In an interview August 12 on MSNBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci commented that one way to be patriotic is to get vaccinated. That view prompted a thought I’ve been having for some time about the politics of patriotism: How the far right has appropriated patriotism while trampling it in practice, all without a clear response from liberals and progressives. They, and the Biden administration, should take Fauci’s advice, build on it, and make it a feature of the Democrats’ appeal.
For too long, Democrats have allowed right-wingers to fly the flag and pretend they are America’s patriots. At the same time, Democrats have meekly watched while the far right portrays them as “leftists” and “socialists.” That’s an old gambit, and it should be addressed directly. Biden should not only denounce the red baiting; he should go on the offensive, proclaiming that true patriots don’t riot at the Capitol, don’t undermine our democracy, don’t engage in culture wars, and don’t uphold white supremacy. True patriots want to expand the voting franchise, want social and economic justice, want to protect and preserve the Constitution.
Biden should challenge the rightists, asking if they have recited the pledge of allegiance recently. Do they believe its words—“one nation . . . with liberty and justice for all”? (Donald Trump couldn’t even get the words right.) Biden should call out the governors of Texas, Florida, and elsewhere, not just for their criminal neglect on public health, but also for their unpatriotic governing. In short, he should be brutally frank: Parading the flag is superficial patriotism. Real patriotism means being true to the American dream of liberty and justice—and respect for human rights, and a commitment to human security—for all.