Since his 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump has attracted the “forgotten men and women” of America who have felt that the unique American culture they grew up with and the patriotism that both political parties had for so long encouraged was quickly fading. There was also little Americans could be proud of anymore, with a lagging economy, failed interventions in civil wars overseas, an opioid crisis ravaging their small towns, and churches closing down around them. They watched as pop culture and media degraded Christians and patriotic traditions, and lectured them on abortion, sanctuaries for illegal immigrants, and gender issues.
One of the most public battles against long-held American traditions started at an NFL stadium. Football, one of America’s oldest pastimes, was now becoming political. Football players, encouraged by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, had begun kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. The protests sparked outrage among conservatives and, now we know, even some Democrats. Meanwhile, the NFL seemed to be encouraging the protests, caving to the pressure from the mainstream media and big name celebrities. In publicly calling out the NFL for its seeming unwillingness to dissuade players from kneeling, Trump did more than rally the conservative base.
That same fervor that carried him to the White House did not fade away, causing the NFL to issue an official policy this May stating that: “All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem” or be fined. The NFL had been losing millions of viewers due to the anthem controversy and finally decided it had to act. Still, some NFL players have pushed back against the new rules, leading Trump to cancel a White House invitation to the Superbowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. The President tweeted: “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!” The White House reportedly hosted Eagles fans instead and had the Marine Band and the US Army Chorus play the National Anthem “and other wonderful music celebrating our Country.”
It is likely that many Americans agree with the President’s decision to double down and not give up on this culture battle, with it being a part of a larger culture war many Americans feel they are in as of late. In the runup to election day, polls found a new low low of 52 percent of Americans felt “extremely proud to be Americans,” and a new low of 19 percent of Americans felt that the Founding Fathers would feel proud if they could see America today. The outcome of the election tells us that Americans had had enough of being told they should be ashamed about America’s traditions and values.
Voters gravitated to the candidate they felt was most patriotic, and that was Donald Trump. Sixty percent of voters in June 2016 thought that Hillary Clinton was patriotic, while 63 percent put their faith in Trump’s “America First” promises. It was even speculated that American flag sales were unusually high due to “heightened levels of patriotism” sparked by Trump among Republicans, Southerners, and veterans and armed service members.
As the President wins these culture fights for the forgotten people of America, the economy roars back in massive waves, and as his administration fights for the rights of Christian institutions, the patriotism of Americans could also come roaring back. It is for good reason that Trump has already revealed that his reelection slogan for 2020 will be “Keep America Great.”
Trump is a businessman who has been selling his ideas for most of his life, and now he is successfully selling American patriotism. He is selling it not just with cultural victories, but also by restoring the optimism of the American people. This optimism, the feeling that their children will be better off than them, is what voters had been missing most – and they are very happy and proud to see it return.