October 17, 2005
Forces soldiers, as my U.S. News colleague Linda Robinson
writes in her riveting book, "Masters of Chaos," are very
much aware of "the tradition of their military history."
On the eve
of a difficult mission, "more than one soldier went to sleep
hoping that the next days would prove him a worthy member of that
lineage." That's one reason the military maintains old units,
so that soldiers will be motivated to match the deeds of those
who came before and prove worthy to those who come after.
one of the comforting aspects of attending religious services
is the knowledge that you are doing what others have done before
you and others will do after. Even nonbelievers often feel a twinge
of awe when they attend Christian or Jewish weddings or funerals
and witness liturgies with centuries-old roots.
there's the flag. Most Americans feel a shiver when they hear
"The Star-Spangled Banner" played and reflect on the
triumphs and tragedies that those serving under that flag have
won and suffered over more than 200 years. You're part of something
larger than yourself.
all of us cherish ties to past traditions. "America's business,
professional, intellectual and academic elites," writes Samuel
Huntington in his 2004 book, "Who Are We?" have "attitudes
and behavior (that) contrast with the overwhelming patriotism
and nationalistic identification with their country of the American
public. ... They abandon commitment to their nation and their
fellow citizens, and argue the moral superiority of identifying
with humanity at large."
this gap between transnational elites and the patriotic public
is growing. Huntington knows whereof he speaks: He's been at Harvard
for more than half a century.
is something new in our history. Franklin Roosevelt spoke fluent
French and German and worked to create the United Nations, but
no one doubted that his allegiance was to America above all. Most
Harvard professors in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s felt a
responsibility to help the United States prevail against its totalitarian
But in the
later stages of the Vietnam War -- a war begun by elite liberals
-- elites on campuses began taking an adversarial posture toward
their own country. Later, with globalization, a transnational
mindset grew among corporate and professional elites. Legal elites,
too: Some Supreme Court justices have taken to citing foreign
law as one basis for interpreting the U.S. Constitution.
between transnational elites and the patriotic public has reverberations
in partisan politics. Americans in military service and those
with strong religious beliefs now vote heavily Republican. Americans
with strong patriotic feelings are more closely split between
the parties, but the growing minority with transnational attitudes
vote heavily Democratic. Which doesn't necessarily help the Democratic
Bill Galston and Elaine Kamarck, both Clinton administration veterans,
point out in a recent paper that two thirds of liberals, the dominant
force in the party at least in 2004, reject pre-emptive use of
military force and want to cut the defense budget, while only
one-third of the electorate agrees.
social issues and defense dominate today's political terrain,"
they conclude, "it is in these areas that liberals espouse
views diverging not only from those of other Democrats, but from
Americans as a whole. To the extent that liberals now constitute
both the largest bloc within the Democratic coalition and the
public face of the party, Democratic candidates for national office
will be running uphill."
nation's morale and strength derive from a sense of the past,"
argues historian Wilfred McClay. Ties to those who came before
-- whether in the military, in religion, in general patriotism
-- provide a sense of purpose rooted in history and tested over
time. Secular transnational elites are on their own, without a
useful tradition, in constructing a morality to help them perform
sense they need such ties to the past, to judge from the millions
buying books about Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jeffersonand other
Founding Fathers. We Americans are lucky to live in a country
with a history full of noble ideas, great leaders and awe-inspiring
accomplishments. Sadly, many of our elites want no part of it.
Copyright 2005 US News & World Report
Distributed by Creators Syndicate