On July 4 this year, liberal media declared independence from America’s most treasured cultural symbols.
While media undermining of Independence Day itself is not new — Vox famously declared that “the American Revolution was a mistake” in 2019 — the hand-wringing reached a new pitch this year.
The New York Times spent the holiday declaring that the American flag may “no longer unite.” The Stars and Stripes, the Times suggested, “is now alienating to some” who see it as synonymous with political conservatism and especially support for Donald Trump. The piece comes less than a month after Times editorial board member Mara Gay stirred controversy by saying that she was “disturbed” by the sight of “dozens of American flags” flying from trucks in Long Island.
Taxpayer-funded NPR spent the morning of the Fourth savaging the Declaration of Independence for its “flaws and deeply ingrained hypocrisies,” pointing out that it “includes a racist slur against Indigenous Americans.” NPR has established something of a tradition of having its staff read the Declaration of Independence on air every July 4, having done so for the past three decades. It seems that every reading up until recently has been uneventful, but “after last summer’s protests and our national reckoning on race, the words in the document land differently.”
Outrage is a natural reaction to American media attacking Americana on America’s most culturally meaningful holiday. The New York Times’s flag tweet drew thousands of critical comments, among them Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who suggested that the Times, rather than the flag, was “divisive.” This sentiment is echoed in the Times piece itself, which quotes a self-identified Republican who rejects the idea of the flag as a divisive symbol: “The American flag political? No.”
All the insistence that the flag is non-political and non-divisive, however, threatens to obscure the simple fact that progressive culture has been diverging from American culture for a number of years. Conservatives have pointed out that the Left despises America for a long time. Until recently, however, the Left has pleaded otherwise: liberals, they have argued, are the true patriots and the real patrons of America’s traditions.
Liberals used to deploy this rhetorical strategy because it worked. Anti-Americanism plays poorly with Americans, who are among the most patriotic people in the world.
It also plays poorly overseas. What do people around the world associate America with? Old Glory, freedom, guns, muscle cars, barbecue, and enterprise. Progressive signifiers — drag queens, lawlessness, academic loghorrea — not so much.
The culture that progressivism begets is alien not only to most Americans but to America itself. Conservatives have been arguing as much for years, and while liberals once reacted with indignation, there is now a tacit agreement.
The flag should not be divisive; nonetheless, progressives have chosen to divide themselves from the flag. The Times’s 1619 Project was already an earnest attempt to replace the Declaration of Independence by framing the beginning of slavery on U.S. soil as the “true founding” of America. How long until progressives make a serious push to replace the flag?
The post-American sentiment promoted by the likes of the Times or NPR is a losing proposition. Everyone knows what it looks like in the end: like Baltimore, or like Minneapolis, which may be entering a long-term decline thanks to last summer’s rioting and looting. Nothing could alienate voters faster.
Now is the time for conservatives to emphasize that, yes, the flag and the Declaration of Independence are indeed signifiers of conservatism — because conservatives now represent America, and progressives its antithesis. The Left will happily go along with this cultural divergence. To paraphrase Napoleon, never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.