Patriotism, Polarization, And The End Of American Exceptionalism

Patriotism, Polarization, And The End Of American Exceptionalism

Why A Divided America Won’t Be Great Again

By Professor Stephen Nathanson (Northeastern University)

January 15, 2017         Picture: Carlo Allegri/Reuters.

This article is part of The Critique’s January/February 2017 Issue “Stick It To The Man: A Year Of Anglo-American Populist Revolt Against A Changing Culture & An Obtuse Political Establishment.”

But really, who are we? We’re this: the oppressed and their oppressors,

the afraid and the feared, hope and dread, change and deadlock,

all fooled forever by delusions of our even being a single “we.”

Wesley Morris[i]



2016 was a year of exceptionally high political drama, starting with the unexpected British vote in favor of leaving the European Union and climaxing with the unexpected election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. These events have three things in common. They are shocking rejections of the status quo, they are expected to bring major changes to institutions that play large roles in people’s lives, and as of now, we have no clear idea of what the outcome of these changes will be. In addition, the Trump victory has intensified disagreements among citizens about the role of government. It has also brought to the surface hostile emotions not only toward illegal immigrants but toward non-white, non-Christian citizens as well.

My focus here will be on three aspects of American public life and the ways in which the Trump presidency might alter them. The first is the divisive polarization among U. S. citizens. Though it has existed for decades, it is likely to be increased in the Trump administration. The second is the impact of a Trump presidency on “American exceptionalism,” the idea of the U. S. as a country whose positive features surpasses all other countries. The third is the nature of patriotism in the United States and the degree to which patriotism can keep Americans together in spite of the vast differences in beliefs and feelings among American citizens.


The 2016 election

The 2016 presidential race in the U.S. generated strongly negative views and feelings, not only about the main candidates but about the country itself. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the most unorthodox, populist candidates, gained considerable support because of their attacks on the U. S. government. Hillary Clinton was the most conventional candidate in spite of her being the first woman to run for president as a major party candidate. Normally, experience is considered a positive feature of candidates. Clinton, however, did not benefit from her extensive experience playing an important role as “first lady” during Bill Clinton’s presidency, her service as a senator, her candidacy for president in 2008, and her role as Secretary of State.

By far, the most powerful slogan in the race for president was Donald Trump’s promise to “make America great again.” This resonated with many people who felt that the country was no longer great and was in need of radical change. Trump’s powerful slogan had much more force than Clinton’s rejoinder, “America is great because America is good.” That upbeat slogan did not resonate in what felt like a bad time to many Americans.

For decades, the image of the United States reflected great confidence. The U. S. saw itself and was seen by others as the “leader of the free world,” the “sole remaining super-power,” and the land of opportunity and the “American dream.” The term “American exceptionalism” was regularly invoked to highlight levels of virtue and power that no one else could duplicate.

Even before Trump’s appearance on the political scene, however, this positive image was badly tarnished. It was not easy to sustain the confident image of American exceptionalism after more than a decade of years that included the unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the worst economic crisis since the 1930s Great Depression and its resulting job losses, limited job opportunities, and low income levels. On top of these, continuing deadlocks in Congress called into question whether democratic processes could actually work, and numerous police killings of mostly black men led to increased racial tensions. Moreover, both prejudice and the weak economy sparked increased hostility toward both legal and illegal immigrants.

These negative developments strengthened the feeling that the U. S. was a weakened country that had lost its way, and both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders made them central to their campaigns. Trump promised that he would rid the country of immigrants and would lift the practice of “political correctness” that kept many citizens from saying what was on their mind. Bernie Sanders, the most left wing candidate to gain significant support in a presidential race, blamed rising inequality on the system of American capitalism, in particular the power of Wall Street and big corporations and the role of the U. S. government. Sanders violated American political taboos by calling himself a “socialist” and supporting a “revolution” in order to make life better for Americans. The revolution would raise wages, relieve college students of burdensome tuition costs, and get “big money” out of politics. Both Sanders and Trump spoke of America’s economic and political system as “rigged.”

The only candidate to speak positively about the U. S. was Hillary Clinton. While she acknowledged the problems facing the country, she affirmed its greatness and the ability of its people to work together to solve problems. In an August 2016 speech, Clinton affirmed the reality of American exceptionalism and spoke of “America’s unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress, a champion for freedom and opportunity.” [ii]

This inspiring picture of the U.S., however, ignores both the bleak conditions emphasized by Trump and Sanders and the years of political polarization that preceded them. The polarization existed both among citizens with vastly different views and within the government as well. In 2009, at the start of Barack Obama’s first term, Republicans vowed not to support any of his proposals. The result was a badly split Congress that could not deal with the needs and problems facing the country and dissatisfied citizens who lacked confidence in the government’s ability to do anything positive.

Now, with the election of Donald Trump, the positive images of the United States have been shattered. While Trump’s supporters are happy with his success, over half of voters rejected him, and his campaign remarks about various groups have created an unprecedented level of fear and hostility. While some people have been hopeful, stressing Trump’s alleged lack of ideological rigidity and his expressed concern for low-income people, others have emphasized his connections to racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant groups.


Can Patriotism Survive?

In this environment, patriotism and love for one’s country seemed to be threatened by diminished respect for democratic government and a bleaker picture of the country’s future. Patriotism seems to require shared values and a healthy level of respect for a country and its citizens. Without these features, patriotism may diminish, leaving a polarized country whose democracy cannot survive or meet its citizens’ needs. Fear of the U. S. falling into this condition is not new. Writing in the 1950s, the historian Richard Hofstadter worried that the U. S. might develop “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.” [iii]

In this type of political climate, not only is decision-making paralyzed, but people with conflicting views cease to see one another as fellow citizens or patriots. This endangers a country by undermining what many people see as the key function of patriotism, the creation of a sense of togetherness that makes cooperation possible. While cooperation can exist if disagreements are relatively mild, when disagreements are so strongly negative, solidarity, and the possibility of working together for shared goals disappears.


Patriotic Rituals and Sports Events

One indicator of severe polarization is the spread of political hostilities into areas of life that are generally seen as separate from politics. Sporting events are settings that we generally don’t identify with political life. People who differ politically can still root for the same team.

