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Posted by on Dec 21, 2015 in International, Politics | 28 comments

Which party loves the USA?

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WASHINGTON — Which political party loves America? Not the United States that once existed, but the flesh-and-blood nation that we all live in now.

The debates we have witnessed — too few and far between for the Democrats, frequent enough for the Republicans to constitute a new reality TV show — have provided an incontestable answer to that question.

The Democrats embrace the United States of Now in all of its raucous diversity.

Democrats are not free of nostalgia. They long for the more economically equal America of decades ago and celebrate liberalism’s heydays during the New Deal and civil rights years.

But Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley all stand up for the rights of a younger America — today’s country — that is less white, more Latino and Asian (and, yes, more Muslim) than was the U.S. of the past. The cultural changes that have reshaped us are welcomed as part of our historical trajectory toward justice and inclusion.

The Republicans, particularly Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, don’t like our country right now. They yearn for the United States of Then. The current version is cast as a fallen nation.

True, the party shut out of the White House always assails the incumbent. But a deeper unease and even rage characterize the response of many in the GOP ranks to what the country has become. This can cross into a loathing that Trump exploits by promising to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and block Muslims from entering the country while dismissing dissent from his program of demographic reconstruction as nothing more than “political correctness.”

I am certain that in their hearts, every candidate in both parties still likes to see us as “a shining city on a hill” and “the last best hope of earth.” Within the GOP, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have been especially careful not to abandon the virtue of hope and any confidence in the present. But this makes them stronger as general-election candidates than within their own party.

The stark cross-party contrast complicates any assessment of Saturday’s Democratic debate. As Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley all made clear, each believes their own disputes are minor in light of the chasm that has opened between themselves and the Republicans.

“On our worst day, I think we have a lot more to offer the American people than the right-wing extremists,” Sanders declared at the debate’s end. O’Malley concluded similarly: “When you listened to the Republican debate the other night, you heard a lot of anger and a lot of fear. Well, they can have their anger and they can have their fear, but anger and fear never built America.”

Democratic solidarity was Clinton’s friend. She emerged stronger simply because neither of her foes made a clear case for upending the campaign’s existing order. Her own solid performance will reinforce those who already support her.

But two big quarrels between Clinton and Sanders are important to the Democrats’ future. By pledging to avoid any hike in taxes on those earning less than $250,000 a year, Clinton strengthened herself for her likely fall encounter with the other side. But Sanders deserves credit for speaking a truth progressives will need to face up to (and that social democrats in other countries have already confronted): that the programs liberals support are, in the long run, likely to require more broadly based tax increases.

On foreign policy, Clinton continued to be the more openly interventionist candidate. Here again, Clinton likely positioned herself well for the long run. But Sanders may yet capitalize on his comparative dovishness with the generally peace-minded Democratic caucus electorate in Iowa.

Each also offered revealing one-liners as to whether “corporate America” would love them. Clinton nicely deflected the question by saying, “Everybody should.” But Sanders was unequivocal. “No, they won’t,” he replied with starchy conviction.

Above all, this debate should embarrass the Democratic National Committee for scheduling so few of them, and for shoving some into absurdly inconvenient time slots that confined their audiences to political hobbyists.

Debates are a form of propaganda in the neutral sense of the word: They are occasions for parties to make their respective arguments. Given that the divide between the parties this year is so fundamental, it’s shameful that Democrats did not try to make their case to as many Americans as possible.

If you have faith in your response to anger and fear, you should be ready to bear witness before the largest congregation you can assemble.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected] Twitter: @EJDionne. (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

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  • dduck

    Sorry, I couldn’t get past the headlone and first few paragraphs. EJD, this article sucks. How dare you question who loves the U.S!!!! Except for a few, like the San Bernadino couple, we all do. What’s the matter, can’t sell enough papers with the scrum covering among the Rep candidates?
    Can’t take bitching and moaning and campaign rhetoric and yes WAY over the top s____ from Trump?
    Too bad, humans in fairly free societies do complain and criticize their governments and its actions. Perhaps you should join the signers at Yale and abolish the First Amendment. Oh, wait, then you would have to shut up.
    I’m disappointed, you usually have pretty good, if a little left, columns.

    • Slamfu

      Agreed. Both sides love this country. Just like I love this country, and so does Ann Coulter. We just have VERY different ideas about what needs to be done to make things better moving forward. I get what Mr. Dionne was trying to say, but it shouldn’t be couched in terms that one side hates this country. I think we’ve all heard enough about that.

      That being said, what a lot of Republicans, especially those supporting Trump right now, seem to think this country should look like scares the hell out of me and doesn’t seem to mesh with the values I was always taught makes America, America. If you get rid of our Rights, our acceptance of immigrants, our religious tolerance under the law, is it really the USA anymore? Is this country the rivers and mountains and fields we live on? No, those were there long before and will likely be there long after the USA. The United States of America is an idea and a dream. An idea whose core principles are enshrined on paper in the Library of Congress. It is an abstract concept that was the foundation for the mightiest nation ever. We get rid of the idea, we get rid of the nation. Doesn’t matter if the people living here are rich, or powerful or even safe from harm. Without those ideals, the USA will be deader than anything 1000 terrorist organizations could ever do to us.

