While the Republican Party seems to most relish the outward signs of patriotism, such as waving the flag, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and sending troops into harm’s way with aplomb, it is the Democrats who have the longer record prosecuting our nation’s wars since World War I.
Indeed, it was President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, who lead us to victory in World War I; it was President Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, who lead our nation against Nazi aggression in World War II; it was President Harry Truman, a Democrat, who completed our victory in World War II with the bombing of Japan, and who entered America into the Korean conflict; it was John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, who created the Green Berets and who stood down the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and it was Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, who put troops in Vietnam.
But when the Vietnam conflict began to fail, at long last, it was a group of Democrats, lead by senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, who challenged Johnson for the White House and demanded an end to America’s involvement in the failed effort. This reaction by dissident Democrats, influenced by a massive public opposition to the Vietnam War, was evidence of Democratic Party leader’s ability then, and today, to use discernment, not merely a gut feeling, to judge when and where the United States should enter or continue in foreign engagements.
Republicans, to their credit, have usually been loyal supporters of Democratic administrations that lead initiatives to protect our nation’s vital interests. Yet, the GOP has favored isolation over engagement when it suited them, namely, during the late 1930s and just before the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, a cataclysmic event that most all Americans together against Japanese and Nazi aggression. The Republican Party opposition of that time, however, was seen as being centered on tactics and timing, not on being unfriendly to the vital interests of the country.
In more recent years when Democrats were not in the White House, President George H. W. Bush engaged America in the Persian Gulf War to defend Kuwait against the aggression of Iraq in the early 1990s (which most Democrats supported). And in more recent years when President George W. Bush decided to enter troops and firepower into Iraq (most Democrats switched their initial support to opposition only when it became evident that the proposed reasons for attacking Iraq were not true: one, that the country had weapons of mass destruction and, two, was connected the terrorist group al Kaida). And President Bush’s entry into Afghanistan was fully supported by Democrats at first. Democratic support for sustained presence in Afghanistan only began to wane after eight years there without any measurable progress or prospects of sustainable success.
The Democrat’s belated opposition in these cases can only be described as acts of discernment, not acts of disloyalty to America. The term “loyal opposition” comes to mind.
Sadly, the GOP easily castigates the loyalty and patriotism of Democrats for exercising their constitutional right to disagree with national policy. In reply, however, Democrats have called Republicans wrong, but never unpatriotic.
American should be a one-party nation when it comes to her commitment to the safety of our country. And there could be no better time for such reconciliation than now, a time when we salute our soldiers and sailors on Veteran’s Day.
In the words of Jefferson, “Error of opinion may be tolerated when reason is left free to combat it.” In this spirit, we should disagree as patriots, not letting the dissent become a mark of denigration, but a mark of our time-honored tradition of debate and truth seeking, sacred concepts secured for us by the Founding Fathers of our country.
Who loves America more? Democrats and Republicans love it equally. We proved this on 9-11 when the nation reacted as one against an evil all could understand. Let our common love of country bind us more and divide us less, in times of peril. It will be among ourselves, in the final analysis, where we will sustain our legacy as the greatest country in the world.