American traditions, however, do bring sports and politics together. All major league football and baseball games begin with the raising of the American flag and the singing of the National Anthem. This practice, according to the historian Andrew Bacevich, “expresses the distilled essence of present-day American patriotism.” Bacevich describes a pre-game, 4th of July ceremony at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. He notes the patriotic aspects of the pre-game ceremony, which included a Navy color guard for the flag, a Marine choral ensemble that sang the National Anthem, and four Air Force jets that “scream overhead.” The event, he says, “leaves spectators feeling good about their baseball team, about their military, and…about themselves.”[iv]

The links between sports, politics, and patriotism are not always uplifting and do not always leave people feeling good. Racial hostilities have often been the spark for events that do not leave fans feeling good. One famous instance occurred in 1947 when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African American in major league baseball. Robinson was booed, called derogatory names, and threatened—not because he played baseball badly but because he was black. His presence on the field violated long time, strong commitments to retain racial segregation.

In the years following Robinson’s joining the Dodgers, many other African Americans entered professional sports. Still, almost twenty years after Robinson broke the race barrier in baseball, Hank Aaron provoked racist responses to one of baseball’s greatest accomplishments. In April 1974, Aaron hit his 715th home run and broke the record that had been set years before by Babe Ruth. This home run, as described in a brief, understated biographical note, “was the highlight of Aaron’s career, although it was tempered by a growing number of death threats and racist letters that made Aaron fear for his family’s safety”[v] By breaking the record set by a revered white player, Aaron had violated a racial taboo, and the harsh response made clear that baseball was more than just a game.

In the years since these events, professional sports have accepted many non-white players into their teams. Nonetheless, racial issues remain with us, however, and occasionally spill over into sports events. A recent instance occurred on August 26, 2016, when Colin Kaepernick, an African American football player for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand during the pre-game singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Instead of standing to honor the flag, Kaepernick dropped to one knee in order to protest against the many instances of African American men being killed by police officers.

The killings of black men by the police gained attention in large measure because of the availability of cell phone cameras and the internet. Because many of these killings were captured on camera and then sent through the internet, millions of people have witnessed them and were able to see whether the person killed had a weapon and whether he posed or did not pose a threat to the police or anyone else. Some films showed adults who were killed after being stopped for minor traffic violations while others showed children who were killed holding toy guns.

The exposure of these killings and the protests that occurred in many cities have made clear the continuing existence of racial conflict in the U. S. One result was the slogan “Black Lives Matter” and the formation of a group that took that name. This in turn led to counter-protests in support of police officers and their actions. When the mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts, authorized putting up a “Black Lives Matter” banner at city hall, the Somerville police responded by demanding that the banner be taken down. [vi] Other protests and clashes took place in other cities, some favoring black victims and others favoring the police.

Kaepernick’s protest was part of this movement. As an athlete who was seen on TV by millions of people, he wanted to use his visibility to speak on behalf of African Americans who had no public voice. Some football players and teams supported Kaepernick’s protest, and others, including high school teams, were inspired by his protest and duplicated it in their own communities.

Many people, however, responded very negatively. An opinion poll that rates football players by popularity found that Kaepernick had become the “most disliked” player in the National Football League.[vii] Another poll, carried out by Quinnipiac University, showed that 54 percent of American adults disapproved of Kaepernick’s protest, and only 38 percent approved of it. Quinnipiac asked people who responded for their race and discovered a “profound racial divide” on this issue. Only 30 percent of white adults approved of the protests while 74 percent of African-American adults supported it. The disapproval rate was 63 percent for whites and 17 percent for African Americans.

Since the killings of black men by police officers had become such a charged issue, the Quinnipiac survey also asked people how well police in the U. S. did their job. It found a racial split here as well. While 70 percent of whites approved of how police do their jobs, only 24 percent of black Americans approved. [viii]


Patriotism vs. Protests

Shortly after his first protest, Kaepernick spoke out to explain his reasons for the protest. In particular, he tried to answer critics who accused him of being disrespectful both to the American flag and to the soldiers who had fought and died to defend their country. In reply, Kaepernick said that he had “great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country.” He admired them, he said, because they “fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone….” In spite of their efforts, however, Kaepernick said that they had died in vain because “this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody….That’s not right.”[ix] His protest was not aimed at soldiers or the flag. It was aimed at the U. S. for failing to do its part. The repeated killings of black men by police officers showed that the country did not provide all Americans with the liberty and justice for which people fought. Kaepernick wanted to point out this failure and to urge all Americans to support liberty and justice for everyone, including black Americans.

One of Kaepernick’s critics was the New York Times columnist David Brooks. In an article called “The Uses of Patriotism,” Brooks criticized Kaepernick for violating a patriotic ritual that all Americans should honor. Brooks supported his view with several reasons.[x]

First, Brooks said that we should honor the flag and the national anthem because when we do, “We’re expressing gratitude for our ancestors and what they left us.” Second, by honoring the flag, “We’re expressing commitment to the nation’s ideals, which we have not yet fulfilled.” Third, patriotic rituals are important because they promote cohesion and solidarity among Americans.

While Brooks’ points are not stupid, they are weakened by his failure to understand Kaepernick’s perspective. Even if there are reasons to feel some gratitude to people who created the country, Brooks does not consider why Kaepernick and other African Americans have strong reasons not to feel gratitude toward “our ancestors.” The white ancestors that Brooks praises were not the ancestors of African Americans. The ancestors of African Americans suffered hundreds of years of slavery while the ancestors that Brooks refers to endorsed these practices. Given this history, it is understandable why Kaepernick and others (both black and white) who care about “liberty and justice for all” will not be motivated to express gratitude to “our ancestors and what they left us.” While these ancestors achieved some important accomplishments, they also left a legacy of racism that continues to blemish and divide the U.S.

The same problem weakens Brooks’ claim that when we honor the national anthem, “We’re expressing commitment to the nation’s ideals, which we have not yet fulfilled.” Here too, Brooks seems blind to the perspective of African Americans. Though he acknowledges that American ideals have not been fulfilled, he is unable to see that many African Americans remain victims of these failures. For them, saluting the flag may look like a form of lip service and not a genuine commitment to uphold “the nation’s ideals.” For Kaepernick, a commitment to honoring the flag is much less important than a genuine commitment to keeping the promise of liberty and justice for all.

