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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Partisanship and Patriotism

For political types, Independence Day is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, it’s a day for national unity. Regardless of party or ideology, Americans generally take some time on the 4th to listen to the same Sousa marches, display the same flag, eat the same grilled food, and mingle at parades and parks and sporting venues, rubbing shoulders with people we might regard, in a different context, as warmongering fascists or baby-killing moral relativists. On the other hand, it’s also always been a day for politicians to make speeches and hold rallies. On this particular Independence Day, for example, many Iowans won’t be able to go outdoors without running into a presidential candidate.
On another level, the paradox is The Point. Whatever your views on the fundamental meaning of The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, or the American Experience, the 4th is one day when we can all reflect, talk and even argue about the relevance of those events to the contemporary challenges facing this country. It’s hard today for Republicans to regard Democrats as flag-despising Francophile elitists. And it’s hard today as well for Democrats to view Republicans as plotting to repeal the Bill of Rights. All our passionate arguments are a bit constrained by the rituals of Independent Day. You don’t have to be a squishy, David-Broder-style antipartisan to enjoy that for 24 hours. Tomorrow we take up the cudgels again, reinvigorated by this reconnection with the American traditions we champion in parades, rallies and songs. I personally have little doubt Our Side is truly in synch with those traditions, but don’t mind being forced to think about it more deeply once a year, when we all wear the same colors.

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