In the manner of lacing well water with poison, the Republican right has sought to use patriotism as a deadly sword against progressive Democrats.
The propaganda maneuver is based on a simple principle. Only the Republican right can define patriotism. As a result, the most reactionary Republicans engaging in the most odious conduct, including unconstitutional acts of war and corruption, are deemed patriotic.
Those attacking such individuals and their actions are ipso facto deemed unpatriotic and of engaging in conduct that "gives aid and comfort to the enemy."
Many cite the mid-twentieth century conduct of Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy as the opening salvo in the strategy to paint progressives unpatriotic, but the effort was launched when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt developed a coalition of union and middle class support based on strong federal action to counteract the tragedy and suffering incurred during the Great Depression.
A reactionary big business coalition called the American Liberty League strove so hard to bring FDR down that a Fascist coup was initiated that was brought down through the valiant effort of one of America's unsung heroes, General Smedley Butler.
One of the leading legal minds of the thirties was Thurman Arnold, who served in the Roosevelt Administration Justice Department as an assistant attorney general. He was later nominated by Roosevelt and confirmed as an associate judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. He also served as a law professor at Yale.
Arnold is now best known for his thought provoking book "The Folklore of Capitalism." The book's thesis that was brilliantly elucidated was the central myth perpetuated by right wing propagandists of the American Liberty League.
This myth continues to be perpetrated. It lay at the central core of the Reagan and Bush II administrations as well as the current Tea Party movement. Its underlying belief is that what business does is essentially good and that actions by government in the economic and interrelated regulatory spheres are fundamentally bad and frequently un-American.