Brooks’ most pragmatic argument is that Kaepernick’s form of protest is counter-productive. According to Brooks, when people honor patriotic rituals, they take part in “shared displays of reverence” that have the effect of “building a little solidarity.” This solidarity in turn makes it possible for people to work together for the good of the country. While engaging in patriotic rituals makes people feel that they are “in this together,” seeing Kaepernick’s gesture as an insult to the country’s flag is likely to make white people feel hostile to him and less sympathetic to African Americans and their problems.

In making this argument, Brooks overlooks the fact that the feeling of being “in this together” cannot be lost if it does not exist. Unfortunately, as the Quinnipiac polls shows, many white Americans do not feel “in this together” with black Americans. That is not to say that all of Kaepernick’s critics are racists. Some may be, but many well-intentioned white people see things differently from most black people because they are unfamiliar with the types of lives that most black people live. Even with good intentions, they may not recognize the problems or injustices that many black people face.

“Many white Americans do not feel “in this together” with black Americans.”

Brooks’ criticisms are not entirely baseless, and he seems to care about bringing blacks and whites together. Nonetheless, his own understanding of the tensions between whites and blacks in the U.S. is limited, and he shows no sympathy toward Kaepernick motivations. Even if Kaepernick inflamed the feelings of some whites, he should be respected for trying to call attention to the serious problems many African Americans face. Although Kaepernick’s protest violated a valuable patriotic custom, the conditions he protested against are serious violations of what many people see as central American ideals. That these values are not held by all has become more evident as a result of the increased exposure of white supremacist groups that Donald Trump’s campaign have evoked. Trump’s attacks on “political correctness” have opened the gates to the use of overt racist and anti-religious language in public settings.


Racial Divisions in the U.S.

It is worth considering the reasons that may have motivated many white people to respond negatively to the football protests. Some may have strong feelings about patriotic rituals. Some may be racially prejudiced, and others may not understand the challenges that African Americans face.

We can get some idea of what created these negative responses from a 2016 poll of registered voters by the Pew Research Center.[xi] The survey ask people 1) whether whites have advantages that blacks do not; 2) whether being black is more difficult than being white; 3) whether racial discrimination is the main reason that blacks can’t get ahead.

While the primary group that was interviewed were registered voters, the survey results were also broken down between supporters of Hilary Clinton and supporters of Donald Trump. While the people interviewed were not identified by race, we can assume that most respondents were white.


Table 1 Views about the effects of race on opportunities


Do you agree or disagree

with the statements below?







White people benefit from

advantages blacks don’t have.







It is a lot more difficult to be black

in the U. S. than it is to be white.

57 %






Racial discrimination is

the main reason blacks can’t get ahead.








As Table 1 shows, there are vast differences between Clinton and Trump supporters. Only 24% of Trump supporters think that whites have advantages over blacks, and even fewer think that race and racial discrimination are significant barriers to success for black people. Clinton supporters are the most likely to think that blacks have fewer advantages than whites. Even among them, however, just over half think that it is more difficult to be black than white or that racial discrimination plays an important role in keeping blacks from success.

Overall, then, many white people do not believe that black people face greater obstacles to success than whites. If this is so, it might account in part for the lack of sympathy that whites felt toward Kaepernick’s plea for justice for African Americans.

Another reason why whites may not think that blacks face special challenges is that in the last decades, many white men and women have faced serious difficulties in getting good jobs and good salaries. The income levels of many whites have not gone up significantly. Even though blacks tend to do worse than whites, many white people would be correct in believing that they have not done well either.

The difficulties faced by whites with less education played an important role in Donald Trump’s election as president. Shortly before the election, the Pew Research Center asked people to compare their lives with the lives of people 50 years ago. Overall, 47 % of registered voters saw things as worse for people like themselves than they were 50 years ago. Among Trump supporters, 81% said that “life is worse today than it was 50 years ago for people like them.” This view of their own difficulties correlates with the low level of sympathy toward blacks among Trump supporters. Only 11% of them thought that it was more difficult for blacks in the U. S. than for whites, and only 6% percent thought that blacks were held back by racial discrimination. Perhaps whites believed this because they knew first hand that they themselves faced serious obstacles in earning a good living.[xii]

In fact, overall African Americans do less well than white Americans at every income level. Nonetheless, many whites are less well off than blacks may think. Similarly, many whites, thinking that the government has done too much to help blacks, do not understand that blacks have even lower levels of income and wealth.

The sad fact is that the economic level of many Americans, both white and black, has improved very little in the years since 1979. According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, between 1979 and 2015, “wages have grown more slowly…for everyone except the top 5 percent of workers.” While this has affected workers of all races, “wage growth for African American workers has been particularly slow.” [xiii]

The table below contains some of the data from this study. (The study contains adjusted wage amounts. For brevity, I have deleted data on the 95th percentile and for 1989-2007.)


Table 2     Real wages and wage gaps by race, 1979–2015

                    10th percentile         50th percentile         Average

Hourly wages White Black Wage gap White Black Wage gap White Black Wage gap
1979 $9.24 $8.90 3.6% $16.89 $13.89 17.7% $19.62 $16.07 18.1%
2015 $9.30 $8.20 11.8% $19.17 $14.14 26.2% $25.22 $18.49 26.7%


                    10th percentile           50th percentile       Average



White Black Wage


White Black Wage


White Black Wage


1979-2015 0.7% -0.8.5% 69.3% 11.9% 1.8% 32.4% 22.2% 13.1% 32.1%


What this table shows is that over a period of thirty-six years, salary increases grew very little for both whites and blacks in the lowest 10th percentile and also in the 50% percentile median. In addition it shows that overall blacks did much less well than whites. The average growth in salary for whites was 32.1% greater than for blacks.

