The Corner

Why the Surprise?

Rich and Andy have fine columns this week, both distressed at the sight of the American people’s elected representatives siding with a foreign leader (Mexico’s Felipe Calderón, in this instance) against their fellow countrymen, with whom they disagree over a domestic policy matter. They’re right to be concerned, of course, but there’s nothing new about this. The Bush administration practically subcontracted out American immigration policy to the Mexican foreign ministry, which has been directly participating in U.S. policy debates at the state and local levels for years now.

Notwithstanding recent events, the main political divide in the coming years is not going to be between right and left, big vs. small government, pro-life vs. pro-choice, etc. These fights will continue, of course, but overarching them will be the divide between patriots and post-Americans. Andy writes “We don’t aspire to be citizens of the world. America suits us just fine.” Well, post-Americans already see themselves as citizens of the world, and so there’s no problem in siding with “foreign” governments against your “countrymen,” because these are primitive, archaic concepts.

And we shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming this divide neatly overlaps with right and left; a significant portion of the elite right, especially the libertarians and corporate people, are post-American, while a large share of the Democratic electorate, probably a majority, is still patriotic, however misguided we think they are about cap-and-trade or card-check or whatever. However, at the elite level — elected officials, foundations, big media, major donors, writers and other opinion leaders — the Democrats are openly the party of post-Americanism. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all anti-Americans like Bill Ayers or the Reverend Wright; I’d wager that very few are. Rather, they’re post-American, meaning they might still like our country well enough but have moved beyond a parochial concern with its interests and people to a broader, more “enlightened” view of the world.

Among the Republican elite, on the other hand, and even more among conservatives specifically, there remains a strong patriotic strain. And this is the key to political success — framing issues to the degree possible as a defense of America’s sovereignty and promotion of solidarity among Americans of all walks of life. This can be done badly, of course; Aristotle tells us that each virtue has two related vices, and it would be unhelpful to counter the Left’s insufficient love of country with an excess of that sentiment on our part. But a sober, manly patriotism, one that loves our own nation without hating anyone else’s, will be key to separating the Left from its voters.

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