The 2020 presidential election has brought about a rather curious trend that is brewing on the left. Democrats appear to be rediscovering their patriotism now that it looks more likely that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the next person to occupy the Oval Office.
Writer and editor Joanna Weiss published a piece for Politico titled, “‘Time For My Flag to Go Up’: How Anti-Trumpers Are Reclaiming the American Flag” in which she explains how Democratic voters are now suddenly interested in embracing the Stars and Stripes once again. The author spoke to several left-leaning Americans who explained how their feelings about the flag changed once President Trump was elected.
Curtis Woodall, a 72-year-old Vietnam War veteran took down his flag about a year after Trump took office. “It hurt. It did,” he told Politico. Weiss explained that “he didn’t want anyone in his neighborhood outside Columbia, South Carolina, to associate him with President Donald Trump’s racial rhetoric or anti-immigrant policies.”
Woodall recalled that he would become angry when he saw Trump supporters with American flags on their pickup trucks around town. “They’ve always got a Trump flag and the American flag,” he said. “And I said, ‘That’s bull. That is desecrating the flag that I served over 20 years with.’”
But Woodall ordered a new flag on Amazon when it seemed that Biden would become the next president. When the corporate press called the election for Biden, the veteran said, “time for my flag to go up.”
Apparently, Woodall isn’t alone. This is a sentiment that seems to be shared by many left-leaning Americans when it comes to the Stars and Stripes. “Across the country, in their cautious euphoria after the election, foes of Trump have been embracing the flag in similar ways: unfurling it in front of their homes, waving it in the streets, or simply looking at it differently,” Weiss writes.
Nancy La Vigne, executive director of the Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing, hung her flag outside her home in Bethesda, Maryland on the day that Biden gave his victory speech. But she saw something more on that day.
“But as the hours went by and she noticed more and more flags around her neighborhood, she realized she was seeing something broader: A spontaneous reclaiming of a symbol that, in the Trump years, had come to represent only one side,” Weiss explains.
California screenwriter Ed Kamen told Weiss that his view of the American flag also changed. “My attitude’s changed about it now,” he said. “I am proud of my country, I love my flag, I love my country. And it’s nice to see the flag again representing the country as a whole, instead of one section of it.”
Weiss acknowledged that the American flag symbolizes the values upon which the nation was founded, but notes that they ceased uniting people of different political persuasions even before Trump was elected. “To some on the left, for instance, the flag became a stand-in for every terrible act that had been done, through history, on the nation’s behalf,” she observes.
John H. Evans, a sociology professor at the University of California-San Diego, blames the change in Democrats’ perception of the flag on Trump, who somehow made them view it with derision because he’s a big meanie and somehow commandeered the symbol for his own use. He argued that the flag “can be inclusive, representing a diverse group of people who unite behind a set of common principles. Or it can be exclusive, a symbol of nationalism—an ‘us’ in opposition to a less worthy or virtuous ‘them,’ according to Weiss.
The author accuses Trump of weaponizing the flag and essentially taking ownership of the symbol. “Before long, the American flag was one of many banners that came to represent Trumpism as a whole,” she laments.
Weiss noted that many Democrats were hesitant to publicly embrace the flag because of the perception it might elicit in those around them. “More commonly, people shied away from what they feared would be an association with the wrong side. In some liberal enclaves, an entirely new set of yard signs cropped up—acting as alternatives to the flag, allowing people to proclaim their belonging to a different American tribe,” she writes.
Regardless of Weiss’ arguments, it is impossible to ignore a glaring reality: For many on the left, their attitudes towards the American flag and the country it symbolizes is dependent on who is sitting in the Oval Office. It is a stark example of how those on the left have become so fixated on the office of the presidency that they cannot be patriotic unless their person occupies the position.
To be clear, I believe that the nation as a whole has placed a level of importance on the presidency that is unhealthy for the Republic we are supposed to live under. The reality is that the President of the United States, regardless of who it is, should not carry this much significance in the American psyche.
But the tendency to elevate the presidency to these levels presents itself differently on the right than it does on the left, which bases their attitudes about the country on the occupant of the White House. The truth is that those on the left who adopt this view are practicing a fickle form of patriotism that is essentially meaningless.
The American flag represents certain values that are valid even if one feels that the country isn’t living up to them. Trump didn’t steal the Stars and Stripes from the left. It was the left who abandoned the symbol because they didn’t get their way in 2016.
Patriotism isn’t something one can just pick up and put down when it’s convenient. The notion that one politician can determine how half of the country feels about America is a disturbing reality, one that will grow even more pronounced if the far-left faction of the Democratic Party manages to wrest control from the establishment.
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