To complicate matters, however, another study shows that since 2007, there has been greater job growth for Hispanics, Blacks and Asians than for whites. The reason for this is that non-whites are more clustered in large cities that have had much greater economic growth than the small cities and rural areas that are predominantly inhabited by whites. Many of the new jobs in cities, however, were low paying service jobs that pay less than the manufacturing jobs that white workers had in better days. [xiv]

Even in years before the 2008 Great Recession and during periods of economic growth, most people did not benefit from the growth. In fact, between 1979 and 2007, 53% of the benefits from economic growth went to the top 1 percent, by far the wealthiest people in the country. The remaining 46.1% was distributed to the other 99% of Americans. The lesson here is that even if the U. S. economy does well, that does not mean that most people in the U. S. do well. [xv]

These facts may seem to be a far cry from Kaepernick’s protest and the largely negative response to them by whites. My sense is that bitterness and a sense of ill treatment is felt by many people. Though white people have not been victimized by police killings in the way that blacks have, many have suffered from economic setbacks that made them feel badly treated. The 2016 election brought racial tensions to the surface, ranging from overtly hostile white supremacists to people who are not racists but who resent what they believe are efforts to assist African Americans and to allow immigrants to take over jobs.


What makes a real patriot?

If some people embrace their country and oppose protestors, especially protestors who refuse to salute the flag, there is a strong tendency to think that the protestors are not patriots while people who criticize them are patriotic. Is this correct? How can we tell who is a patriot and who is not?

To answer these questions, we need some definition of patriotism. The most familiar description of patriotism is “love of one’s country.” While this familiar description is not wrong, it is too brief to be helpful. It can be made clearer and more informative if we break it down into four traits that patriots must have:

(1) Special affection for one’s own country.

(2) A sense of personal identification with one’s country.

(3) Special concern for the well-being of one’s country.

(4) Willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good.

It might seem to be obvious that people who fail to honor the flag are not patriots while those who criticize people who refuse to honor the flag are patriotic. If we consider these four traits, however, it becomes clear that both protestors and their critics could be patriotic, but they may not be as well.

The critics who condemned Kaepernick’s failure to honor the flag might have done this because the flag is a symbol of the country that they feel special affection for, identify with, are especially concerned about, and would be willing to make sacrifices to promote its good. If so, they have all the traits of being a patriot. The same could be true, however, for the protestors. Their own affection, identification, special concern, and willingness to sacrifice might lead them to protest what they see as the country’s failure to live up to its own ideals. Their love of their country could motivate them to want it to live up to its ideals by making sure that all of its citizens have liberty and are treated justly. Faced with the challenge of how to bring this about, they may see a protest strategy as the only way to make people realize that all is not well and needs to be changed.

While it is possible for people on both sides to be patriotic, it is also possible for them not to be. Whether they are patriotic or not depends on their feelings and motivations. Some people might refuse to honor the flag because the country’s failure to live up to its ideals has caused them to hate the country. As a result, they no longer identify with the country or have special concern for it. Similarly, people who condemned Kaepernick’s protest may be motivated by racist attitudes or even by anger that the protestors are interfering with the game. These people may be indifferent to the country and its ideals.

In principle, then, people on both sides could be acting patriotically or not. It all depends on their attitudes toward their country and their motivations for their action.


Is American Patriotism on the Decline?

David Brooks is probably not the only person who thinks that patriotic ceremonies play an important role in building solidarity among citizens. If polarization undermines the working of a society and patriotism keeps people together, then preserving and encouraging patriotism is important. Brooks thinks not only that patriotism is important but also that it is especially important now because there has been a “sharp decline in American patriotism,” and this decline makes it “hard to solve every other problem we have.”

Brooks is certainly right that the U. S. is going through a period of political polarization. But is he right that patriotism in the U. S. is on the decline? And is he right that this decline is the cause of polarizing differences among American citizens?

Brooks supports his claim about the decline of patriotism by drawing on a July 2016 Gallup poll. Gallup’s on-line report certainly conveys a sense of distress about American patriotism. Its title says that the percent of Americans who say they are “Extremely Proud” to be Americans has dropped to a “New Low.” The report itself begins:

“As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, 52% of U.S. adults say they are “extremely proud” to be Americans, a new low in Gallup’s 16-year trend. Americans’ patriotism spiked after 9/11, peaking at 70% in 2003, but has declined since, including an eight-percentage-point drop in early 2005 and a five-point drop since 2013.” [xvi]

Its conclusion is augmented by the table below, which displays the ups and downs of patriotism in America since” the 9/11 attacks.


Table 3: Pride and Patriotism


In fact, Gallup’s conclusions fail to show a decline in American patriotism. The claim that only 52% of Americans are patriotic suggests that 48% of Americans, almost half the population, are not patriotic. Gallup’s own data, however, shows that almost no Americans are unpatriotic. Later in the report, it says:

“In addition to the 52% who say they are extremely proud…, another 29% say they are very proud and 13% moderately proud, meaning the vast majority of U.S. adults express at least a considerable amount of pride in being Americans. Five percent say they are “only a little proud” and 1% “not at all proud.” (emphasis added)

This fuller account of their data provides a much more accurate picture of the level of American patriotism than the Gallup report’s headline or the table above. Both of these entirely omit the real views of the “vast majority” of Americans.

The second problem with Gallup’s conclusion is that it rests on the assumption that the level of people’s pride in their country is the sole criterion for determining whether people are patriotic. This is a mistake. Pride is not an accurate criterion of patriotism because people can love their country even if they are not proud of it. [xvii]

There are many reasons why patriotic people might not be proud of their country. One obvious reason is that their country is not living up to its ideals. As long as a country and its institutions engage in or permit serious acts of discrimination against groups of its citizens or engage in illegitimate, unjustified wars, many patriotic people will not be proud of it. Nonetheless, they may still identify with it, have affection and special concern for it and be willing to make sacrifices for it. Their lack of pride does not show that they are unpatriotic.

“People can love their country even if they are not proud of it.”

The same point about the possibility of patriotism without pride can be illustrated by Donald Trump and his supporters. Trump’s pledge to “make America great again” suggests that while it was great in the past, it is no longer great. As a result, Trump and his supporters have less reason to feel proud of their country. This current lack of pride and the wish for a return to greatness are both compatible with patriotism. In fact, their lack of pride can indicate their care and concern for their country. If so, their lack of pride is not a sign that they are not patriots.

