Columbia Prof: "The left views patriotism as an embarrassment"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Speaking yesterday at that bastion of patriotism, Yale University, Columbia University Professor Todd Gitlin said:

"Patriotism is experienced by many people on the left as something of an embarrassment."

"However, it is strategically disastrous to take this position."

Gitlin said that this embarrassment harms their chances of getting elected in America.

His solution is to claim patriotism. He says if this is done, the left can mobilize and once again assume its place as a factor in the American political scene.

No mention of his love of this country, just a recommendation to take the politically expedient route and go for the power. Some patriot!

After all, those dead soldiers deserved it, right Gitlin?


chuck said...


I didn't get the impression from the article that Gitlin was being cynical. Maybe he was, but the article didn't make it sound that way. Articles in papers seldom get things right anyway, so I wouldn't condemn anyone on that basis. I think you would have to read his book to see where he stands. His observation about the lack of patriotism on the left is certainly accurate and was borne out by the student's comments, but I didn't have the impression that he agreed with that position.

Now, can the left become sincerely patriotic? I don't think so, I suspect the disdain for country is too deep for most to overcome. I suppose if Europe really does go down in flames in the next several years that might make a difference.

Skookumchuk said...


I suppose if Europe really does go down in flames in the next several years that might make a difference.

I've thought the same. How things might change for the left without Europe as a cultural model is something to ponder, though I still draw a blank on exactly what is likely to happen. Though I do think the high water mark of Euro influence on US society was in the 80's and 90's, as the boomers came in to full financial bloom. What happens next is anybody's guess.

Barry Dauphin said...


My very tentative opinion is that if the combination of bad economic policy and the rise of radical Islam weakens Europe in undeniable ways, the left will split in two-1) a more traditional left, sort of 21st century Scoop Jackson 2) those that blame Bush and WoT, who say none of it would have happened if not for the incompetent evil genius Chimpler. Which group is larger is a coin toss at this point.

Rick Ballard said...

I've been noticing a shift in the left's proud finger pointing for a bit. They seem to have shifted to the north - Scandanavia, rather than to the outstanding success stories of France, Germany and the UK. I wonder where they will turn when Norway's oil money runs dry?

How many parts have to fall off socialism's dead body before the dimwits in wackedemia notice that it has lost it's youthful glow?

Knucklehead said...

Gitlin seems like a pretty standard Leftist nutbar to me. is strategically disastrous to take this position as outsiders, since it is a concession to people who are not entitled to be the spokespersons of patriotism.

Translation: The Left needs to coopt the defintion and use of the word patriotism. We are the ones entitled to be its spokespersons, the others are not.

...he served as the third president of the New Left protest organization Students for a Democratic Society.

I seem to recall SDS being a bit more than a "protest" organization It was some time ago but I vaguely recall SDS advocating for the violent overthrow of the US government and, in their mildest moments, protesting using the French Style (siezing and burning). I suppose it is possible to claim that it was the Weathermen faction or residue of SDS that did the violence and such.

Gitlin also commented on the extensive gap that he said has formed between liberals and conservatives in the past half-century, pointing to the greater division of the left into diverse factions.

"The right is composed of two main forces: moralist social Christian groups and anti-tax small-government proponents," he said. "The left has maybe seven forces: the residues of trade unionism, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, university types, environmentalists and feminists. To staple together seven is a lot harder than to staple together two."

The Left is always about factionalism. It is always about whatever one has to piss and moan about. It is never about finding common ground and working out feasible solutions to problems that affect everyone. It is a fundamentally selfish ideology regardless of the various flavors.

He has a somewhat valid point about the "right" though. Not that it is only composed of the two categories he mentions but, rather, that those two categories are refusing to recognize that there are those of us who are not so easily lumped into either of those categories.

The Left is a creature of continental Europe's invention. They will always look there for inspiration. We can be sure they don't look at the current "nobody's gonna fire no yutes!" riots as an indication of how they need to behave. Watch for the Leftists to start riots here in the US. We'll soon begin to see a resurgence in calls for violent action in the name of the people. If France or all of Europe begin coming apart at the seems the American Left will just label it a necessary transition and celebrate it.

As Paul Johnson pointed out in Intellectuals the Left has no qualms about violence, or suffering of any sort, they just want it to be them who inflicts the violence and suffering.

Knucklehead said...


I hadn't noticed that shift in Leftoid finger pointing but it makes some sense. Those who have any interest in pointing toward evidence of success in the implementation of Leftist ideas are running out of big things to point to. They have to point to ever smaller and more remote patches of "success". It'll never matter to them much that there's a mere twenty million people in Scandinavia and that the US provides equal or better wellbeing to greater than an order of magnitude more people - that would smack of patriotism, wouldn't it.

Skookumchuk said...


the left will split in two-1) a more traditional left, sort of 21st century Scoop Jackson 2) those that blame Bush and WoT

Having Number 1 is OK by me - at least we could fight Islamofascism while reasonably united, as in the Cold War. Number 2 is much more problematic, since it contains such a strong nihilist element. I can't quite see it growing to European proportions. Though having said that, I never thought a Talib with a 4th grade education could be admitted to Yale.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

He doesn't love his country. He doesn't think of it as "his" country. It's just the place he happens to be. No connection to him whatsoever. In fact, he hates this country.

chuck said...


The Left certainly has no love of Gitlin, seems he expressed insufficient admiration for Lenin, Nader, Chomsky in his book Letters to a Young Activist.

They will be surprised to find that history's two most dangerous people are not members of Bush's cabinet, but rather the Russian revolutionary Lenin and 2000 Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. (Noam Chomsky comes in a distant third).

On the other hand, he seems to be one of those who blames the troubles of the left on other people, not the ideas or, G*d forbid, people like himself. Sounds like a bog standard 60's radical to me!

Anyway, I am not clear on where Gitlin stands at this time, so will withhold judgement.

terrye said...

If my memory serves me right, back in the day, patriotism was just so uncool. And these folks are into being cool.

Eric Blair said...

What Terrye said. I seem to remember Gitlin from articles he wrote in 'Rolling Stone' back when I read it in college. (Which is way too long ago, and now that I see his face, I understand--He's another left-over piece of debris from the 60's trying to act relevant.)