In 2001, before the 9/11 attacks, the share of Americans who said they were “extremely” or “very” proud of their country was 87 percent. That number held relatively steady for the next 15 years, through 9/11, the Iraq war, Katrina, and the duration of the Obama presidency, never dropping below 80 percent.
Then, in 2017, it fell to 75 percent.
And now, in 2019, it’s fallen to 70 percent, with the share who describe themselves as “extremely” proud at 45 percent — the first time that number’s been less than a majority during this century.
Wha’ happened in 2016?
Perhaps … this graph might enlighten us?
Note that that’s not a reflection of how many people claimed *some* pride in being an American, just those who claimed they’re “extremely” proud. But even so, it’s revealing:
1. Until the rise of Trump, Democrats and independents tracked very closely. Only in the last two years have they diverged, with indies maintaining a somewhat smaller share of “extreme” pride than they did during the Obama years and Dems falling off a farking cliff.
2. The current Democratic numbers are less than half what they were during the darkest days of the Iraq war. I blogged during that period and, let me tell you, I never dreamed that Democratic animosity towards a Republican president would be worse than it was then. Not only is it worse under Trump, his ascendance has colored perceptions of the country itself in ways Bush’s tenure didn’t. Which maybe makes sense: To some Iraq is more a colossal error in judgment than a symptom of some deep character flaw in the country. (Anti-war activists would counter that nothing reflects a deep character flaw so much as a major misbegotten war.) But no doubt there are some rank-and-file Dems who viewed Bush as incompetent yet his hope for liberal democracy in the Middle East as at least well intentioned. That same benefit of the doubt on good intentions — on pretty much any subject — is out the window for them with Trump, which helps explain why “electability” looms so large in this year’s primaries. When the current president has made you lose faith in the country itself, all you want to do is get him out.
3. The *highest* level of “extreme” pride claimed by Democrats since 2001 is less than the *lowest* level claimed by Republicans. For all the hype about how much righties loathed O and his vision for the country, “extreme” pride never dipped below 68 percent among Republicans towards the tail end of his presidency. And for all the hype about how loyal GOPers are to Trump, they have yet to reach the level of “extreme” pride during his tenure that they did towards the end of Dubya’s, when his job approval overall was deep in the toilet.
4. Aside from one small blip after Obama won reelection, it’s been a long time since a majority of Democrats were “extremely” proud to be American. You might have expected the election of the first black president to have perked up their numbers in 2009, but nope. “America isn’t great” has been a core Dem conviction since the Iraq war which not even Obama’s tenure could correct.
In lieu of an exit question, here’s a Trump-sized dook that was dropped on the NYT op-ed page yesterday because, I guess, there’s only one mood a right-thinking liberal newspaper can properly have when Independence Day rolls around. Actual title of this piece: “Please Stop Telling Me America Is Great.” It’d make a terrific Democratic slogan in 2020.
The myth of America as the greatest nation on earth is at best outdated and at worst, wildly inaccurate. If you look at data, the U.S. is really just O.K. pic.twitter.com/pFrWBH0Zfl
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) July 2, 2019