Issues & Insights

Who Gets To Define What’s Patriotic?

Last week, President Joe Biden said it’s the patriotic duty of Americans to wear masks while outside. Years ago, while campaigning as Barack Obama’s running mate, he said it was patriotic to pay higher taxes. It’s hard to decide if these statements are more akin to the ramblings of a child or are uncomfortably similar to Third World despots who demand obedience from their subordinated citizens.

Frankly, they’re both. Making a distinction is virtually impossible.

When we hear Biden try to force his view of patriotism on the country, we think of Woody Allen’s “Bananas,” the 1971 comedy in which a Castro-style revolutionary declares that not only “from this day on,” the official language of the banana republic of San Marcos “will be Swedish,” in addition, “all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.” It’s about commanding, not persuading.

Biden wakes up every morning in the White House – whether he knows it or not – but that doesn’t give him the authority to define patriotism, nor to expect us to follow without question or dissent.

We concede that patriotism is not easy to define. We’re familiar with the line that one man’s terrorist is another man’s patriot, and we’re quite aware that waving the flag is sometimes nothing more than just creating a light breeze.

But we also know that George Washington warned us to “guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism,” and Theodore Roosevelt said “patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official.”

Biden wants to use his version of patriotism as a blunt instrument to forward the agenda of the left, which supports the most unpatriotic ideas imaginable. The left, a retrograde tribe made up of almost every Democratic politician and party official, nearly every member of the media, and most of the entertainment industry, does not believe in freedom outside of special privileges it’s carved out for itself. Respect for, and defense of, freedom should be the most patriotic act of all, considering that this nation was founded to establish an island of liberty in a world controlled by kings, queens, dynasties, emperors, and czars.

We recall that it was not that many months ago, while Donald Trump was still president, when the left argued that dissent was patriotic. Yet now patriotism to the left means (preferably blind and enthusiastic) compliance with government authority, conformity of thought, sheepishly handing over private resources to politicians, and a wholesale surrender to economic central planners. 

While we’ll leave it to Americans to define patriotism for themselves, we will remind them what it isn’t. It’s not employing the jackboot of the state. It’s not bullying an ostensibly free people into submission. It’s not the erasure of our history nor unrelenting appeals for greater dependence on government.

And it’s most certainly not whatever sophomoric nonsense that pops out of Joe Biden’s mouth.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • Biden also stood before Congress & the country and said that “We the people…” was meant to reference the State being conferred all powers, not the citizens loaning it. He is one of those who really believe in an all powerful state.

  • “We recall that it was not that many months ago, while Donald Trump was still president, when the left argued that dissent was patriotic. Yet now patriotism to the left means (preferably blind and enthusiastic) compliance with government authority, conformity of thought, sheepishly handing over private resources to politicians, and a wholesale surrender to economic central planners.” This should be shouted from every roof top, near and far. It is the main thrust of what’s wrong with the Left.

  • And while we’re figuring out who gets to define what’s patriotic, would someone explain what the idea of “fair share” is for taxes? What is a person’s “fair share?” Who gets to determine what that “fair share” is? The top 1% already pay the lion’s share of taxes. I personally do not begrudge anyone the right to make money, but regardless of how much one makes, I do not think it’s fair for anyone to have to give more than one (1) out of every two (2) dollars to the government of money they made and earned themselves, which is what some of these tax burdens (state + federal taxes combined) call for. That far exceeds someone’s “fair share.” For goodness sakes, the good Lord only asks for ten (10) percent.

  • I don’t know who writes Joe Biden’s stuff, whether one ventriloquist or a committee of like-minded authoritarians, but I do know that the president, an avuncular and handsome spokesman, delivers his lines superbly, strutting the Beltway stage with a progressive panacea for every little thing that might trouble us or the nation he and his fellow socialist musketeers wish to refashion. It is not just life from cradle to grave they want to restructure but, in their zeal to make everything one dimensional lest individual merit and effort cause stratification and disappointment for the less endowed, the afterlife as well – witness changes they have on the wish list for the estate tax, so that even our long planned eternal rest cannot remain tranquil.

    I am long in the tooth now, bald and doddering and occasionally forgetful, but I still remember America of my youth, a bastion of first amendment freedoms, of amber waves of grain free of EPA micro-regulation, a country of smiles not masks, of industry and engineering unrestrained by small-minded controls on capital and labor bought by lobbyists for the favored unions, a one-for-all and all-for-one ethic. Disappointments? Sure, but we worked through them without demonizing one race among the many in the mix. Demonizing the majority is what today’s Democrats hail as unifying, as perplexing an idea as any in their confused quiver. Joe Biden is a president in a hurry and he is as wrong as those who program his teleprompter without a mandate from the voters. Autocracy anyone?

  • Nothing surprised me more than how Biden pivoted hard left within seconds of winning the Presidency.

  • it’s unpatriotic to question the definition of patriotism.

  • Democrats get to decide what’s patriotic because we allow them to.

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