Conservatives have claimed ownership of the term “patriotism”. By shaping the debate they have made it virtually impossible for liberals to call themselves patriotic without being mocked. On Independence day we remember the patriotic heritage of the Democratic Party and progressive politics. This can serve as a history lesson for Florida’s Republican Party dominated by crony capitalists and those who favor style over intellect.
Thomas Jefferson, whose brilliance and thoughtfulness made the American War for Independence a true revolution of ideas and ideals and Andrew Jackson, who was the first American President to reach out to the mass of people who were not aristocrats are the inspirations for the modern Democratic Party. Jackson achieved the greatest military victory of America’s first half century as the General who defeated the British regulars at the Battle of New Orleans. In reality it was the first time the Americans had faced a British elite force in either the War for Independence or the War of 1812. Jackson also struggled to preserve the union and by rejecting South Carolina’s attempts to “nullify” the tariff of 1828, Jackson preserved the union and laid the groundwork for Abraham Lincoln a generation later to save the union from Civil War and secession.
Much as Rick Scott and Pam Bondi push their own doctrine of nullification with regards to Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, Jackson stood down John C. Calhoun’s attempts at nullification and preserved the union. Jefferson’s brilliance and idealism was recognized all over the world and he was in fact the inspiration for many of the Revolutions that swept Europe in the 1800s.
In the 20th century, while Republicans avoided conflict and pushed isolationism and a degree of nativism, Democrats fought wars, protected and promoted liberty and spread freedom throughout the globe. Woodrow Wilson spread the principle of self determination and freedom throughout newly liberated countries despite domestic opposition form conservatives. Franklin Roosevelt armed the British and maneuvered the USA towards fighting the fascists in Europe and Asia despite conservative domestic opposition. Democrats passed countless domestic programs that ensured the health and welfare of those who fought for freedom despite conservative opposition.
During the Cold War, conservatives in both parties attempted to marginalize progressives as sympathetic to the Soviet Union. While some Republicans such as Arthur Vandenberg worked with Democrats to foster a bi-partisan bulkwark against communism, others politicized every move made by a progressive. That pattern has continued since September 11th, 2011.
One could argue George W. Bush was an heir to the liberal legacy of Woodrow Wilson. Bush’s idealism and desire to spread democracy were liberal ideas. He also spent liberally on domestic programs and welcomed immigrants and others who could help enhance American society. However his execution of these ideals, and his selection of advisers, were beyond incompetent and weakened American security both at home and abroad. Yet criticism and dissent towards Bush’s Administration were labeled unpatriotic which is ironic coming from the ideological heirs of those who supported the British during the revolution, those who sought to break up the Union in the 1800s and those who stonewalled potential American involvement in both world wars.
Barack Obama has restored the reputation of the United States abroad, killed Osama Bin Laden, our greatest threat to internal security, and despite what his critics have claimed has laid out a greater case for American exceptionalism than any of his recent predecessors.
The next time a conservative refers to progressives as anti-american or unpatriotic please arm them with the facts. Don’t get me wrong, many conservatives are highly patriotic. But many are just simply too quick to call liberals unpatriotic to be taken seriously.