How’s that for a simplistic title? Yet historically, it is true, and provably so. But you’d never know it from the mainstream political discourse in this nation, especially over a Fourth of July weekend.
Conservatives routinely label liberals and Democrats as unpatriotic, treasonous, America-hating Commies, escalating the rhetorical firestorm of attacks around Independence Day, and (usually) liberals either just sit back and take it, or mount mealy-mouthed “Well, not really …” defenses. Democratic presidents routinely nominate Republicans as Defense Secretaries, because, well, it’s just easier to nominate a Real Patriot than even the most conservative Democrat to the position. The view seems to be that while it’s okay to name Democrats to those mushy human-values positions, the defense and national security of this country must only be entrusted to Republicans.
It has gotten to the point where loony, fact-free rants like this one are commonplace:
Liberals are not patriotic. To take it a step further, liberals actually hate America and seek, if not its destruction, a transformation to something America was never meant to be … like socialized Europe. Or California.
Seriously. We almost never push back on garbage like that.
Well, as the Independence Day weekend winds down and your idiot conservative friends give their bellies a smug self-satisfied pat in being Real True Patriots You Betcha, it’s time to take back our own real patriotism, and do it with the best weapons out there: facts. (I’m basing this on an excellent article by Richard Rios at the Daily Kos,, adding and subtracting from its content as needed. Check out the original, it’s a good read.)
1. Liberals founded this nation while conservatives fought for the British
Funny how conservatives have co-opted for themselves the trappings of the American Revolution. You vist almost any blog operated by a tea party group, and chances are excellent that they are festooned with images aligning themselves with the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War. They love to play dress-up at their little soirees:
We’ve all seen how they’ve taken the historic Don’t Tread on Me flag for their use:
History tells a very different story. In the 18th century, American conservatives were staunchly allied with the British, proudly calling themselves Tories after the nickname for British conservatives. As Rios writes:
The Founding Fathers? As radically left-wing as they came in the 1770s. The Boston Tea Party? The “Occupy Wall Street” of its day.
2. The USA was never founded as a Christian nation. In fact, the opposite is true.
In light of the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court — the one that essentially allows corporations to impose their “Christian” values onto its helpless employees — it’s understandable why the ever-more-shrill rhetoric from the right about America being a Christian nation since its birth has become relatively widely accepted. Too bad it isn’t true. George Washington wrote in 1789:
If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.
[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion …
Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.
The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.
Those were, respectively, the first, second, third, and fourth presidents of the United States, and were not, presumably, howling Commie radicals who wanted to destroy the nation they had fought so hard to establish. Remember the elementary school lessons about this country being founded by people who wanted to escape religious persecution and be able to practice their varying religious practices as they chose? Your conservative friends don’t remember them. Or they choose to forget.
Some early presidents, including Jefferson and war heroes Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor, declared their own “war on Thanksgiving,” refusing to issue presidential proclamations on behalf of the holiday because of its overt religious connotations.
3. America was founded by “problem” immigrants.
This is so fundamentally obvious that anyone who took sixth-grade history should know it. America was its own version of “Botany Bay,” a “dumping ground” for “unwanted” people from all over Europe. The Pilgrims, whom so many teabaggers pretend to be during rallies and on their blogs, left America after being tarred as anti-government agitators, fled Holland after refusing to adopt the prevalent religion and customs of that nation, and headed off to America to worship as they damn well pleased. Unfortunately, there are some equivalencies with the current crop of teabaggers, particularly the Pilgrims’ own religious and social intolerance (ask the Patuxet Indians about their experiences at the hands of the newcomers — wait, you can’t, because the Pilgrims wiped them out via slavery and smallpox).
Another thing the Pilgrims practiced during their early years in the “New World” was a form of communism. (Pause to enjoy the sound of teabaggers’ heads detonating.) Yes, indeedy, the Pilgrims set up a communal system of production and abilities, in which everyone worked to the best of their abilities, pooled the proceeds of their labors, and shared according to their needs. Eek! Only after the settlers became more stabilized did their leaders allow them to work their own plots of land and keep (or barter or sell or share) the results.