      • Brownies girl

        Boy, I sure do wish we had the “like” button back. Great post, Slam!

    • Brownies girl

      Ya know, dd, first of all, I don’t think Dionne’s article “sucks”. Instead, I think he makes a lot of good points. Especially where he writes: “The Republicans, particularly Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, don’t like our country right now. They yearn for the United States of Then. The current version is cast as a fallen nation.” This so sooo true.

      At any rate, I’ve watched all the Republican debates so far (that was tough work!), and in the end, watching Trump, Cruz and Christie particularly, but mostly Trump, I was reminded of nothing so much as a verbally abusive husband yelling at his wife that “ya gotta change your ways, ’cause nobody’s EVER gonna love you like I do. Nobody’s EVER gonna do the things for ya that I can do ’cause I’m the best, I’ve run my own businesses for decades and I’m rich – there’s nobody better for ya than me!”

      That’s what Trump sounds like to me – and I get to thinking, if *I* was the US, (the country, I mean, work with me here) “do you really love ME, ’cause I’m valuable to you, or do you just love the chase?!” And I come back thinking, “I got a feeling you just love the chase, and love of me, as a country, doesn’t mean a damn thing.”

      Just a woman’s POV, who’s heard all the arguments – take it or leave it.

      • dduck

        Thank you, I will leave it and that would be if you were a women or not.

  • Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist

    Of course Americans love their country.

    But reading your piece closely and in context, Dionne, I have to agree that one Party and several of its presidential candidates obviously do not love our “flesh-and-blood nation that we all live in now,” but rather — again as you say — “They yearn for the United States of Then. The current version is cast as a fallen nation.”

    They have said so themselves.

    Perhaps a better title might have been “Which Party Likes the USA of Today?”

    One also needs to pay attention to your,

    I am certain that in their hearts, every candidate in both parties still likes to see us as “a shining city on a hill” and “the last best hope of earth.” Within the GOP, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have been especially careful not to abandon the virtue of hope and any confidence in the present. But this makes them stronger as general-election candidates than within their own party.

  • KP

    The author appears to have combined two posts into one.

    The first:

    Which political party loves America?

    The second might have started:

    But two big quarrels between Clinton and Sanders are important to the Democrats’ future.

    The ‘first’ could have been written by a Republican if you transpose a couple words. Recall it was Obama who ran on “fundamentally transforming America”. That hasn’t happened. So one _could_ argue it is the Dems who dislike today’s America. Of course about half the country might disagree.

    The ‘second’ post is spot on. While Bernie and Hillary agree on quite a bit, Bernie was quite successful at highlighting their differences on foreign policy and taxes.

    • KP

      To add:

      I agree with both commenters above; Americans love their country; including those who want change.

    • dduck

      KP, the author just decided to do a little pandering. Must be a slow week.

    • There were quite substantial differences between the two at the debate (with other differences which didn’t come up). Clinton essentially took the GOP line on both foreign policy and in opposing liberal programs as they will increase taxes (even if the net effect, such as with single payer health care, would be to save money). Plus they disagreed regarding the drug war, legal status of marijuana, Wall Street, and campaign finance.

      Whether Sanders was “quite successful” where it matters–getting Democrats to vote for him over Clinton–remains to be seen. Not too much longer until the Iowa caucus.

  • To coin a phrase from Charlie Brown: Aaaaauuuuuuurrrrrrrggggghhhh!!!!!

    Once again:
    1. We have a fiat currency that can not be (forcibly by law) exchanged for anything (other than a receipt for taxes)–not gold, not silver, not pizza.
    2. Since the currency is needed to pay federal taxes (and state taxes, as it turns out), it has value–you need some of the stuff to pay the taxes.
    3. The USA does NOT NEED TO BORROW ITS OWN MONEY!!!!!!
    4. The “national debt” is a product of pre-1972 thinking (we don’t need it, should abolish it–giving the money to the current bond holders–and it would be irrelevant if we declared such)
    5. The holders of US treasuries could (and often do) exchange them for cash immediately. They don’t because they do not currently wish to buy anything denominated in dollars. Period.
    6. The holders of US treasuries (banks excluded, btw) were not asked to buy the bonds–they asked to buy them. We did NOT go to Europe, China, Japan, et. al. and ask them to loan us money (or buy T-bills)
    7. Taxes are a means of preventing out-of-control inflation. Deficit spending is good when the economy needs to expand. Balanced spending is good ONLY when the economy is exactly where it needs to be (very rare). Tax surpluses are good when inflation is out of control DUE TO ECONOMIC CONDITIONS. I specify this because the inflation of the 1970’s was due to the increase in the price of crude oil (mostly due to OPEC). Inflation continued until the prices of other items rebalanced to that of crude oil. For example: if something used to cost 2X as much as a gallon of gas–then inflation (more or less) occurred until, after OPEC increased prices, the same thing cost about 2X as much as a gallon of gas.

    Taxes are to stop inflation and to ensure that people will get the goods and services they need for minimum survival (call it redistribution of income or whatever you f’ing like–but there it is).

  • JSpencer

    Most democrats and republicans claim to love this country, and I suppose they all do, but who cares what they say? Talk is cheap and actions are the proof. Love should build and strengthen bonds, not damage the object of one’s attentions. All the rationalization, propaganda, and projection (and sonnets 😉 ) in the world can’t turn an unhealthy love into a healthy one.

    • Agreed. It seems a silly question over all anyway.

      • dduck

        Yep, and that is being kind, IMHO.

  • yoopermoose

    I DO wonder if some politicians put party over country. When Mitch McConnell and his cronies decided that they would oppose anything Obama proposed to pull this country back from the brink if economic collapse was it because they loved their country or because they loved their party? When politicians applaud citizens threatening federal agents with guns do they love their country or their party? When politicians turn the death of diplomats into a witch hunt to bring down a political candidate, it is love of country or love of party? Is the main aim of their actions to make the country stronger, or the party stronger?

    • Slamfu

      That really stunned me too when McConnell said that. I mean, here we were in the worst recession since the ’30’s and he was basically saying all they care about is taking down Obama. Then they started in with how “Divisive” Obama is, a meme they still push despite everything they have said and done and despite how many times Obama met them in the middle. Hell, Boehner said in January that Obama needed to work with the new Congress while he was in the middle of suing Obama for the last time he met the GOP in the middle. Just shocking.

      I’m assuming in their minds that they really think the best thing for the country was for the GOP to get back the Oval, but that is frankly pretty craven thinking, especially at the time. A lot of things the GOP does just are so illogical that I have a LOT of trouble putting myself in their shoes.

    • dduck

      Wonder all you want. Most Americans, including politicians, do love their country. However, big egos, greed and personal gain in some form, distort their behavior.
      It is a shame that some use these few to besmirch entire groups. Do I have to mention Harry Reid, who I am sure also loves this country

      • JSpencer

        “It is a shame that some use these few to besmirch entire groups.”

        I think it’s a greater shame that it isn’t just a few, and that it isn’t just a blip on the radar. If republicans don’t like the reputation the GOP has created for itself then they need to change it. It won’t be easy, because the problems are deeply entrenched, but I would love to see them do it. It’s going to take a lot of honesty and courage to take on those who have been defining the party for the past decade and more.

        • The Ohioan

          True. And it’s going to take a lot of time and effort and sacrifice to JOIN the party at the local level and do what needs to be done to help change the meme. It will be a slow process and there are so few politicians that are bucking the party to provide support to, but that is the only way the party can be rescued.

          Simply standing aside and wringing one’s hands about what is happening to it and stating over and over how much they disagree with its policy ain’t gonna do it. Either Republicans will man up and make the changes necessary or they will be consigned to the dust heap of history where they can grumble as much as they want.

        • dduck

          How many if not a few, Name names. Wanna talk about McConnell and his cronies, then talk about Harry and Nancy. You guys could never be pointillists with those broad brushes and the broad rhetoric. Look, there are sleezes in both parties, and did the Reps do there best to oppose Obama and the Dems, of course, but this thread is bordering on conflating nasty, obstructionist opposition to not loving America. Old Joe would love it.
          BTW: “God Damn America” was said by a veteran and a lover of America.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix-AMYos0Js

          • JSpencer

            As you are fond of saying: Your opinion. If you haven’t seen enough to change it by now, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

          • dduck

            I say my opinion to contrast me from radical Reps (we don’t all have the same opinions) and from the choir here that speaks with certitude but without the benefit of actual facts.
            Is that wrong? What have I seen enough of, and what opinion should i change?
            And no thoughts on HR and Rev. Wright.

          • JSpencer

            “and from the choir here that speaks with certitude but without the benefit of actual facts”

            You won’t be surprised to see I take issue with that. The “choir” here has consistently demonstrated respect for the facts, which imo is always more important than respect for tribe or party.

          • SteveK

            The “choir” here has consistently demonstrated respect for the facts, which imo is always more important than respect for tribe or party.

            Spot on and thumbs up JSpencer.

            DR’s articles here are a good example of ‘actual facts’ as today’s right side of American politics view them.

            If they’d just start calling their ‘rants’ opinions instead of facts it would be a good start.

            Off topic: what is “commentluv” below post comment… And what does it do?

          • JSpencer

            Good question Steve. I never know whether to uncheck the box or not..

      • Surely, Harry Reid wasn’t the only name you could come up with Quacker!

        • dduck

          Since he was the head of the Senate before McConnell, I made a direct comparison. So sue me, Shirley.

  • dduck

    The choir doth protest too much, methinks.

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