EDITORIAL: Patriotism on parade

Do Fourth of July celebrations make people more Republican?

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If you are planning on taking your kids to a Fourth of July parade, be on notice: You might be transforming them into activist Republicans.

In May, Jan Erik Andreas Madestam of Bocconi University in Italy and David Yanagizawa-Drott of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government posted findings of a study they had conducted on the impact of Independence Day celebrations on political identification and turnout. The study, “Shaping the Nation: Estimating the Impact of Fourth of July Using a Natural Experiment,” found “a set of striking relationships linked to Fourth of July.” According to the study, “Fourth of July celebrations have a significant impact on people’s political preferences. A rain-free Fourth of July makes it 1.3 percent more likely that an individual contemporaneously identify as a Republican.”

The effects of the change are cumulative; the “likelihood that an adult at age 40 identifies as a Republican increases by 0.76 percentage points for each rain-free Fourth of July during childhood, where childhood is defined as the ages of 3-18.” The effects are strongest at ages 7 through 10, and “the estimates show that the impact on political preferences is permanent, with no evidence of the effects depreciating as individuals grow older.” Unfortunately for the left, the study found “no evidence of an increased likelihood of identifying as a Democrat, indicating that Fourth of July shifts preferences to the right rather than increasing political polarization.”

Attending parades in youth also can lead to greater political participation later in life. The study found that “voter turnout later in life increases by 0.62 percentage points per rain-free day” and the “likelihood that individuals attend political rallies, make campaign donations and work for political parties as adults also rises.” The participation effects peak later than the preference effects, kicking in most strongly at ages 15 through 18, and tend to be less durable than the permanent pro-Republican impact.

One explanation posited by the study for these effects is that “Fourth of July is a day that provides a context for the celebration of an American civil religion organized around flags, parades and the Constitution” and that “while these values need not be partisan … the political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century.” Surveys released in 2010 by the Pew Research Center and Gallup support the idea that conservatives tend to consider themselves more patriotic than liberals. “According to this interpretation,” the study continues, “there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican Party.”

The notion that conservatives have appropriated notions of American patriotism is questionable. A stronger case can be made that the left abandoned patriotism sometime in the 1960s and never came back to it. The liberal critique of America is dominated by multiculturalist moral relativism and victimization ideology. The former teaches that the United States and its dominant cultural currents are no better than those found elsewhere in the world, so celebrating them is a form of discrimination. The latter contends that American history is a shocking tale of slavery, exploitation, sexism, racism, imperialism and a host of other isms. This narrative is tailored to engender a sense of entitlement in various groups that is then translated into political action and demands for special treatment.

To the “blame America first” crowd, celebrating the story of the United States is simply bowing down to the dead white slave-owning elitists who stole the idea for the Constitution from the Native Americans. Conservatives did not “appropriate” American patriotism; they saw it in the gutter where the left had tossed it, picked it up with reverent hands, and set it standing again.

The National Independence Day Parade will be held on Monday, kicking off at 11:45 a.m. and routing down Constitution Avenue between Seventh and 17th streets Northwest. Full details on the event can be found on the parade website at www.july4thparade.com. We urge our readers, particularly those with families, to take in an Independence Day parade this year. Celebrating America is great for the kids.

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