The Left Still Blames America First

Aug 19, 2020 | Essays and Reviews, Featured Essays, Recent Articles, Wall Street Journal

Jeane Kirkpatrick delivered one of the most electrifying political convention speeches in American history to Republicans gathered in Dallas on Aug. 20, 1984. Its theme was that the left wing of the Democratic Party had fallen into the habit of “blaming America first” for the nation’s foreign policy challenges. A Georgetown political scientist, a longtime Democrat and then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Kirkpatrick hit the point repeatedly and hard. Whether the issue was Soviet aggression, Iranian theocracy or relations with our allies, she argued, the answer from the left was always the same: more unproductive criticism of America.

The self-flagellating impulse that Kirkpatrick identified remains a political force today. But its target is no longer American foreign policy. It is instead the U.S. at large: its history, its institutions and its place in the world.

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