Samuel Johnson’s statement from the 18th century is just as true now as it was then.
When exposed, scoundrels will often claim patriotic intentions while questioning the patriotism of their accusers. For example, in order to hide their true beliefs, anti-government conservatives decorate their homes, their cars and their persons with the stars and stripes of the American flag. To disguise their racism, white nationalists also hide behind the flag. In an attempt to hide the treasonous complicity of his presidential campaign with Russians, Donald J. Trump questioned Hillary Clinton’s patriotism by alleging that she sold 20 percent of US uranium to Russia. And at this year’s CPAC, the traitor-in-chief waddled onto stage and made a show out of embracing the flag.
Now facing the pressure of a Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee determined to fulfill its constitutional duty, Trump has built his re-election campaign around the same strategy by labeling his tormenters and potential opponents “un-American socialists.”
There are two distinct problems with that claim: One is that Trump doesn’t know the meaning of patriotism, and he doesn’t give a hoot about the majority of Americans. He has never tried to govern from the center in order to represent all Americans. He has done nothing to reach out to those who voted for his political opponents. Instead, he continually tries to pit his angry, loyal base against others – Democrats, people of color, Muslims and the LGBTQ population. He continues to call for investigations of Hillary by leading his followers in chants of “Lock her up.” He has refused to denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In fact, he has embraced them. And he still maintains that President Obama was born in Kenya.
Second, he is mischaracterizing social democracy by calling it socialism in order to equate Democratic proposals with those of the failed Soviet Union and Venezuela. But, in fact, the “socialist” policies being proposed by Democrats are similar to those of Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and much of the developed world – policies such as universal health care, free or affordable education, the Green New Deal, higher marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy, and higher rates for estate taxes. These are all necessary if we are to rebuild our infrastructure, our middle class and the American dream. Without such policies, we may soon find ourselves lagging behind other global powers.
At the same time, in the name of patriotism, Trump and his administration have gone to extremes to destroy or diminish our nation’s most important institutions. If successful, his declaration of a national emergency to build his wall will diminish the power of purse given to the House of Representatives by our Constitution. He has damaged the power of the press by convincing his followers that any news critical of his actions is “fake news.” He has convinced his followers that the FBI, the DOJ and most other government agencies are controlled by the “deep state” which is determined to undermine his decisions. He dismisses the findings of our intelligence agencies and takes the word of our nation’s greatest enemies, instead. He and the GOP-controlled Senate have filled our court system with ideologues with neither the experience, the objectivity nor the temperament to act as judges. In addition, he has undermined our relationships with our most loyal allies.
And, according to many of those who have known him longest, if impeached or defeated in the 2020 election, Trump will not relinquish his office quietly. Indeed, they fear a second civil war. If those people are correct, Trump and his followers will no doubt claim that they are declaring martial law out of a sense of patriotism.