4. A socialist wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.
Yes, Virginia, it’s true. The Pledge was written in 1892 by socialist minister Francis Bellamy, a Baptist. (Socialist and Baptist together in any form makes most religious conservatives break out in hives.) Bellamy’s form of Christian socialism held that, in Rios’s words,
[C]apitalism is idolatrous and rooted in greed, and the underlying cause of much of the world’s social inequity.
Even worse, it wasn’t until 1954 that the words “under God” were added. President Eisenhower pushed Congress to make the change, hoping to mollify the anti-Communist brigade (precursors of today’s teabaggers). It didn’t. Nowadays, clods like CNN contributor Bob Greene try to pretend that the Pledge’s socialist origins never happened.
5. America’s victory in World War II was engineered by liberals and opposed by conservatives.
There were deep divides among both liberals and conservatives over whether America should go to war against Germany and Japan (at least until Pearl Harbor, after which all bets were off). But the divides were for different reasons. Liberals who opposed going to war did so largely for reasons of non-violence. Conservatives opposed going to war either because of a libertarian preference for isolationism or. as with many “pro-business” conservatives, Hitler was a great customer who was generating profits for American corporations.
It’s well known that George H.W. Bush’s father Prescott Bush did so much business with the Nazi war machine that his company’s assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy act, and a former war crimes prosecutor believes he should have been tried for treason. What’s less discussed is the stunning number of American corporations that did business with the Nazis, some of which continued supporting the Nazis even after America joined the war effort. Kodak used slave labor from German concentration camps. Hugo Boss made Nazi uniforms, and also used slave labor from Poland to help make the uniforms. Coca-Cola not only sold soda in mass quantities to the German military, they invented Fanta to appeal to German palates. Ford Motor Company (led by the legendary anti-Semite Henry Ford) made vehicles for both the Nazi and American military. Standard Oil (now Exxon) sold aviation gas to the Luftwaffe — so those London bombing runs had tigers in their tanks.
If you have a Chase Manhattan Bank credit card, the original Chase Bank made a ton of money by providing banking services to the Nazis. As an extra added service, they froze the accounts of their European Jewish customers. IBM built machines for the Nazis, including devices that helped the Nazis enumerate how many Jews were being murdered in death camps. And Random House’s parent company, Bertelsmann, published Nazi propaganda. Today’s right wing also “forgets” that conservative corporate leaders plotted to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt — you know, the guy that led America to victory in World War II.
6. A Republican majority affirmed women’s right to choose an abortion.
Conservatives really, really don’t like this one. 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision came from a Republican-dominated Supreme Court. Worse from conservatives’ point of view, it was a 7-2 split — almost unanimous. Conservatives, moderates and liberals joined to push through the decision, with one conservative and one libertarian/conservative dissenting. Rios correctly notes:
No one can rightly say that this was a leftist court forcing its liberal beliefs on America.
They also really, really don’t like that in 1967, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of modern conservatism, signed a bill that legalized abortions in California. Reagan later said he regretted signing the bill, but the fact stands that he did so.
7. Reagan raised federal taxes eleven times.
He did, he did! Yes indeed, he slashed taxes on the wealthy (both individuals and corporations) and fundamentally shifted the tax burden onto the backs of those least able to bear it, thus winning his title as Best President Ever If You’re Independently Wealthy. But he also tried to make up for his enormous first-term tax-gutting enthusiasm by raising Social Security and payroll taxes eleven times. Most of those tax increases had their biggest impact on the middle class and poor. And like his teabagger disciples, he and his minions came up with spiffy names for the tax-hiking legislation, such as the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act” and the “Deficit Reduction Act.” “Taxes r bad!!1!!11!!” the post-millennial teabaggers like to squeal. They just don’t like to admit that their cult hero Saint Ronnie jacked them up eleven separate times. And they won’t appreciate you reminding them of it.
