Ben Shapiro: Why Aren't Democrats Proud to Be American? | Opinion

Are Democrats proud of being American? This sounds like a loaded question—who wouldn't be proud of being American? But according to a new poll, there's a serious dearth of pride among Democrats about the country. Gallup reports that just 32 percent of Democrats call themselves "extremely proud" of their national identity, compared with 74 percent of Republicans who say the same.

But that makes sense, doesn't it? After all, President Trump is wildly unpopular among Democrats—and with someone the Democrats consider disgraceful at the head of government, they can be expected to feel ashamed. And by contrast, Republicans only feel proud because Trump is president. After all, weren't they ashamed when Obama was president?

Actually, the answer is no. When Obama was president, a solid supermajority of Republicans still said they were extremely proud to be American—68 percent in 2016. In 2016, when Obama was president, only 45 percent of Democrats said they were extremely proud to be American. So the massive gap in pride isn't president-dependent. It's purely ideological.

And that raises a far more significant question: why are so many Democrats uneasy about expressing pride for their country? It wasn't always that way. JFK routinely spoke in glowing terms about America—in ringing, patriotic tones that modern Democrats could easily dismiss as jingoistic.

Something has been lost among Democrats. Perhaps it's a sense of national mission. More likely, it's a sense of national goodness. Republicans tend to tell the American story in one way, Democrats in another. Republicans see the story of America as that of a nation conceived in freedom but flawed in its implementation of it—a nation constantly striving to live up to its founding vision. Thus, Republicans are more comfortable with the approach of Martin Luther King Jr., who espoused the perfection of the American covenant, than that of Malcolm X, who spoke of the unfixable flaws of the American system.

Democrats, by contrast, see America as a country founded in slavery and bigotry, in repression and greed, perfected over time through public action. For Republicans, the Civil War was an attempt to live up to the Constitution's ideals; for Democrats, the Civil War was an attempt to rewrite the Constitution entirely. For Republicans, racism is a horrible part of our past and present, but we can work to rise above it; for Democrats, racism is a part of our American DNA, as Barack Obama put it.

When Obama was president in 2016, 68 percent of Republicans said they were extremely proud to be American, but only 45 percent of Democrats said they were extremely proud to be American. Getty Images

This has significant ramifications in terms of patriotic feeling. Republicans are proud of the country no matter who is president because when they think of America, they think of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, of Steve Jobs and Ronald Reagan; Democrats are only proud when the president is a Democrat, because when they think of America, they think of John C. Calhoun and Jim Crow, of Harvey Weinstein and Rodney King.

Thus, Republicans and Democrats teach their children differently. Symbols of America make Republicans proud; they make Democrats a bit more trepidatious, as a general rule. One Harvard study found that children who attended just one July Fourth celebration before age 18 were four percent more likely to vote Republican, and two percent more likely to identify as conservative. As study authors David Yanagizawa-Drott and Andreas Madestam wrote, "Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party."

Democrats think Donald Glover's "This is America" is America. Republicans think Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The USA is America."

That gap isn't likely to be bridged anytime soon, which is why tensions are running so high right now. It's an old saw in politics that both sides want the same thing, just by different means. That's not so obvious. Republicans want an America in line with founding ideals and myths; Democrats want an America that rejects those founding ideals and myths. Those are two very different countries indeed.

Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of "The Ben Shapiro Show," available on iTunes and syndicated across America.​

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​