This election season has been pretty unprecedented, hasn’t it? For starters, each of the two major parties has made history – the Democrats by nominating a woman, and the Republicans by nominating an unfit demagogue.
But there is something else happening this year that is shattering political norms that have existed for decades – the Democrats are becoming the party of patriotism and the Republicans are devolving into the party of doom.
This is something we have seen developing since President Obama took office; Republicans stopped calling America a “shining city on a hill” and reframed it as a dark, apocalyptic place to live – where the illegitimate president is working hand in hand with our enemies to destroy the very fabric of American life.
In 2012, when their gloom-and-doom message failed and Obama was re-elected to a second term, they didn’t change course and try to offer a more positive vision – they doubled down on anger. Little did they know that it would boil over among their supporters and create a large enough plurality of voters to give Donald Trump the Republican nomination four years later.
The seeds of hatred, misinformation and racial resentment that were planted in 2008-2009 reached full bloom in 2016.
Now they’re stuck with a nominee who has abandoned the wrap-yourself-in-the-flag style that most recent Republican presidential nominees – and presidents – have employed, and instead chooses to be so down on America, you wonder why he even lives here.
Trump isn’t just wrong on the facts, though – sure, violent crime is actually at historically low levels, illegal border crossings are down, and the economy is in far better shape than before – but he’s also wrong to believe that fear is a winning strategy.
In any case, he certainly has given Democrats a huge gift this year.
After decades of Republicans claiming to be the patriotic political party, while accusing Democrats of secretly resenting America and/or apologizing for it, they have now nominated someone that describes the United States as a “crime scene” and our military as a “disaster.”
They’ve nominated someone who explicitly says that the U.S. isn’t great and only he can change this dark, alternate reality.
While the Republican Party’s convention was a competition between GOP leaders to describe America in the harshest terms, the DNC has given Democrats an opportunity to say, “Not so fast – America is already great.”
By nominating Donald Trump, the GOP has given the Democrats the chance to seize the mantle of patriotism that Republicans have been successfully claiming for decades.
That was made especially clear in President Obama’s brilliant address Wednesday night in Philadelphia when the outgoing commander-in-chief made a full-throated rejection of Trump’s pessimism.
“The America I know is full of courage and optimism and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous,” Obama said. “And most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith, who believe that we are stronger together…all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love. That’s what I see. That’s the America I know.”
This is the contrast that we now face in this election, between a Democratic Party defending the country’s honor and Donald Trump tearing it to shreds.
Gone are the days of the GOP describing the United States as a “shining city on a hill” or calling for a “kinder, gentler nation.”
They’ve traded it all away for Donald Trump – now they must own it.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.