Similarly, many people who voted against Trump are distressed by his victory and find it hard to be proud of a country that would elect a person like Donald Trump as president. While some of these people may cease to be patriotic, others are already thinking about how to make America great again.


Good and Bad Patriotism

While patriotism may encourage people to cooperate with one another for the good of their country, this does not guarantee that patriotism itself is always a good thing. To see this, consider a country whose people have all the attitudes toward their country that patriotism requires: special affection, personal identification, special concern, and willingness to sacrifice. In addition, however, they have no concern at all for people in other countries and are willing to harm them if doing so benefits their own country. These extreme patriots believe in the superiority of their own country, have an exclusive concern for it, and support the unconstrained pursuit of their country’s goals.

Extreme patriotism is a genuine form of patriotism, but it is an immoral form because it fails to consider the rights or interests of people who are citizens of other countries. Because extreme patriots care only about their own country, they recognize no moral limits on what may be done to achieve their country’s goals. For them, invading and taking over other countries is legitimate, as would be killing or enslaving its citizens. While this set of attitudes is a genuine form of patriotism, it has no positive value.

Fortunately, extreme patriotism is not the only form of patriotism. There is also a “moderate” form of patriotism that is compatible with respect for people of other countries. Like all types of patriots, moderate patriots have special affection for their country and want it to flourish. What makes moderate patriotism distinctive is, first, that while it includes a special concern for one’s own country, this concern is not exclusive. Patriots can care about their own country while still recognizing the humanity of people living in other countries as well. Moderate patriotism rejects the “anything goes” feature of extreme patriotism. It supports only the morally constrained pursuit of a country’s goals. In wartime, for example, it is permissible to fight against and kill enemy soldiers to defend one’s country, but it is prohibited to attack civilians. These constraints arise from the recognition that other human beings have rights and that these rights place limits on the means that countries may use to achieve their interests.[xviii]

The lack of moral concern for people of other countries is not the only way in which patriotism can go wrong. Another form arises when patriotic people exclude people in their own country who are members of particular racial, ethnic, or religious groups. Many groups in U.S. history have been subject to discrimination, including African Americans, Catholics, Chinese, Italians, Irish, Japanese, Jews, Latinos, and Native Americans. Through much of U.S. history, the dominant group were white (non-Catholic) Christians. Some people continue to think that the U.S. is and should remain a Christian country. Other groups see the U.S. as a country for whites only and believe that non-whites do not deserve membership in our country. Since the rise of Donald Trump, there has been a resurgence of these groups. [xix]

Some patriotic people believe that people are less worthy of respect because they have low economic status. If people believe that wealth and poverty depend entirely on effort and willingness to work, they will see economically poor people as deserving their lower status. Those who look down on economically poor people think that the failure of these people to earn a good living is their own fault. Since it is their own fault, there is no reason why their country should help them to meet their needs.

This attitude was expressed by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race. Romney, in a speech that was meant to be heard only by wealthy supporters, characterized economically poor people in this way:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president [Obama] no matter what….[These are people] who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it….[M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives”.[xx]

While Romney no doubt saw himself as a patriot who cared about his country, his concern for the country did not extend to all of its inhabitants. In fact, his lack of care for people went well beyond the poorest people with the greatest needs. His insulting description of less well-off people applied to 47% of American citizens, almost half of the country. Needless to say, it was very embarrassing for Romney that his speech was recorded and broadcast throughout the country.

Romney’s view of the factors that dictate people’s economic status is both widely shared in the U.S. and based on a false view of individual initiative. Romney and others attribute lack of success to the failure of poorer people to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” This view ignores the many things that are out of people’s control and that can dictate how well or badly off they are. The 2008 economic crisis resulted in many hard working people losing their jobs, being forced to accept lower wages, and losing their homes because they could not pay their mortgage or their rent. These hard workers did not decide not to work anymore or to seek a lower income. They did not work because many jobs had disappeared and those that were available did not pay well enough for a decent standard of living.

What has been less well-known is that even in years of economic growth, most of the benefits have gone to the wealthiest people. In the period from 1979 to 2007, the average income for families in the top 1 percent rose by 200 percent while the average income for families in the bottom 99 percent rose by only 18.9 percent. [xxi] Even though many hard working people have done what was in their power to earn a good living, the economic system has not made that possible. Individual effort cannot compete with the power of corporations and the domination by market forces. Nonetheless, many people believe that individual effort determines success and failure.

This lack of concern for people in the U.S. is accepted by many people, including people who are themselves badly off. It has become part of U.S. political culture that the government should not assist or benefit its citizens. A poll by the Pew Research Center found that 55% of Americans prefer “small government providing fewer services.” Less than half (47%) believe that government “should do more to help needy Americans even if it means going deeper into debt.”

This is one of the great splits in American politics. While most Republicans have championed a market economy that favors the wealthy, most Democrats have supported a welfare state that combines market processes with government programs to “help needy Americans.”[xxii]

One of the ironies of the 2016 election is that Donald Trump won the votes of many white citizens who have less education and have been unable to find the types of well-paying jobs that used to make a good life possible. Even though many were “needy” themselves, only 21% of Trump supporters favored government assistance to people in need while 87% thought there should be fewer government services. By contrast, even though many Clinton supporters had more education and better jobs, 72% supported assistance to needy Americans.[xxiii]

Trump supporters seemed to believe that Trump would recreate the economic opportunities of the 50s and 60s. They wanted a job, not a welfare state handout, and they thought that Trump would make a working life with good pay a reality. They may be disappointed by the fact that Trump’s choice of Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, a wealthy, successful head of major fast foods restaurants, opposes a minimum wage and supports mechanizing many forms of work so as to replace human labor.

Ironically, many patriotic Americans who care about the country as a whole seem to have little concern for many of their fellow citizens. They embrace an exclusionary form of patriotism that rules out concern for people who belong to certain ethnic, religious, racial, economic, or other sub-groups. They may accept this exclusionary patriotism even while singing the national anthem or reciting the pledge of allegiance.


