One of the more interesting phenomena in our polarized land is the proliferation of conservative superpatriots who appear to hold their fellow citizens in extremely low regard, to a degree ranging from “I wouldn’t let my daughter date a Democrat” to support for an armed insurrection to neutralize the expressed voting preferences of a majority of Americans.
As it happens, a prize example of the paradox of loving America while hating Americans was provided this past weekend by South Dakota governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate Kristi Noem, speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, a renowned Christian-right venue where many Republican presidential candidates have appeared in the past.
Rarely have I heard anyone pivot so quickly from hate to love and then back to hate. Here’s an excerpt from Noem’s speech, following a reference to her recently born granddaughter:
I hate this America we are giving her. I don’t recognize the country I had the opportunity of growing up in. When I grew up people were proud to have a job. They weren’t confused on the difference between boys and girls. We prayed in schools … and by the way in South Dakota I’m putting prayer back in our schools … We stood for the national anthem, we honored our flag, and we were proud of our history. That is not Joe Biden’s America. His America is built on hate and division, on pitting people against each other.
It seems that what Noem actually hates is a country where a lot of people disagree with her point of view — with “divisions” meaning a lack of conformity. And these “divisions,” of course, hardly began with Joe Biden. The Supreme Court decision removing sectarian prayer from public schools that Noem is apparently defying was handed down 59 years ago. Another Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to an abortion, which Noem obviously deplores (she boasted of signing eight “pro-life” laws and of hiring a full-time staffer to fight reproductive rights), is 48 years old. If we are suddenly “divided” on this subject, who did the dividing? Not Biden. Noem also claimed credit for being the first governor to implement “constitutional carry, ” the position that any gun licensing at all is unacceptable. That’s a spanking-new right-wing cause nobody outside the fever swamps had heard of until a little over a decade ago. Whence did that “division” come? Did the Squad invent it? Did Nancy Pelosi?
You cannot talk about Kristi Noem, of course, without noting her signature opposition to public-health measures associated with COVID-19. Indeed, in her Des Moines speech she sideswiped fellow GOP governors who boasted of letting their citizens have the precious liberty to sicken and kill themselves and each other — but closed their beaches! Was public-health guidance dispensable in the America Kristi Noem grew up in? Did one of our two major parties fight the Salk vaccine?
The more you listen to pols like the governor of South Dakota, the more you get the sense their vision of unity is based on simple repression, offering their opponents the peace of the grave, and promising the country the civility of a one-party state. (It’s worth noting the world has had some unfortunate experiences with ultranationalists bent on civil war, sometimes followed by aggression across national boundaries.) She made some news in Des Moines by suggesting that every political candidate for any office from county commission to the U.S. Senate be forced to sign the so-called “1776 pledge,” a new conservative litmus test (she signed it in May) that solemnly vows to impose on every school in the land a “patriotic” view of America as an “exceptional” nation in which the only racism is the racism of those who divisively claim racism is real. Clearly any America-hating members of the radical left who have an issue with that should just get themselves to the nearest open border one by one and million by million, until the real Americans can rejoice in their unity. Until then, true patriots will be justified in hating “this America.”