Friday, July 8, 2011

Reflections on America’s 235th Birthday

I hope everyone had an excellent Independence Day weekend. We were blessed by an impromptu mini-family reunion. We were grilling, expecting my two brothers to visit along with our two sons, but had to make a last-minute run to the supermarket to accommodate about 20 aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends. Our son Jeff took a break from his heavy workload and studies at SMU. Our other son Justin was home from California on his last leave before deploying back to Afghanistan with the US Marines. We were very thankful for the large turnout.

Nationally, the most interesting item I encountered was the US News story of a new Harvard University study suggesting that Democratic political candidates should skip July 4th parades since the events are right wing celebrations. According to the article from the liberal news site,

A new Harvard University study finds that July 4th parades energize only Republicans, turn kids into Republicans, and help to boost the GOP turnout of adults on Election Day. “Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party,” said the report from Harvard.

“The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century. Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican Party. Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans,” write Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam.

There is no evidence of an increased likelihood of identifying as a Democrat, indicating that Fourth of July shifts preferences to the right rather than increasing political polarization," the two wrote.

The liberal professors then proceed to offer these so-called “three key findings”.
  • When done before the age of 18, it increases the likelihood of a youth identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent.
  • It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.
  • It boosts the likelihood a reveler will vote by about 1 percent and increases the chances they'll make a political contribution by 3 percent.
We found no documentation on how the professors arrived at these statistics, but I believe the report’s conclusion confuses the cause and effect of patriotism. The professors basically assume that people attending Independence Day parades are politically neutral until the parades turn some of them into right wing radicals. Since in their minds, it's probably difficult to imagine how any intelligent person can actually be loyal to a country like America, the parades must be the “cause” of people becoming patriotic and Republicans.

We would argue however, that attendance at patriotic events is the “effect” of a person’s political, social and cultural inclination. That is, those people who are patriotic, Republicans, and conservatives (those recognizing the authority of the constitution) are much more likely to attend the Independence Day parades.

Another “surprising discovery” in the report (at least to the liberal professors) is that the impact of the parades is not temporary, but permanent. The Harvard report stated “Surprisingly, the estimates show that the impact on political preferences is permanent, with no evidence of the effects depreciating as individuals become older”. This statement reinforces our conclusion, since liberals tend to be driven by emotion and feelings, so any patriotic impact would be short-lived.

Now, we don't want this article to be a blanket criticism of all liberals (those who reject traditional authority). I have several very good friends who lean liberal on many issues, but also are very patriotic. For the most part however, many liberals are more at home on holidays such as Cinco de Mayo or others that promote foreign, international or global interests. The most radical are more comfortable at a “flag-burning” event than at a “flag-waving” one. This usually stems from the commonly held belief that American exceptionalism is the root of all evil and the source of the world’s problems. Thus, they feel guilty about our prosperity and freedom, and feel the need to apologize to the rest of the world rather than encouraging other countries to follow our model. We will further investigate typical liberal attitudes toward our country in another post to be uploaded shortly and linked from here.

We’ll close this article by noting that, religious conservatives recognize that we ultimately owe our freedoms to God rather than to a human source such as government. Any freedoms given by government can also be taken away by government. True freedoms come only from God.

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