Patriotism, Solidarity, and Political Polarization

Given the extreme political polarization in the U.S., we might expect that there would be lower levels of patriotism, but this is not the case. Not only is the level of patriotism relatively high, but in spite of all the prejudices that Americans have about other Americans, there seems to be widespread belief that other Americans are patriotic people. According to a 2015 poll by the Pew Research Center, when Americans were asked how well the word “patriotic” describes “the typical American,” 33% said “very well” and 45% said “fairly well.” Overall, 79% of Americans saw most Americans as patriotic people.

This should be good news for David Brooks since he believes patriotism helps people feel a sense of solidarity with others. For a long time, I shared this view. I thought that patriotism was valuable because it serves as a form of social glue that encourages cooperation among citizens. If that were true, however, the high level of patriotism would result in much less polarization among Americans. It turns out, however, that patriotism and polarization can coexist.

We can make sense of this odd combination by considering another part of the Pew poll that showed that most Americans see their fellow citizens as patriotic. It showed that Americans see their fellow citizens as lacking in “political wisdom.” Asked about the level of “trust and confidence in [the] political wisdom of the American people,” 63% said that they had either “not very much” confidence or “no confidence at all.” Only about 37 percent say that Americans have “at least a good deal of confidence” in the public’s political wisdom. To make matters worse, this level is down from prior years. In 1997, about 63% had trust and confidence in the political judgment of their fellow citizens. By 2007, the level of trust and confidence was down to about 57%, and by 2015, the drop in trust and confidence had fallen to 37%. [xxiv]

To make matters even worse, the Pew poll found that Americans have even less confidence in the political wisdom of elected officials. Only 39% of people interviewed believe that elected officials are better decision makers than ordinary citizens. Among the 22% of Americans who say that “they are angry with the federal government, 73% say ordinary Americans could do better than politicians.” Among Americans who “are frustrated, but not angry, with government,” 53% also believed that ordinary Americans could do better than officials. Finally, even among those who are “basically content with the federal government,” 40% had the same negative view of public officials.[xxv]

This lack of trust and confidence in government decision-making is related to the polarized views among citizens and political parties. Unhappiness about government derives from two kinds of perceived failures. First, Republicans and Democrats have such different views that Congress often fails to take any action on important issues. Second, when members of Congress do act, people who support the result will applaud them for making progress while people with opposing views will condemn their action as a move in the wrong direction. If members of Congress manage to make progress by compromising, some people will criticize them for violating their principles and not sticking to their beliefs. From the perspective of citizens with very different views about what they want their country to do, the odds are that some people will be unhappy no matter what decisions Congress makes. No matter what Congress does, its actions will look like failures to many people.

The moral of the story is that even if almost all citizens are patriotic, their shared patriotism is not enough to bring them together, both because there are many forms of patriotism and because patriotic people can—and do—have very different ideas about what the government should or should not do. As long as patriotic people disagree strongly about these things, patriotism will not yield solidarity and cooperation.


The End of American Exceptionalism?

The United States has advertised itself as an exceptional nation for a long time. Presumably, the point of emphasizing this special status is both to express feelings of patriotism and to encourage citizens to feel greater pride in their country. While patriots in different countries tend to stress the virtues of their own homeland, American exceptionalism went beyond this, claiming levels of accomplishment and virtue that exceed all other countries.

The usual approach to this belief by presidents and other officials is to agree with the idea of exceptionalism. Critics of Barack Obama, however, have claimed that he rejects the exceptional status of the U.S. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, trying to run for president in 2015, gave a speech attacking Obama. Jindal claimed that “This is a president who won’t proudly proclaim American exceptionalism, maybe the first president ever who truly doesn’t believe in that.” Jindal’s aim was to diminish Obama’s stature, just as Donald Trump did in 2011 when he falsely claimed that Obama was not born in the United States. When Mitt Romney ran against Obama in the 2012 race for President, he too charged that “Our president doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do.” As a result, Romney said, “people around the world have begun to question” American exceptionalism. He vowed that as president, he would restore belief in “that special nature of being American.”[xxvi]

Obama, in fact, has proclaimed his acceptance of American exceptionalism many times.[xxvii] At a press conference in 2009, he said, “I believe in American exceptionalism…. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world.” What may provoke his critics is that Obama acknowledges that people in other countries have similar feelings about their countries. As he says, “I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” This both affirms and rejects American exceptionalism. It affirms it because Obama explicitly says he believes it, but he undermines this idea by conceding that people of other countries also think and feel that their country is exceptional too. Having said this, Obama then suggests that they are as justified as we are.

There seems to be a contradiction, however, in accepting multiple instances of exceptionalism. As the journalist James Kirchick noted, “If all countries are ‘exceptional,’ then none are, and to claim otherwise robs the word, and the idea of American exceptionalism, of any meaning.”[xxviii] Kirchick is correct that there is a contradiction in believing that many countries can be exceptional if “exceptional” means better than all others.

While Obama weakens the meaning of “exceptionalism,” in doing so, he states a more reasonable view:

“[T]he fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we’ve got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us”. (emphasis added) [xxix]

Everything that Obama says here makes sense. He says that while he is proud of his country and thinks it has a lot to offer to the world, he concedes that the United States is not always right. Moreover other countries also have valuable qualities and good ideas. After affirming both the valuable features of the United States and the virtues of other countries, he concedes that the U. S. is not perfect. For these reasons, he says, the best strategy is to work with other countries and to be open to making compromises with them.

While Obama implicitly rejects (or at least dilutes) American exceptionalism, this rejection is a virtue, not a vice. Rejecting exceptionalism avoids the kind of hubris that can make it harder to see both the virtues of other countries and the flaws of one’s own country. For years, we have sung the praises of the American dream while ignoring the ways in which other countries provide their citizens with benefits such as guaranteed vacation time from work, time off and financial support for people with newborn children, free education, and health care. While Obama acknowledges that other people can have good ideas, American exceptionalism has encouraged Americans to disregard the practices of others on the grounds that their ways of doing things could never be as good as ours. [xxx]

In spite of Obama’s recognition of the limits of American exceptionalism, even he overstates America’s special features, saying that:

“the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional”.[xxxi]

Here Obama seems to revert to citing strengths and virtues that are supposed to set the United States apart from other countries. These claims on behalf of exceptionalism, however, are not convincing.

