In Defense of Americanism

The Left has never understood what made “Make America Great Again” resonate with so many people. We heard their mystification at the notion loud and clear from Democrat front runner for 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who actually said, “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”

This kind of thinking isn’t new to the Trump era. Rather, it is the ultimate expression of an idea that has been an undercurrent that has bubbled to the surface on the Left for decades. Michelle Obama made similar remarks in 2008. “For the first time in my adult life,” the future first lady said, “I am really proud of my country.” That was just after the Wisconsin primary, when the political fortunes of her husband began to improve.

And it’s a longstanding attitude across the country on college campuses. This is the kind of thing the Ward Churchills of the world safely have been spewing, all while hiding behind tenure. It’s the kind of faux-knowledge that has infected our public education system through the pseudo-histories of Howard Zinn and others. And so we can see the effects of this rot today in our public discourse.

Rather than cherish the lessons learned from the history of our imperfect nation, elements of the radical left and their allies in the media ravage our history, throwing out traditions, tearing down memorials, and questioning the fundamental nature of the American Project. It’s a shameful enterprise that not only spits in the face of the eternal truths undergirding our nation, but also at all we have accomplished as a people.

Democrats either don’t believe in American greatness (or exceptionalism for that matter), or they can’t afford to champion the idea because too much of their base is wedded to a grievance politics that depends on America being something other than great.

In spite of what the Cuomos and the Michelle Obamas of the world might have you believe, the American experiment has been a resounding success.

Just over 250 years ago, a small agrarian nation, 13 upstart colonies, threw off the yoke of the world’s last, most powerful empire. Our nation became the most technologically advanced, diverse, free, and prosperous country the world has ever seen.

It was founded not on the basis of any one ethnicity or the heritage of a single family, but as a creedal nation rooted in individual liberty, voluntary association, and a proper understanding of human nature. America’s Founders knew that man left to his own devices was no angel, but would rather seek dominion over his fellow man. They designed a system that divided and diffused powers, pushing most of the day to day management of government to the most local level possible, while checking the impulses of our national government with institutions designed to protect the rights of the people. It was a profound event in human history, which many thought could never last.

Yet here we are, more than two centuries later, still a beacon of hope to the world. From the decks of the Arbella to the administration of Ronald Reagan until today, we have been that city on a hill. Americans have bestowed benefits to the human race—from our founding principles, to the inventions of our brilliant minds, to the sacrifices from American soldiers around the world.

The Left seethes at Donald Trump, completely failing to see what many Americans see: Trump isn’t about Republicanism or conservatism or even nationalism, per se. He’s about Americanism; the idea that America is a truly great nation like the world has never seen before, that its constitutional republic, and a belief that free markets at home keep us free.

It’s a belief that our Constitution and our experiment in self-government are valid, and that for them to continue, we must faithfully and without hesitation strongly defend our national sovereignty and physical borders. It’s a belief that we must engage with the world, that our priorities must be asserted and accommodated on the international stage, that in all deals and interactions, American entrepreneurs, business owners, workers and taxpayers must be respected.

After all, no other nation puts other nations first, so why should we? There is no shame in advocating our interests abroad. It is only with honest negotiations and diplomacy that the best arrangements can be settled upon. We do not seek to lord it over others, nor will we permit others to lord it over us.

We are not interested in nation building—that’s a task for each people and nation to pursue for themselves and as best suits their particular circumstances; nor should we attempt to force our form of democracy on the rest of the world. If an emerging nation, like Lech Walesa’s Poland, should ask us for our help, we’re glad to assist. But it is the job of the Poles and every people to do the heavy lifting for themselves.

Americanism isn’t a command to intervene and domineer in the world, but rather to lead by example. It isn’t the stuff of an ugly jingoistic nationalism, but a profound belief that in the entire span of history, we are truly great and that we should not be ashamed of being one of the world’s greatest hopes, we should embrace it.

As Americans, we need to teach our children the value of our nation and the truth of our history. We don’t need a whitewashed past free of blemishes, but an honest and forthright understanding of what has always made America exceptional. The future of our nation depends on it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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About Ned Ryun

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.