Americans are some of the most patriotic people in the world. Look at American conservatives especially, and you’ll see that patriotism on full display. The Republican party is known for its outspoken love of the stars and stripes. While this patriotism can be genuine, Republican politicians often take advantage of the patriotic immunity their party grants them.
From a young age, we are conditioned to believe patriotism equals decency. We consider patriotism as a virtue on par with truth and honesty. Not only is this wrong, but many political elites aren’t sincere in their patriotism in the first place. They simply use it as a tactic to gain votes and seem more likable. This façade of patriotism, in turn, leads to conservative politicians receiving laxed judgment from the American people.
There is no debate that Democrats and Republicans get treated differently for committing the same offense, as evidence of the Hillary Clinton email scandal. As Secretary of State, she used a private email server to discuss official White House matters, including Top Secret information. The scandal likely cost her the presidential election and essentially defined her political career despite her years of service to the country as a senator and secretary of state.
Compare her tarnished legacy to that of Republicans who have done the same wrongdoing. Jared Kushner used private messaging applications and a personal email to communicate about official White House matters. Five other White House advisors in the Trump administration have also used private email accounts to discuss White House matters. George W. Bush and Mitt Romney have had their own email scandals as well. But none of these Republican’s legacy is defined by their scandal. The Democrat makes one mistake and their political career is over. The Republican makes the same mistake and no one bats an eye.
Other notable Republicans have also carried out less than favorable acts but continue to be praised by the GOP. For example, President Ronald Reagan sold weapons to Iran despite a U.S. arms embargo. The Reagan administration then used the proceeds of that sale to funnel weapons to Nicaraguan insurgents – despite the congressional ban on such action. And yet the GOP worships Ronald Reagan, so much so it dubbed itself as “the party of Reagan.”
Furthermore, Richard Nixon committed countless offenses during his political career. At one point, he undermined peace talks between then-president Lyndon B. Johnson and Vietnam in order for him to use the war as a campaign talking point. Nixon didn’t care that thousands more young American men would be killed as long as it could help him get elected.
And then there’s Donald Trump. The theme of his inauguration ceremony was “America first.” Yet he has never practiced this philosophy throughout his life. Well before his career in politics, he dodged the draft multiple times. Meanwhile, he has consistently belittled John McCain, a man who served his country when called upon and endured years of torture as a result.
Ultimately, Democratic politicians must always be on their best behavior while their Republican colleagues can commit impeachable offenses and get away with it. This disparity in treatment is caused by the public holding the parties to different standards, a result of the Republican party’s guise of patriotism. Despite the fact history has shown us repeatedly that conservative politicians simply care about furthering their own agenda.
Cassidy Hopson is a UF journalism junior. Her column usually appears on Thursdays.