What is Economic Patriotism?

On 29 September 2012 President Obama presented an economic argument that he calls "economic patriotism." At the debate on 3 October he said his "new economic patriotism" plan will create a million manufacturing jobs, cut oil imports and hire thousands of new teachers. How can increasing taxes and spending be patriotic? The same way going into debt can be called an investment. Linguistic manipulation is a favorite trick of progressives.

The American people need to understand the two very different meanings of patriotism and to recognize the consequences of replacing the traditional meaning with the progressive meaning Obama uses.

Back in 2008 Obama said: "We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight." He said he would challenge the old Republican "partisan playbook" because  "patriotism has no party" At the same time he expressed his support for the military and veterans. His aim? To immunize himself from the vulnerability he created by claiming to be a "citizen of the world" and from a weakness that has hurt Democrats many times. Now in 2012 Obama is again attempting to use the progressive meaning of patriotism to his political advantage. He does not want to be seen as the one who gives the disadvantaged stuff, while Romney is seen as the one who advances national interests.

Patriot is a very old word; originally it meant "defender of the lands of our fathers". Throughout history all successful groups have found ways to create group identity and shared civic virtues to bind its members together during competition with others.

Traditional patriotism is defined as demonstrated love, support, defense and sacrifice for one's country and loyalty to that country. Obama's progressive patriotism is defined as the feelings, emotions and dreams someone has about his country. Traditional patriotism is an expression of moral certainty and actions, while progressive patriotism is an expression of relativism and feelings. Both versions claim they express love for past, present and future countrymen.

Traditional patriotism claims there is right and wrong behavior, as defined by society, to demonstrate patriotism. This means putting the country first, before ideology, political factions, and personal ambition. Many Obama supporters consider this view of patriotism a relic of the past.

Progressives claim patriotism is subjective, and dependent on the life narrative of each individual. This means that patriotism is defined by the memories, hopes, dreams and feelings of each person. Today, anyone who rejects the nation-state in favor of world governance will also reject the traditional definition of patriotism in favor of the progressive version.

Patriotism as a word gained its meaning as nation-states became the major actors in world affairs. Prior to the 18th century, loyalty was to the sovereign. With the rise of nation-states it became necessary to shift loyalty from an individual to a nation, i.e. a collectivity of those with a common identity. The "divine right of Kings" was abolished during the age of political revolution. However, the new nation-states needed some way to express loyalty to the new sovereign, i.e. the people as a whole (the nation). This task fell to the concept of patriotism.

Traditional patriotism states what a person must do for his country to be considered a patriot. But progressive thought rejects such objectivity. It claims that objectivity is an illusion used by the powerful to manipulate people and oppress the disadvantaged. Progressive patriotism is an expression of moral relativism. It is the love and feelings each person has for the people of his country as a result of their own life narrative. Opposition to your country's policies and actions that a person considers unjust are, in the minds of progressives, the highest form of patriotism. Thus spending to achieve "social justice" is patriotic in the eyes of progressives. This is why Obama refers to his plan as "new economic patriotism".

The progressive view of patriotism must be rejected if there is to be reasoned discussion of national interests. Just because a person says he love his country, and expects to receive benefits, is not enough. Patriots are only those willing to work and sacrifice to advance the interests of their nation.

Of course, no one will be thinking about definitions of patriotism when they vote in November, yet what they consider patriotic might have something to do with the outcome of the election. The culture war, which has gripped America since the 1960s, has so eroded dedication to traditional patriotism that many might vote for the candidate they think will give them the most stuff--rather than the one that will advance national interests.