The Flag at My Mother's House
There are dozens of essays that could be written about the different factors that opened the White House doors to Trump. Fake news, sensationalist news, and anti-elitism, sexism. Ta-Nehisi Coates has already written a beautiful and compelling reflection on the role the forces of racism played. Economic decline in the rust belt (and perhaps more importantly, bipartisan elites’ disregard of it) brought key Electoral College votes. Partisanship too, was determinant. Certainly many thousands, probably many hundreds of thousands of Republicans voted for a man they believe to be an unsteady cheat solely because he had the right initial next to his name on the ballot. And who can blame the voters for this choice when almost the entire Republican leadership supported it? It was Marco Rubio, after all, who called Trump a conman, and never walked back from that statement (but also did not urge his followers to vote against Trump).
But of all the forces that brought Trump into the White House, the issue of American patriotism and perceived attack on national pride merits more careful reflection than it has gotten. Not least because the first weeks of Trump’s America have sparked new battles over the narrative of the American nation and whether the (imperfectly) realized version of Jürgen Habermas’s Verfassungspatriotismus that has driven American progress can be recaptured. This rich and important fight will determine America’s story in the months and years to come, and may also provide valuable lessons for countries such as Germany that are confronting a more diverse future.
Outside of the United States, and in Germany especially, Americans’ exhibitionist national pride seems both immature and menacing. But that is because it is misunderstood. And by many American progressives, it has been devalued, if not attacked. If progressives, or really any non-nationalists, want to offer a future that new immigrants and rural Americans can share, they will need to understand the value of the American version of constitutional or democratic patriotism.