(CNN) — “You cannot love your country only when you win.”
This is how President Joe Biden spoke during the speech he gave this Thursday in the morning to commemorate the first anniversary of the assault on the United States Capitol.
Not only is it a memorable phrase, it will surely be the one that will be repeated the most today and in the coming days, but it is also a phrase of enormous importance if we hope to fully understand what happened on January 6 and everything that led to that moment. .
At the center is the idea of patriotism. Recall that Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 expressly with the idea of putting “America first.” The idea that animated both his campaign and his four years in the White House was that America was exceptional in the world and that, for too long, the country’s leaders had been afraid to proclaim that fact loudly and proudly, choosing instead make the United States subservient to lesser countries around the world.
“The future does not belong to the globalists,” Trump said in a 2019 foreign policy speech at the United Nations. “The future belongs to the patriots.”
What Makes America So Special? Nothing differentiates us from the other world powers, China, Russia, more than our commitment to the peaceful transition of power every four years.
The idea that, regardless of whether your preferred candidate wins, a) you accept the results of a presidential election as free and fair, and b) recognize the winner as president, is at the core of who we are as Americans.
One need only go back to the 2000 elections to understand the power, and uniqueness, of the United States and its commitment to the peaceful transition of power.
After a 36-day interregnum in which it was unclear whether Al Gore or George W. Bush had been elected president, Gore granted the elections after an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court.
That he concede it was important. The way he did it was even more so.
“For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession,” Gore said.
“I also accept my responsibility, which I will carry out unconditionally, to honor the newly elected president and do everything possible to help him unite Americans in fulfilling the great vision that defines our Declaration of Independence and that our Constitution affirms and defends.”
Gore also quoted the words of Stephen Douglas after losing the 1860 presidential election to Abraham Lincoln: “Party sentiment must give way to patriotism. I am with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.”
What Gore (and Douglas) understood is that it wasn’t about them. Of course they would have preferred to win. Of course they thought they would be better presidents than their opponent. But they also understood that patriotism and loyalty to the country meant putting aside their personal feelings in favor of doing the right thing for the country.
Biden, in response to questions from reporters about why he did not mention Trump during his speech, addressed that sentiment.
This is the key part:
“It’s not about me. It’s not about the vice president. It really isn’t. That’s what bothers me the most about the kind of attitude that seems to be emerging to some degree in American politics. … It’s not about me. It’s not about me being the president and she being the vice president. It’s about the system and someone trying to put themselves above everything. “
Think of it another way: true sportsmanship is not being nice in victory. Anyone can do it. It’s being nice in defeat. And that cannot be done by just anyone.
The same goes for patriotism. It’s easy to love your country when they choose you. Or they give you what you want. It is much more difficult to love your country when you think they have chosen the wrong person or are going the wrong way.
True patriotism is not about insisting that you won, even if there is no evidence to support those claims. True patriotism is working within the system to make the country as big as possible, regardless of whether or not that favors your personal interests.
Joe Biden gets it. Donald Trump never has.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism