Patriotism is for Peasants

If you happen to prefer an open mind, it was tough to find President Trump’s much-maligned Salute to America speech on television last night. True, I live in Washington and I could have solved the problem by getting up from my chair and going to the Lincoln Memorial.

Rain, a dislike of crowds and sloth kept me in front of the tube, but Fox News came to the rescue.  As far as I could tell, with some unscientific channel surfing, no other network carried the speech. This might well have been a fair-minded media decision because I detected no news, at least no current news, but there was some insight and, for some people, that has a news value.

Litanies of military history and recitations of wartime successes by the President reading from his teleprompter provide no insight, but the event itself does. My news feed this morning is filled with snide references to aerial attacks on airports during the Revolution but includes few references to those enjoying the flyovers and flag waving. My news feed does not cater to the average American.

Those who hate the President got their wish for rain but there was no deluge. The clouds were thick but not low enough to obscure the airplanes and helicopters that flew over the mall precisely timed to dovetail into the speech. There were huge transparent panels between the TV cameras and the podium. Raindrops from previous downpours remained to distract the viewers and call attention to the need for security.

The view through the presumably bulletproof but transparent barrier was an ongoing reminder of yet another reason not to watch the event live. The United States of America in 2019 does not lack for nut jobs who might have an interest in attention-getting mayhem. I have no idea the size of the crowd and have preplanned my eye rolling for any stories on the subject, but a good rule of life is “the larger the crowd the greater the chance of a nut job.”

What is the insight that was accidentally ignored by Fox and intentionally ignored by the other networks?

Patriotism is for peasants (a little used word intentionally chosen) not for the sophisticated elites who like telling others what to think. Insight alert: there are more peasants than elites and, in a democracy, more votes beat fewer.

It is entirely possible that both political parties actually hate their voters. (That was an understatement, as many believe it is not only possible but also a certainty.)  If I had to make a living doing the stupid things political operatives have to do, I might easily hate the voters too, but treating them like peasants does not seem like the best way to win them over.

That problem is actually worse today because whole categories voters have shifted parties. Middle American working class voters were reliably Democrats but are now increasingly Republican. The most successful, who might once have been country club Republicans, are now Democrats. Neither party seems to know how to deal with the shift.

Much attention is paid to the importance of democracy including hand-over-heart, eyes-half-closed invocations of “our democracy” but political opinion meisters seem to miss an important point. There are many more patriotic voters than there are tweeters.  There are many more useful (yes, the electoral college still counts) votes between the coastal ribbons of blue than in the ribbons themselves.

Those who would prefer to beat President Trump in 2020 had better figure out how to out market him. We elites might think that patriotism is for peasants but the peasants don’t see it that way. Based on my observations, they like their patriotism and this could also be seen later in the evening on the PBS Boston Pops fireworks spectacle at the mouth of the Charles River. If there is a geographic epicenter of American elitism it is probably within walking distance of that venue.

It is hard to see a path for a Republican challenger to Donald Trump though I would love to have Bill Weld find some traction. Likely, it will be up to the Democrats to find a meaningful 2020 opponent. I suspect that candidate will need to have a plan to appeal to voters for whom patriotism is more important than grievance.

It is possible that the elite networks that chose to stick to their game shows rather than broadcast the President’s speech will come to regret that decision but don’t expect to hear them say so. It is always easiest when defeat can be blamed on someone else.

Next time you hear an “I’m fighting for you” grievance speech, ask yourself if there might not be more flag wavers than aggrieved.

People like to feel good about themselves. If that were not the case, there would be no need for religious admonitions against pride. Nor would there be a marketplace for motivational speakers.

President Trump understands this better than his opponents who seem to have some catching up to do.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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  • The 3 or 4 major networks announced beforehand that they were not going to air the Trump segment, only the non-political traditional program. They saw fit not to publicize a political rally cooked up on the taxpayers’ dime. There were plenty of people, peasant, elite and everything in between at the later event, with tons of patriotic joy for all sides.

    • Fair point, though the networks will not be running against him, opposing candidates will. Do they understand?