By contrast, the GOP keep talking about "taking back" America, but the subtext lately has been a return to secession. If we can't "take it back," we won't play. Not exactly patriotic in the "union" sense. Just as the South seceded to create The Confederacy, so does the spirit emanate from our Southern states. It's the spirit of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's ironclad no-cooperation rule. Combined with the overwhelming whiteness of the Republican Convention (not to mention the peanut throwing incident), it carries the aura of racism.
But the most interesting aspect of the secessionist movement is how easily it has blended with the 21st Century Secession of the Wealthy, so perfectly embodied in candidate Mitt Romney. It's been coming for some time. As described by Mike Lofgren in The American Conservative:
Were Mitt Romney to reveal his tax records, the electorate would learn that he has seceded with his money to Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and who knows where else. While it's completely against the interests of the grassroots secessionist whose economic situation won't be improved by the exodus of that capital from our ecosystem, it's a matter of faith.
I do not mean secession by physical withdrawal from the territory of the state, although that happens from time to time—for example, Erik Prince, who was born into a fortune, is related to the even bigger Amway fortune, and made yet another fortune as CEO of the mercenary-for-hire firm Blackwater, moved his company (renamed Xe) to the United Arab Emirates in 2011. What I mean by secession is a withdrawal into enclaves, an internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot.
Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?
The objective of the predatory super-rich and their political handmaidens is to discredit and destroy the traditional nation state and auction its resources to themselves. Those super-rich, in turn, aim to create a “tollbooth” economy, whereby more and more of our highways, bridges, libraries, parks, and beaches are possessed by private oligarchs who will extract a toll from the rest of us. Was this the vision of the Founders? Was this why they believed governments were instituted among men—that the very sinews of the state should be possessed by the wealthy in the same manner that kingdoms of the Old World were the personal property of the monarch?
So what makes this first night of the Democratic National Convention so powerful is how American it is. American stories of real struggle and moments of real triumph, the military wife, the mother of a child with a life-threatening birth defect, the First Lady who came from modest roots. Shared patriotism through trying to make the country just a little bit easier to struggle through for all.
As the chant goes, U.S.A., U.S.A.