Last night at the convention, Democrats unveiled a new kind of economic patriotism. It wasn’t offered as a substitute for what we might call traditional gung-ho patriotism, because there was plenty of that still on display. But unlike past efforts by Democrats to redefine patriotism, this new-style patriotism was muscular, aggressive, and didn’t back down. And it gave a structure and context — a spine perhaps? — to a range of Democratic Party themes, encompassing policy proposals like a more progressive tax system and political attacks on Mitt Romney like his use of offshore bank accounts.
Take a look at how it was woven into speeches by four different Democratic luminaries— Cory Booker, Martin O’Malley, Ted Strickland and Harry Reid:
Since at least Vietnam, Democrats have been on the defensive on patriotism, or at least a particular kind of flag-waving, hawkish patriotism defined and then embodied by Republicans. Democrats have tried on occasion to redefine patriotism, but the efforts have been mostly feeble and short-lived, invariably over-focusing on how their version is not like the Republican variant rather than affirmatively establishing itself.
It’s too soon to say whether this is the emergence of some new strain of patriotism that Democrats will sustain as a rhetorical tool for long. Perhaps it’s just the expedient product of shrewd wordsmiths looking for the most effective way to take down Mitt Romney. But what’s striking is how robust this broader definition of patriotism is compared to past efforts. These are sharp attacks, very sharp, under the guise of their own kind of flag-waving.
It’s different. No doubt about that.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.