Real Patriotism: Flag vs. Ballot

Patriotism is American. It is a central factor in the presidential election campaign. McCain and the Republicans hammer on Obama for not being patriotic enough. They seek to paint him  as an unpatriotic popstar-like politician, who does not care about the troops, but only about being elected. Obama tries to counter that image by wearing flag pins  and standing in front of several American flags when he speaks (e.g. Race speech in Philadelphia).


Source: New York Times, March 18, 2008


What should be a central part of this debate, however, is less symbolism and more patriotic action. The following assertion from Jack C. Doppelt and Ellen Shearer’s Nonvoters: America’s No-Shows made me think about the relationship between flags and ballots and it triggered me to write this post:


“In a 1996 report on voter participation commissioned for the Michigan legisture, the authors concluded that ‘citizens appear to cherish the American flag a symbol of democracy, more than they value the vote, the actual exercise of democracy.’”


The patriotism debate in the campaign should focus on voting as a patriotic act. McCain and Obama should repeat this statement at least as often as they focus on symbolic patriotism. Appealing to and refining the voters’ understanding of patriotism could actually make a difference in terms of voter turnout.


Reading: Doppelt, Jack C. & Ellen Shearer. Nonvoters: America’s no-shows. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, California, 1999.