Republicans Only Pretend to Be Patriots

From The New York Times:

And Democrats need to expose them for what they are.

Sept. 23, 2019

Republicans have spent the past half-century portraying themselves as more patriotic, more committed to national security than Democrats. Richard Nixon’s victory in 1972, Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 and George W. Bush’s victory in 2004 (the only presidential election out of the past seven in which the Republican won the popular vote) all depended in part on posing as the candidate more prepared to confront menacing foreigners.

And Barack Obama faced constant, scurrilous accusations of being too deferential to foreign rulers. Remember the “apology tour,” or the assertions that he had bowed to overseas leaders?

But now we have a president who really is unpatriotic to the point of betraying American values and interests. We don’t know the full extent of Donald Trump’s malfeasance — we don’t know, for example, how much his policies have been shaped by the money foreign governments have been lavishing on his businesses. But even what we do know — his admitted solicitation of foreign help in digging up dirt on political rivals, his praise for brutal autocrats — would have had Republicans howling about treason if a Democrat had done it.

Yet almost all G.O.P. politicians seem perfectly fine with Trump’s behavior. Which means that it’s time to call Republican superpatriotism what it was long before Trump appeared on the scene: a fraud.

After all, a true patriot is willing to make some sacrifice, to give up some personal or policy goal, in the national interest. Can anyone point to any prominent figure in the modern Republican Party who has done that?

In fact, the periods in which Republicans worked hardest to wrap themselves in the flag and question Democrats’ loyalty were also periods in which the G.O.P. doubled down on its usual domestic agenda of making the rich richer. Even as George W. Bush’s administration was hyping the war on terrorism and leading America to war on false pretenses, the party was pushing for tax cuts: “Nothing,” declared Tom DeLay, the House Republican leader at the time, “is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes.”

But if Republican superpatriotism has always been a fraud, why were so many Americans taken in? After all, polling suggests that except for a brief period after the extent of the Iraq debacle became clear, the public has consistently viewed the G.O.P. as stronger than Democrats on national security.

My guess, although I’d love to see some serious research from political scientists, is that for most of the past half-century the G.O.P.’s patriotic posturing dovetailed with its domestic political strategy, which centered on hostility to the Other.

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