Only 16% of Gen Zers are “proud” to live in the United States.

That finding comes from a recent Morning Consult poll, which assessed generational attitudes about the United States. The poll shows that there has been roughly a 20-percentage-point drop of pride in country every generation since the Baby Boomers, 73% of whom express pride in the country.

Many on social media noted with exasperation that those who say they have no pride in country are in no hurry to move somewhere else. 

It’s true, our success as a nation has apparently led to a great deal of ingratitude and navel-gazing. However, the poll points to a deeper problem.

Even if the poll is off or exaggerated, it’s hard to ignore the reality and the trend. With each passing generation, there’s less connection to country and less patriotism. With this comes enormous—and likely terrible—implications.

First, for those insistent on upholding the “liberal international order,” as some call it, that’s going to be hard to do when so few people are willing to support or defend even their own nation. It also should come as no surprise that the military is having a recruitment crisis. Could you imagine what would happen if we had to reinstate the draft?

Second, with less attachment to country, there will be fewer things to bind people together in a society that is now ruthlessly sorting out ideologically.

In earlier times, we could argue about issues and policies, but accept that our neighbor was still fundamentally American. But as the philosophical gaps among us widen, and political victories and defeats become a zero-sum game, there is less incentive to maintain and defend the rights of the other “tribe.”

President Donald Trump said in his inaugural address that “when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” In a society devoid of patriotism, there will be a whole lot of room to hate.

So, the question is, why is this happening? To me, the answer seems clear. 

We’ve failed to reinstitutionalize “informed patriotism” in this country. That’s what President Ronald Reagan called for in his farewell address in January 1989, and what was clearly most important to him. In the 1980s, the U.S. was riding high, the economy was booming, patriotism was returning, the Soviet Union—an evil empire, if there ever was one—was just a few years away from collapse. It was morning again in America.

However, Reagan warned that while the policy victories he achieved during his presidency were good, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Reagan said that “younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children.” But it wasn’t just parents. For those who created popular culture, “well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style.”

He warned that while our “spirit” was back, we hadn’t “reinstitutionalized it.”

Reagan was right. Worse—as it’s now become quite clear—we have institutionalized something quite different from “informed patriotism” and love of country. We have institutionalized the ethos of the new left, of the woke, of the purveyors of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Concepts such as critical race theory and radical gender theory are quite real, but they aren’t new. They’ve been floating around academia for more than half a century. What’s new is that these ideas have reached a critical mass, and they have pushed traditional American ideas out of every institution they’ve taken hold of.

Many Americans have no idea what the details of these concepts are, but they absorb and internalize them because they are continuously reinforced. The modern elite university is the temple of this new, dominant ideology, but its tentacles reach into everything, from colleges to K-12 schools (both public and private) to media and entertainment, to the corporate world, and certainly to government.

At one time, the managerial class merely promoted its interests; now, it promotes this quasi-religion, too.

To remain a member of the elite in good standing, you must acknowledge your faith in the new creed or risk losing your career, being canceled, and personally attacked. 

Most comply. Those who don’t believe do so quietly, secretly for fear of risking their status and livelihood.

Is that freedom?

Reagan also said that every generation had to reaffirm our American principles, or we would someday have to tell our children what it was like when men were free. Have we not reached that point? 

And if you tell your children about a time when Americans were freer in the past, can you do so without being called a racist?

Victory in the Cold War, a moment of triumph for the United States and the West worthy of celebration, nevertheless concealed the rot within.

In 2020, when mobs hit the streets and statues fell, the institutions of our country showed their true colors. They joined the mob and pulled down what the rabble missed. Jacobins in the street joined Jacobins in government agencies and air-conditioned boardrooms. The pride flag and the BLM flag replaced the American flag as the symbols of the new regime.

As Jeremy Carl wrote at The American Conservative, “the transgressive has become not just mainstream, but the establishment itself.”

So, for those who didn’t join the revolution, who may be dazed by, and disbelieving of, the transformation that’s taken place, we must acknowledge that our cause is currently one of dissenters. It’s the people versus the institutions, and many people now side with the institutions.

But if the Left can transform America from the inside out through a long march, so can the rest of us. It begins with informing ourselves and our children. It gets serious when we organize and use real political power to shape and change the institutions that have become corrupted.

When we look to Florida, we see a model of how to fight back and how to hit the radical left where it hurts the most. From going after woke indoctrination in K-12 schools to reintroducing instruction in American principles in those schools to changing school boards to getting DEI out of colleges and changing their boards of trustees, these are the kinds of institutional changes other Republican governors and other political leaders need to emulate.

The woke think they have the right to be the gatekeepers of all debate, speech, and pedagogy in this country. Let’s show them otherwise. 

Mobs and unelected bureaucrats don’t have a right to rule; you do. If we go on the offensive, we will likely find that there is a whole lot more common sense in this country, even at this late hour, than one would think, given the slide of the past several decades.

To win this battle, to restore pride in country, and prevent the United States from slipping into a dark age of decline and possible dissolution, we must make a sustained effort to retake institutions now. 

We must do this while there are still Americans left who know what it was like to live in freedom and who wish to hand that down to posterity.

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