SEATTLE — Today is Flag Day. It is a day that commemorates the adoption of the U.S. flag, and the reason why the Galaxy Gold-painted Space Needle is adorned with the good o’ Stars and Stripes.
The American flag, and any flag really, often symbolizes patriotism, a love of one’s country.
In 2008, there was much ado over President Barack Obama’s on-again, off-again relationship with wearing a flag pin. To him, it was just a matter of circumstance whether the pin made an appearance: “If it ends up being on another suit, I might leave it one day.” But for many, it was an indication that Obama was unpatriotic, or at the least, he was not expressing their brand of patriotism. He was, in effect, not owning his patriotism.
In political communication scholarship, there is a concept known as “political ownership.” Most ownership is about political parties “owning” certain political issues. Who owns what is based on the public’s perception of which party has had a history of attention and effective handling of problems and matters related to that issue. For instance, Republicans are seen as owning military and defense, whereas Democrats are seen as owning health care.
A notion that comes up often is who owns patriotism.
Many say Republicans own patriotism because of their connection to national security and the troops — patriotism is seen as protecting the country you love and loving the ones who protect it. Some, but not as many, say Democrats own patriotism because of their focus on social welfare — patriotism is seen as taking care of your fellow citizens for the country you love.
If patriotism was seen as who expresses the most overt attention to national symbols on, say, Flag Day, then the Republicans would get a gold star. In particular, Mitt and Ann Romney, as well as Patriot Voices founder and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, have been showing their patriotic love via Twitter:
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 14, 2012
— Ann Romney (@AnnDRomney) June 14, 2012
— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) June 14, 2012
So far, I have yet to see a tweet with such sentiment coming out of the Obama camp.
Brandishing a flag, on your lawn or lapel, or tweeting about it does not make you patriotic. But it certainly makes you look patriotic. And in politics, looks matter.