World’s largest economy: In the few years since Obama spoke, the economy of China has, by one measure, caught up with the U.S. Moreover, even if the U.S. were to remain the world’s largest economy, it has failed to translate the country’s economic success into benefits for all of its citizens. Donald Trump’s election resulted from this failure and the dissatisfaction it generated among many people. Income inequality is one of the great flaws of an otherwise impressive economic system. Whether Trump can bring benefits to most people and not merely to the country’s wealthiest citizens remains to be seen. [xxxii]

Unmatched military capability: While the U.S. has the largest, most costly military forces, this has not resulted in actual capabilities to win wars. Apart from the first Gulf War, the U.S. has not won a war since World War II. Its current military power is inappropriate for dealing with many current conflicts. The ability to destroy things and people with powerful weapons does not give the U.S. the ability to create lasting peace in the many countries now at war, or to prevent “lone wolf” attacks in the U.S. itself or in other countries.

Core values of the Constitution, body of law, democracy, free speech: Here too there are many problems and failures that face the country. The Constitution and the Courts have not prevented excessive political power to wealthy contributors and corporate lobbyists, prohibited tax laws and regulations that favor corporations and wealthy people, prevented the weakening of policies to protect the voting rights of minorities, the largest number of people held in jails and prisons, and the astounding number of lethal weapons that are owned by American citizens. Some of these failures were criticized by Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential primaries, and some were made by Donald Trump. In some cases, since he was elected, Trump has taken steps that call into question his commitment to control Wall Street and protect working class people.

Equality: The U.S. may have done exceptionally well in dispersing formal legal rights to people, but in actuality the gaps between the rich, the middle, and the poor in income, in terms of wealth, opportunity, health, and education, have grown enormously, leading gross inequality. In addition, even equal rights to vote in elections have been diminished by state laws that are designed to interfere with black citizens who tend to support Democrats. Overall, the U. S. is becoming less equal rather than more. [xxxiii]

Imperfect but exceptional: Obama has been one of our most thoughtful presidents. He has both been aware of these problems and made efforts to deal with them. It is not his fault that for eight years, the main goal of Republicans in Congress was to block virtually everything that Obama attempted to do. It is good that he acknowledges that the U.S. is “imperfect.” Though there are no utopias, many countries have been more successful than the U.S. in improving the lives of their citizens. If no other countries did as well or better than the U.S., Americans could justifiably say that our country is exceptional. Our flaws and problems, however, are too great to support this claim.


Trump on American Exceptionalism

Although the mantra of American exceptionalism has been widely repeated by both Democrats and Republicans, Donald Trump has spoken out against this idea. At a 2015 program sponsored by the Texas Patriots PAC, Trump was asked by the moderator what he thought about American exceptionalism. Trump’s unexpected response was:

“I don’t like the term. I’ll be honest with you….Look, if I’m a Russian, or I’m a German, or I’m a person we do business with, why, you know, I don’t think it’s a very nice term. We’re exceptional; you’re not….”

Trump correctly notes that even if the U.S. is exceptional, announcing it to others is a bad way to build healthy relationships with others. In addition, he points out that claims about our special, exceptional status has been used to obscure people’s knowledge about the real state of the country. “When I see these politicians get up [and say], ‘the American exceptionalism’—we’re dying. We owe 18 trillion in debt.” In other words, while politicians hype the U.S.’s exceptionalism, the country’s huge debt defies the claims to superiority that “exceptionalism” suggests. Trump then adds: “I’d like to make us exceptional.” Even if he succeeds, however, he still would not use this slogan, he says, “Because I think you’re insulting the world” [xxxiv]


Where to? What next?

The 2016 election process and the victory of Donald Trump have intensified many serious problems, some of which many people had thought were fixed or diminished. We now see that many of these problems are very much with us. In spite of the fact that we have had an African American president for eight years, it is clear that we have even more racism than we thought. Moreover, as a country, we continue to be indifferent to most people’s needs and to permit too great a share of the country’s riches to be held in the hands of the few. The United States is in a troubling situation that will not be helped either by invoking our exceptional nature or the patriotic feelings that most people still have. The U.S. is a country of people with conflicting interests, beliefs, and values. To add to these problems, we will soon have a leader who has denied the existence of threats from climate change.

“The United States is in a troubling situation that will not be helped either by invoking our exceptional nature as a country or the patriotic feelings that most people still have.”

Many of our problems are not new, but in some cases, they have been hidden, ignored, or forgotten. We have been polarized for a long time, and some of this was created by our government. Imagine how the United States might be different now if there had not been wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Imagine that the tax laws and other regulations had kept the gap between the 1% and the 99% much smaller. There is no way for Americans to feel that we are in this together if the bulk of income and wealth go to one percent of our population and if the political system is distorted so that only the wealthiest can run for office or control the political process.

The intense feelings of anger that generated strong support for the “populist” candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were justified, just as the much maligned Occupy Movement was justified in rejecting the distortions caused by the gap between the 1% and the 99%. This anger cannot be papered over by assuring everyone that the United States is exceptional or by gathering people together to sing the national anthem.

It is time to put aside dreams of making America great again. Instead, we should aim to be a really good country with a good government that helps to make a good life for all citizens. That is enough of a challenge. Success would be very good, whether it is exceptional or not. Unfortunately, Americans do not agree either about what would make the country better or what are the appropriate means for achieving it. Moreover, the Trump election has greatly increased the level of polarization, and within days of Trump’s election, serious conflicts have arisen about the people he is choosing for government positions. Whatever happens, domestic peace in our time is unlikely to be achieved.

Will increased polarization lead to a decrease in patriotism? It is certainly possible that anti-Trump citizens will feel disgusted with the state of the U.S. and will no longer feel emotionally connected with it. Trump supporters may also lose their feeling of attachment to the country if Trump disappoints them and fails to keep his promises. It is also possible, however, that patriotism will increase. Trump supporters who are happy with his accomplishments may well feel more dedicated to the country. Similarly anti-Trump citizens who believe that Trump is violating America’s values may become more patriotic, more dedicated to restoring what they see as the country’s highest ideals. [xxxv]

Footnotes & References

[i] From Wesley Morris, “The Others,” New York Times Magazine, 11/20/2016, 15.

