words British people used to describe Corbyn:

Mr. Corbyn had given them ample reason for doubt: There was his tendency to pal around with terrorists who killed Britons or their allies. His indulgence of anti-Semitism in Labour’s ranks, which offended working-class Britons’ sense of decency. His disdain for alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and military programs such as the Trident nuclear deterrent, which give the U.K. its esteemed place in the world.

Similarly, American citizens have ample reason to see Sen. Sanders as lacking patriotism. It’s not just the socialist yearnings, it’s also the willful and even mindless clinging to nations and movements that hate America:

Mr. Sanders faces the same problem. No one who shares Middle America’s core values of freedom, democracy and entrepreneurship would choose to honeymoon in the Soviet Union. No one who values American achievements in science, the arts or education would heap praise on Cuba’s schools.

Surely, patriotism involves borders. Sanders, like most Democratic candidates, wants to open America’s doors to anyone who wants to come in. He wants to offer all manner of social services to people who are here illegally. He does not distinguish between Americans and non-Americans. Without such a distinction, you do not have a country. Without a country, there is no patriotism.

Sternberg suggested that the other Democratic candidates have managed to express “an undertone of patriotism.”

Every other Democratic candidate on a debate stage with Mr. Sanders has been able to communicate even the most fantastical policy ideas with an undertone of patriotism. Mr. Sanders alone sounds as if he wants to replace America rather than transform it.

Here, I disagree. The other candidates all want an open borders policy. They believe that Trump’s wall is a racist obscenity.

Moreover, the Democratic Party is still the party of Barack Obama. And Obama was anything but patriotic. When you apologize for the country you are manifesting shame, not pride.

True enough, Obama was more subtle than Sanders, but Donald Trump was able to use patriotism as an issue in the 2016 election because the Obama presidency had told Americans to be ashamed of their country and to believe that they had never achieved anything consequential.

The Obama presidency also trafficked the notion that America was built by criminals as a conspiracy against minorities. Thus was the country divided between oppressors and the oppressed. A divided country cannot inspire love or loyalty.

Being unpatriotic is the Obama legacy. We will see if the Democratic Party can overcome it. 


370H55V said...

The difference is that the UK is still 85% white and maintains a veneer of national cohesion. By contrast, the growth here in the numbers of groups who openly hate America (and even have elected some of them to Congress) is such that it accounts (together with their white fellow travelers) in my opinion for 25-35% of the inhabitants of what we for the time being still call the "United States of America". To them patriotism is a bug and not a feature, and must be excised in favor of a more "citizen of the world" belief. Do not think President Bernie Sanders is unthinkable any more.

UbuMaccabee said...

370H55V is correct. The replacement population is steeped in ressentiment and growing larger. Only a great national divorce will correct this trajectory. Better to lose a leg than to perish altogether. Besides, we can always take it back through force later.

Anonymous said...

Englishman here. A while back I was out in Pitsea one day (Pitsea being a small town in Essex in which my company had a satellite office) and, by chance, Jeremy Corbyn was there making an appearance at some function or other. Everyone in our office got to their feet, went to the window and began boo-ing as loudly as they could. Essex has a lot of military garrisons around it, and the people there have long memories when it comes to politicians who constantly denigrate the armed forces and regale us with tales of what nobles sorts terrorists are. I knew at that moment that he was destined for electoral annihilation, and the next two years felt like just watching that play out in slow motion.

The United States is the standard bearer for the world, and I absolutely hate hearing self-loathing Americans trashing it from within. We need a forthright US to lead the way now more than ever.

UbuMaccabee said...

Anonymous Englishman, if you are ever down here in the heart of Dixie, you will not pay for a drink or a cigar in my local pub. Cheers, Mate. We are, both of us, part-and-parcel of the great tradition called Western Civilization. Long may it prevail on this earth.

370H55V said...


That would be nice, but "we can always take it back through force later" is a non-starter, since the numbers to do so won't be there. If anything, "them" taking over the spinoff by force is a much likelier possibility. As Roissy used to say, "I'll be poolside".