In attempting to explain why “Liberals Should Worry About the IRS Scandal,” Eric Liu, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton according to his bio, seems to have a rather short memory of the past few decades:
Things got this way because from Reagan to Gingrich to Fox News and the Tea Party, right-wingers have systematically and relentlessly adopted the language and iconography of American patriotism. They’ve claimed the flag and the history of the founding of the Republic as their own.
During that time, left-wingers responded too often by walking away from the contest. They laughed off the shameless jingoism of conservatives. They made patriotism ironic, the way Colbert’s giant eagle and giant flag are meant to be ridiculous. When the Tea Party first came on the scene, progressives rolled their eyes at all the tricorner hats and colonial garb. They didn’t ask themselves how they might don the mantle of love of country. In a sense, then, those hapless IRS bureaucrats in Cincinnati were performing their questionable task in an unquestionably rational way: liberals just don’t proclaim patriotism very much any more, so it was plausible to conclude that any organization using such rhetoric while seeking tax-exempt status must be a conservative outfit.
This is trouble. When words of the nation’s creedal origins and civic identity become mere partisan code, it’s bad not only for the party that no longer has access to them; it’s bad for the nation. Anyone who cares about civic education and the integrity of democracy has to be disturbed that in the word association game of contemporary politics, “Defend the Bill of Rights” and “Respect the Constitution” sound Republican.
Yes, how did that happen? It’s not like the liberals at Time photographed themselves a couple of years ago shredding the Constitution and asking if it still matters:
Oh, right. (Err, actually, oh, left). Actually, Time magazine began thinking of conservatives as The Other even before Republican founder Henry Luce permanently left the building in 1967. In 1966, the magazine founded four decades earlier by the son of Christian missionaries killed God; at the end of 1969, it determined that “Middle America” was its collective Man of the Year, writing in utterly baffled tones at how a majority of the nation could have voted for law & order candidate Richard Nixon after witnessing the blue-on-blue horrors of 1968.
Flash-forward to the 21st century, and we find CNN, which is owned by the same conglomerate that owns Time routinely sneered at the Tea Party in 2009 and 2010. Leftwing oikophobia continued as 2012 merged into the current year; Piers Morgan, described by Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN (expatriated from similarly left-wing NBC) as one of the network’s “foundation brands,” sneeringly described the Constitution as “your little book,” when handed a copy on-air by Ben Shapiro of Breitbart.com in early 2013. This was only a week or so after the New York Times ended the year by running an op-ed titled, “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution;” CBS would approvingly interview its author the following month.
If it’s true, as Liu writes, that “in the word association game of contemporary politics, ‘Defend the Bill of Rights’ and ‘Respect the Constitution,’ sound Republican,” it’s only because the left ceded those words long ago. The fact that they view their loss as merely “a game” is telling as well.