[ii] “Read Hillary Clinton’s Speech Touting ‘American Exceptionalism’,” Time Magazine, Updated: Sept. 1, 2016. Available at

[iii] Richard Hofstadter, “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt—1954,” in The Paranoid Style in American Politics, (Knopf, 1965), 65.

[iv] Andrew Bacevich, Breach of Trust (Metropolitan Books, 2013), Prologue, 1.

[v] “Hank Aaron Biography”, Encyclopedia of World Biography; Available at

[vi] Katharine Q. Seelye and Jess Bidgood, “Police Protest ‘Black Lives Matter’ Banner Hanging on a Massachusetts City Hall,” New York Times, July 28, 2016. Available at

[vii] William Brinson, “POLL: After protests, Colin Kaepernick now ‘most disliked’ player in NFL.” CBS Sports, September 22, 2016; Available at

[viii] “Big Racial Gap As Americans Say No To Anthem Protests,” Quinnipiac University; October 11, 2016. Available at

[ix] Mark Sandritter, “Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests, but has now been joined by athletes from around the sports world,” Oct 11, 2016, 10:47p; Available at

[x] David Brooks, “The Uses of Patriotism,” New York Times, SEPT. 16, 2016; Available at:

[xi] Samantha Smith, “6 charts that show where Clinton and Trump supporters differ,” Pew Research, October 20, 2016; Available at

[xii] Smith, op. cit.

[xiii] Valerie Wilson and William M. Rodgers III, “Black-white wage gaps expand with rising wage inequality,” Section 1; Economic Policy Institute, September 20, 2016; Available at

[xiv] Eduardo Porter, “President-Elect Found Votes Where the Jobs Weren’t,” New York Times, December 14, 2016, B1, B8.

[xv] Estelle Sommeiller, Mark Price, and Ellis Wazeter, “Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county,” Economic Policy Institute, June 16, 2016; Available at

[xvi] Jeffrey Jones, “New Low of 52% “Extremely Proud” to Be Americans, Gallup Poll, July 1, 2016; Available at

[xvii] Marcia Baron makes this point in the 2001 postscript to “Patriotism and ‘Liberal’ Morality,” in Igor Primoratz, ed., Patriotism (Humanity Books, 2002), 80-82.

[xviii] I defend moderate patriotism in Patriotism, Morality and Peace (Rowman and Littlefield, 1993) and in several articles, including “In defense of ‘Moderate Patriotism’,” Ethics, 99 (1989), 535-52; and more recently, “Immigration, Citizenship, and the Clash Between Partiality and Impartiality,” in Ann Cudd and Win-chiat Lee, eds., Citizenship, and Immigration—Borders, Migration and Political Membership in a Global Age, (Springer, 2016), 137-52.

[xix] For an account of changing strategies of one of these groups, see Serge F. Kovaleski et al., “An Alt-right Makeover Shrouds the Swastikas,” New York Times, December 11, 2016; 1, 25.

[xx] Lucy Madison, “Fact-checking Romney’s ‘47 percent’ comment,” CBS News September 25, 2012, 10:57 AM; Available at

[xxi] Estelle Sommeiller, Mark Price, and Ellis Wazeter, “Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county,” Economic Policy Institute Report, June 16, 2016. ; Available at

[xxii] I discuss political polarization regarding the government role in the economy in “Political Polarization and the Markets vs. Government Debate,” in Ann Cudd and Sally Scholz, eds., Philosophical Perspectives on Democracy in the 21st Century (Springer, 2014), 57-74.

[xxiii] Samantha Smith, “6 charts that show where Clinton and Trump supporters differ,” Pew Research, October 20, 2016. Available at

[xxiv] Samantha Smith, “Patriotic, honest and selfish: How Americans describe … Americans,” Pew Research Center, 2015; Available at

[xxv] Samantha Smith, “Patriotic, honest and selfish: How Americans describe … Americans,” Pew Research Center, 2015; Available at

[xxvi] Robert Farley, “Obama and ‘American Exceptionalism’,” FactCheck.Org, February 12, 2015. Available at .

[xxvii] Many of these statements can be found in “Obama and ‘American Exceptionalism’,” op. cit.

[xxviii] James Kirchick, quoted by Robert Farley, “Obama and ‘American Exceptionalism’,” FactCheck.Org, February 12, 2015; Available at

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] In “Patriotism as Bad Faith,” Ethics 115 (2005, 563-92) Simon Keller criticizes patriotism, claiming that it encourages people to distorted, overly positive views of their own country.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] “List of Countries by Projected GDP,” Statistics Times, October 2016: Available at

[xxxiii] For a discussion of the negative effects of inequality in the U. S. and other wealthy nations, see Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (Bloomsbury Press, 2009).

[xxxiv] Trump’s full statement is in David Corn, “Donald Trump Says He Doesn’t Believe in ‘American Exceptionalism’,” Mother Jones, Jun. 7, 2016; Available at

[xxxv] The author thanks Ursula Bentele, Nir Eisikovits, Michael Meltsner, and Linda Nathanson for encouragement and helpful suggestions.

Stephen Nathanson
Stephen Nathanson
Stephen Nathanson is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University. He is the author of six books and numerous articles, most of which deal with ethics and political philosophy and their relevance for public issues. Among his books are Patriotism, Morality, and Peace (Rowman and Littlefield, 1993); Economic Justice (Prentice-Hall, 1998); An Eye for an Eye?--The Immorality of Punishing by Death (Rowman and Littlefield, 2nd ed., 2001), and Terrorism and the Ethics of War (Cambridge University Press, 2010), was named the 2010 Best Book in Social Philosophy by the North American Society for Social Philosophy. In 2015, he was given the Hugo Adam Bedau Award for Scholarship on the Death Penalty by the Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty.
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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a USA Thank You Tour event in Mobile, Alabama, U.S., December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTX2VHIVU.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a USA Thank You Tour event in Hershey, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTX2V9HP