Last week, former New York City Republican Mayor Rudy “Subject, Verb, 9/11” Giuliani uttered this at what was supposed to be a private meeting:
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
With Walker sitting just a few seats away, Giuliani continued by saying that “with all our flaws we’re the most exceptional country in the world. I’m looking for a presidential candidate who can express that, do that and carry it out.”
Most of the punditocracy, especially the technobrat wing, has completely missed what Giuliani was getting at. Instead, they have quantified Obama’s public service, and concluded that, in fact, Obama does love his country (one wonders if this is how they examine their own personal relationships, but I digress). Surprisingly, over at Vox, they sort of realize that a lot of Americans don’t think Obama is a ‘real’ American, but, even that doesn’t hit the mark.
Before we continue, you’re going to have to suspend a whole lotta disbelief, since it doesn’t matter what you think, but what Giuliani et alia think.
Part of this statement is simply an angrier version of the line in that Michael Douglas president movie (or is it Kevin Kline) where he says something like, “I’m tired of all the people who claim to love America, but hate Americans.” Politically active conservatives truly believe Obama doesn’t care about a large swath of Americans.
So that’s one reason for Giuliani’s utterances. But this also ties into a belief about the ‘Left’, or more accurately, the imaginary version invented by conservatives. Admittedly, the notion that Obama is part of the ‘Left’ is laughable (keeping suspending that disbelief!), but there is a widely held conservative view that the Left does not love America, because the Left criticizes our nation’s policies. So that’s another piece.
But the real sin is when the Left criticizes American history. Consider this about the Republican National Party:
In August last year, the Republican National Committee blasted the Advanced Placement U.S. History test, claiming it “deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events.” The RNC said a new framework for the exam “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.” The College Board countered that the framework had not been changed since 2012.
In Oklahoma, where they have voted to ban AP History courses, one pro-ban legislator said the AP U.S. history course framework emphasizes “what is bad about America.” The assault on conservative historical myths is what makes Obama so disliked, more than the rest of the Left. His very existence as president reminds everyone of what our nation has done to African-Americans–not the myth, but the reality. And every time Obama, or any other ‘leftist’ for that matter, challenges the myth, it challenges the central myth of the Republican Party, which at this point is a white nationalist party (boldface mine):
While people have described Palin as engaging in identity politics, that sells identity politics short. Palin along with the proto-movement surrounding her–Palinism–practices what could be call ‘politics of the blood.’ It’s derived from Giovanni Gentile’s description of fascism: “We think with our blood.” …In Palin’s case, it’s an emotional appeal to a romanticized, mythical past of “real America.” And that’s why I think the fixation people have on Palin’s complete policy incoherence and ignorance is missing the point.
Her policy ignorance isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the ‘real’ America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of ‘real’ Americans (think about the phrase “red blooded American”) and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers (obviously, if you’re not a ‘real’ American, you might view this as a bad thing…).
Much of what passes for conservative politics is a romantic restoration of an America Past that never existed. Despite the radical nature of their policies, the underlying impetus is a classically conservative, romantic (and Romantic) restoration. It can’t and won’t happen, but every time someone points out that the past had real flaws, especially if you weren’t a white man, this is an assault on their emotional core.
Obama is a daily, living reminder of that less than perfect past. Which is why he evokes such dismay and despair among conservatives. That’s what this is about.