President Donald Trump’s announcement at the National Archives earlier this month of a forthcoming “1776 Commission” aimed at promoting “patriotic education” set off fireworks—and not in a good way.
“A nightmare,” pronounced Slate. “Part of an ongoing effort to downplay and minimize the role of slavery,” deplored the 1619 Project’s Nikole Hannah-Jones. “I thought I was listening to Mao Zedong running Communist China,” scolded Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s former national security adviser. “Proof America is spiraling toward fascism,” quivered The Guardian. Representing the ivory tower, the American Historical Association issued a florid one-pager all its own, co-signed by 30-plus groups, “deploring the tendentious use of history and history education to stoke politically motivated culture wars.”
Such partisan hyperbole about the 1776 Commission might be expected so close to an election. But its critics should have stopped to ask what, exactly, might have inspired such a project in the first place. The answer is a grim reality that deserves bipartisan attention, and has for a long time now: America suffers from a patriotism gap. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to profess patriotism. Older people are much more likely than younger ones to be patriotic, too.
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