Who is so bold as to root for America anymore? Once it was a given, now rooting for America is passe' on both sides of the political divide. These days you can get more applause, American applause, by rooting for America to fail than to win.
The GOP wants Obama to lose far more than they want America to succeed--witness their unseemly delight at Chicago's face-plant in the Olympics vote. If Barry Goldwater were alive he'd have torn the flag pins from their traitorous lapels. The sunshine patriots of the party of patriotism sold their birthright for a mess of morbid revenge.
The right thinks America is them and only them; to the conservatives' debased base liberals in general and Obama in particular aren't really Americans. They're like French, or something. And it's no great leap from there to wanting America to fail as long as these pinkos are running the place.
But I don't just want to pick on the right, they're too easy. The right is in the throes of a nervous breakdown these dark days, it's hardly fair to expect them to be rational, however disappointing their behavior has been to anyone who roots for America.
The left often seems to find rooting for America as distasteful as dental work, and with far less excuse than the right.
To find actual hate for America among the left, you have to look pretty far into the fringes, into the precincts of "America the warmonger," "America the ruthless globalizer," "America the imperial overlord raping the world of its resources and enslaving its poor."
But a far broader swath of liberals is ashamed of America. They don't hate the place, they just find it nearly impossible to root for. To them, rooting for America reeks of flag waving, NASCAR and John Wayne.
And flag-waving, NASCAR-loving, John Waynes are everything they've been against since the Vietnam war. Yahoo, reactionary, know-nothings who have hijacked and perverted the American dream.
But the left let them do it, they watched in aloof disdain as their opponents grabbed Old Glory. The liberals handed over the flag without a fight, and the conservatives proceeded to wrap themselves in it.
That was a mistake. Liberals should have been the repository of the highest ideals of America, especially during their long exile in the political wilderness. They should have fought hard to claim the mantle of Americanism back from their adversaries. The winning strategy would have been to unwrap the flag from the flag-draped right and stake it proudly on their own, liberal, American ground.
They are paying for that failure now. We all are. The liberals, albeit a weak tea version of liberals, have come into power at long last. They have a chance to remake the American dream in their own image--just as Ronald Reagan did in his, thirty years ago.
They're doing a poor job of it, so far. The liberals don't seem to have the courage of their own convictions. They start out compromising to get Republican support, and when they don't get it they compromise some more.
Why is it that the Democrats, elected with a ringing mandate for change, are so timid about making some? Why are their health care plans so pedestrian? Why don't they get rid of hate laws like "don't ask, don't tell?" Why won't they tax some fairness into the most unbalanced economy in American history?
I believe it's because they don't know how to root for themselves anymore because they don't know how to root for America. If they did, their arguments would be clear and commanding: Health care is an American right. Fairness to gays is an American right. Economic justice is an American right.
But to say that stuff you have to believe in America, its ideals, its history. You have to root for it.
I have never been a fan of President Reagan, not at the time and not in retrospect. But I like one thing about him. He never let the nation, or the world, doubt where his sympathies lay. He knew you can't move America unless you root for America.