Independence Day traditionally has engendered a happy, patriotic mood that unites Americans. For one day, everyone puts aside their political differences and partisan bickering to toast our nation’s birthday over cold brews, burgers, and American flag cakes. The evening ends with countless fireworks displays in every corner of the nation, from beaches to backyards.
Sadly, this year not even the Fourth of July is enough to overcome the erosion of pride in our nation due to political rancor.
Gallup’s annual polling finds that American pride has hit a new low. Some 70 percent of U.S. adults overall say they are proud to be Americans, but less than half are "extremely" proud. Gallup says this is the second consecutive year that this reading fell below the majority level.
Public sentiment for our nation is falling thanks to a consistent, coordinated effort to challenge every national symbol and show of patriotism. From athletes kneeling during the national anthem to removing monuments, we’re told that America is anything but great because of the sin of our past — namely, slavery and racism. This is what led Colin Kaepernick to harass Nike into canceling their new sneakers bearing the Betsy Ross flag. He says the flag is offensive to black people because it was sewn at a time in our history when blacks were enslaved. Based on that standard, almost no historical American symbol would escape the taint of history.
The idea is that America is not great and never has been. American exceptionalism is challenged in a new New York Times video with a caption that summarizes how bad we truly are: “The myth of America as the greatest nation on Earth is at best outdated and at worst, wildly inaccurate. If you look at data, the U.S. is really just OK.”
The myth of America as the greatest nation on earth is at best outdated and at worst, wildly inaccurate. If you look at data, the U.S. is really just O.K. pic.twitter.com/pFrWBH0Zfl
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) July 2, 2019
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “America was never that great.” Former Attorney General Eric Holder told us the “notion of greatness” hearkens back to “an American past that never existed.” Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is running to lead a nation that he said “was never as great as advertised.”
Being a great nation does not mean being a perfect nation. We have social problems, many of which are exploited to further polarization. For these problems, government intervention is often at the root of the problem or makes matters worse. Take our education system. It’s not for a lack of funding that some failing K-12 education systems cannot turn out well-educated students, as evidenced by Washington, D.C.’s well-funded but failing public schools.
Yet, many on the Left chalk these failings up to class warfare and income inequality. They advance policies that aim to take money from one class and give it to another.
To fund socialist wish lists of free healthcare, free college, free housing, guaranteed jobs, and a government check for everyone, they would impose massive tax increases for middle-class Americans along with the wealthy. That does not make everyone better off, but many more people worse off. And this perspective ignores the tremendous gains that Americans at all income levels have made and the economic mobility in this country, which you don’t find in many other nations.
Americans climb up the rungs on the economic ladder every year. Over a 44-year period, researchers found that an amazing 73% of individuals will spend a year in the top 20% and 56% will be in the top 10%. As they note, “the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect.”
Sadly, class warfare rhetoric is working among young people, women, and left-leaning Americans. That is born out in Gallup’s numbers on American pride. Just 24% of young people are extremely proud to be American, much lower than the other age groups. Women lag behind men in expressing extreme pride by 5 percentage points, and only one in five Democrats are extremely proud to be American, a record low, while 5% are not proud at all.
As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, let’s remember that the freedoms we enjoy, including the freedom to criticize our government and our nation, are not universal. So next time you’re asked if you are extremely proud to be an American, know that there are many reasons to say yes.
Patrice Onwuka is a senior policy analyst at Independent Women's Forum.