In America these days, pride doesn’t cometh before the fall. Lack of pride does.
Yesterday, Gallup released a poll that said US National Pride Falls to Record Low.
That headline caught me because I’d always thought Americans are the North Star of patriotism. Their own exceptionalism won’t let them be anything but the proudest citizens on earth.
And I’m not just talking about our gun-toting, race-baiting, COVID-denying friends south of the border. I’m talking about our socialist, white-wine, gender-fluid friends there too.
So is Gallup. In 2001 when the poll first began, 87% of Americans of all stripes felt “very proud” to be American. This year, 63% of them are. In 2001, 55% felt “extremely proud” which fell to 42% this year.
This poll is worth digging into, especially since it was taken after the racial unrest following George Floyd’s death and after Donald Trump’s bloviated response.
While there was no real change in the 24% of Democrats who felt extremely proud to be Americans from last year to this, the Republicans who felt the same way fell by 9 percentage points over last year.
This is the largest decline in 19 years and a signal that reinforces what so many political polls now point to: that even rock-hard Republicans are glancing at the exits. True, rabid pride in your country doesn’t always equate to rabid pride in your leader. But when that leader claims to “Make America Great Again”, this exception could become the rule.
There’s another group who aren’t as proud as they were: women.
In 2016, half of them were extremely proud to be American, but by last year, that had fallen to 43%. This year, it fell by 9% more to 34%, another seismic shift. Meanwhile, men’s pride slipped by just 3% in the last five years.
No surprise, only 36% of non-White Americans felt extremely proud to be Americans last year, and just 24% of them do this year.
What about White pride? Well, for the first time since 2016, it fell below 50% this year. It’s also no surprise that only one in three college graduates feels extremely proud, while 46% of non-college graduates do, which is down from 54% in 2016.
What’s both predictable and disturbing is the ‘off the cliff’ decline in chest-thumping patriotism from Americans age 18 to 29. It was never more than one in three, but this year it’s fallen to one in five.
All this begs the obvious question: what does happen to a nation whose citizens don’t like much being citizens? Or rather, don’t really like being citizens?
A friend answered my question by saying: “They become Canadians.”
No one would call us flaming patriots. But I think millions of us count ourselves lucky as hell that we’re Canadians.
No, I think what happens, especially with a country that devours the addiction of superlatives and so must constantly have more, is that lethargy sets in, a sense of “well, there’s nothing you can do to improve things, really.”
It would be interesting if Gallup were to start an offshoot of its National Pride Poll. Let’s call it the National Shame Poll.
After all, most other countries feel that about America these days. Or pity or scorn.
And while it’s easy to be glib about America’s decline and fall, the real tragedy is that our view of them is starting to match their own.