On Monday, Gallup released a poll that should be shocking: most Americans say they’re not extremely proud to be American. That’s the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 2001 that a minority of Americans haven’t been extremely proud of their national identity.
What’s more telling is the partisan breakdown. Just 32% of Democrats say they’re extremely proud of the country, down from 56% in 2013; 42% of independents say they’re extremely proud of the country, down from 50% in 2013; 74% of Republicans say they’re extremely proud, compared to 68% who said so in 2016.
The most telling part of this breakdown isn’t the shift, which is likely due to Trump’s election. The most telling part is the baseline: even when Obama was president, only a slight majority of Democrats felt extremely proud to be American, compared to a supermajority of Republicans. Why are Democrats so much less likely to be extremely proud of being American?
The answer lies in the ideology of the Left, which sees the story of America as a story of original sin, punctuated by occasional Leftist victories. In this view, America was founded on slavery and bigotry and rich white property ownership, and only through the bravery of those willing to reject the system have those excesses been curbed. America exploits foreign nations for its own profit; America engages in cultural imperialism; America is rude, brash, and militaristic. That’s the Howard Zinn view of the country, and it has increasingly affected the Democratic Party mainstream.
That’s one of the reasons why Democrats see pride in country as a direct reflection of the nature of the leadership of the country. When Obama’s leading the country, America is fighting its nasty past; when Trump is, America is indulging its racist DNA.
For conservatives, the story of America is a story of founding freedoms and basic liberties protected by government — the story of a nation founded in glory, not always living up to its central ideals, but striving forward to seek their fulfillment one difficult step at a time. Thus, the president is ultimately unimportant to the question of being proud to be American: he’s just the guy holding the office established by the greatest man-made document in human history. Presidents change. Founding ideas don’t.
These are two opposite images of the United States. No president will help bridge that gap. Only a renewed understanding of the truth of the ideas of the founding will.