The American President

John McCain’s first post primary ad that ends with the line the American president that Americans have been waiting for brings up some interesting issues. First of all, have we ever had an un-American president? Aren’t all of the candidates American? Does wearing a flag pin, made in China, or displaying a plastic flag on a stick, again made in China, make someone more American or more patriotic than someone else?

Harold Meyerson’s column, McCain’s America is Exclusionary, in the Washington Post makes some great points about this. Here are a few excerpts:

Now, I mean to take nothing away from McCain’s Americanness by noting that it’s Obama’s story that represents a triumph of specifically American identity over racial and religious identity. It was the lure of America, the shining city on a hill, that brought his black Kenyan father here, where he met Obama’s white Kansan mother. It is because America is uniquely the land of immigrants and has moved beyond a racial caste system that Obama exists, has thrived and stands a good chance of being our next president.

That’s not the America, though, that the Republicans refer to in proclaiming their own Americanness. For them, “American” is a term to be used as a wedge issue, a way to distinguish their more racially and religiously homogeneous party from the historically more polyglot Democrats. Such separation has a long pedigree: Campaigning for GOP presidential nominee Alf Landon in 1936, Republican leader Frank Knox said that the Democratic Party under President Franklin Roosevelt “has been seized by alien and un-American elements. Next November, you will choose the American way.”

This year, we can expect to see almost nothing but these kinds of assaults as the campaign progresses. The Republican attack against Obama all but ignores the issue differences between the candidates to go after what is presumably his inadequately American identity. He is, writes one leading conservative columnist, “out of touch with everyday America.” His reluctance to wear a flag pin, writes another, shows that he “has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism.”




1 Response to “The American President”

  1. 1 Franconia June 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    No, wearing a flag pin or having a flag sticker does not make you more American than someone who does not. The real question is, does refusing to wear a flag pin or refusing to sing the national anthem, along with being affiliated with someone who says GD America make you anti-American? Also you see that Obama does wear a flag pin now. Has Obama become just like the sack of potatoes that has flags all over it? Is Obama trying to sell something that is not patriotic as something that is?

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