8. Barry Goldwater supported gay and abortion rights, hated the religious right, and liked HIllary Clinton.
Who? Most teabaggers think Barry Goldwater is the guy who tries to sell them overpriced jewelry at the mall. But in his time, the cranky libertarian from Arizona was the flag-bearer of the far-right conservative fringe, advocating (among other things) the complete elimination of Social Security, advocated states’ rights over those of the federal government, opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and generally stood with the teeth-gnashing anti-communists of his time. You’d think the teabaggers would want FDR’s face ground off of Mount Rushmore and replaced with Barry’s, right? Too bad he also advocated women’s right to choose, LGBT rights, and other things that give the teabaggers apoplexy. It’s quotes like this one that have caused the 21st-century right to consign Goldwater to the dustbin of history:
I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.
Worse, he despised the Christian conservatives and thought Hillary Clinton was a fine person. Leper unclean!
9. National health insurance was a Republican idea.
Never mind Mitt Romney’s lackluster attempt to provide Massachusetts citizens with basic health care, nor that his program morphed into the federal ACA. And don’t even talk about “Hillarycare.” We can go back to 1912, when Republican presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt, running as a “Bull Moose” candidate, proposed just such heresy. On second thought, conservatives shouldn’t remember that, either. Oh, and that warmongering criminal Richard Nixon? He liked national health insurance, too.
10. Environmental regulations? Republican origin.
Gaaah! They kill jobs! They make the job creators cry! They’re so bad that conservatives are deliberately making their cars and trucks belch black smoke in defiance of that socialist Obama and his environmental regulation thing! Too bad the people they are really defying are staunch Republicans such as that Teddy Roosevelt fella (again with the anti-conservatism, Tedster?) and Richard Nixon (again), who when he wasn’t trying to commit massive election fraud, was busily creating the Environmental Protection Agency. The Family Research Council will tell you that the EPA was created by Satan himself from the depths of Hell’s engineering department. They aren’t entirely wrong.
11. Obama has deeper ancestral ties to the Founding Fathers than you do.
And certainly more than most teabaggers can legitimately claim. Almost everyone but the most rabid baggers have abandoned the idea that Obama was born in Kenya, or in Moscow, or on the fourth moon of Saturn. And they’d prefer you not mention that on his mother’s side, he has at least 11 direct ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War (for the revolutionaries, not the Tories), and two others cited as patriots by the Daughters of the American Revolution for furnishing supplies to the beleagured colonials.
With the checkered, and demonstrably anti-American, record of American conservatism, there is no need to let conservatives rock you back on your heels by calling you “commie,” “traitor,” and “America hater.” Slam these facts down their collective throats. Need more? Go hunt down information on how conservatives thwarted President Johnson’s attempt to end the Vietnam War in 1968, or how Republican operatives sabotaged President Carter’s attempt to negotiate the release of American hostages from Iranian terrorists, or how the Bush-Cheney campaign (and the Republicans on the Supreme Court) trampled over federal law to install George W. Bush as president over the legitimately elected Al Gore. Who hates America? Who are the traitors? Not us.
We on the left should not allow conservatives to get away with appropriating patriotism, bastardizing it and claiming it as their exclusive domain. We should not accept their loaded rendering of the term because real patriotism should be grounded in the recognition that from the highest heights of power down to the homeless veterans sleeping on the street, we are all Americans bonded together through our citizenship in a country that at its best day stands at its tallest as the land of opportunity. Real patriotism is grounded in striving to make more perfect that ideal, that ideal of a fair shot for all so your station at birth does not determine your station at death. And real patriotism means making the country ever more democratic so that the franchise is expanded and power is distributed to all the people, not just the ones who can afford to buy into the system. These are all liberal ideals that are frequently undermined by those claiming the mantle of patriotism.
Let’s close with a reminder from The Young Turks’ Cenk Uyger, originally recorded in 2008, of how to turn conservatives’ insistence that they alone embody the values of American patriotism on their ear.?Let us know your thoughts at the Liberal America Facebook page. Sign up for our free daily newsletter to receive more great stories like this one.
H/T Richard Rios, writing for the Daily Kos.