Is the "Our opponents hate America" meme new?



Every so often I come across claims by conservatives that liberals or "the left" are not merely misguided but actively "hate" America and are maliciously acting to destroy it.

Some examples (found by Google search for "liberal hate america"):

I could go on, but I think it is clear that this viewpoint exists on the right, and while I don't know what proportion of Americans subscribe to it, it doesn't seem to be a fringe "alt-right" idea.

The converse view seems to be much rarer. A Google search for "conservative hate america" mostly found liberal rebuttals to the conservative views illustrated above. I did find this HuffPost opinion piece, and a number of articles claiming that conservatives hate specific subsets of the American people, like this one.

My question is, is this new? Have there been previous times in American history when one side of a national debate had a strong belief that the other side wanted to harm or destroy America, as opposed to merely being misguided?

Edit: I should say that I'm interested in modern America, particularly since 1900, rather than stuff that happened before the Civil War.

Paul Johnson

Posted 2018-06-30T12:47:01.053

Reputation: 15 889

Does "enemies from within" count?

– Denis de Bernardy – 2018-06-30T14:23:41.477

3@DenisdeBernardy This seems to be about the Red Scare. I don't think that this is a good example, because it is quite dubious if pro-soviet communists in the United States were ever a relevant political faction. – Philipp – 2018-06-30T14:54:53.480

2@Philipp They were certainly a relevant faction of the Democrat party and the government institutions they infiltrated, unless you do not consider the fact that the Rosenbergs giving the Soviets the bomb relevant or the disastrous ramifications of Alger Hiss's spycraft. – K Dog – 2018-06-30T17:16:06.657

4The problem with this is in defining just what is meant by "America". It's certainly not the United States as a country, but rather a set of ideas. And from that point of view, I think that BY DEFINITION the extremes of both left and right want to destroy the various more mainstream ideas of "America" and replace them with something more to their taste. – jamesqf – 2018-06-30T18:11:46.120

1Conservatives by definition attempt to "conserve" what already exists. An American conservative would be expected to be trying to conserve what he considers to be good and great about America. It would make sense that when they see liberals trying to change these things ('improve them' from the liberal's POV), conservatives see it as an attack on America. i.e., a conservative may wonder "if you love America the way it is, why are you trying to change it to be something else?" – Readin – 2018-07-01T02:23:30.507

The POV "Russian liberals hate Russia" is oh so popular in Russia. Now I wonder whether this phenomenon is worldwide.. – Evgeniy – 2018-07-01T07:03:37.347

@Readin. "Liberals weren't cowering in fear during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name." - Ann Coulter. This is not just hating the conservative vision of America. – Paul Johnson – 2018-07-01T07:05:23.923

4@Readin: Re "Conservatives by definition...", that ignores the difference between rhetoric and actual behavior. The right wing of the Republican party may call themselves conservative, but they actually want radical changes. – jamesqf – 2018-07-01T18:14:51.003

@PaulJohnson I don't want to try to defend Ann Coulter. I became disgusted with her many years ago. She left a very conservative magazine that I read regularly and I suspect she was pushed out for the same reasons that I came to dislike her. – Readin – 2018-07-01T20:50:03.830

2@jamesqf Using the definition of "conservative" that describes the desire to conserve, you're correct that Republicans often don't seem fit the definition. I think one reason is that America had a very serious schism back in the 1960s that was never really resolved. While people came to agree that racism was wrong, they disagreed on pretty much everything else. Liberals have been winning most of the battles. So they can be called "conservative" because they want to conserve their victories, while conservatives want to conserve what existed before their victories by overturning the victories. – Readin – 2018-07-01T20:56:00.400

FWIW, I found this article on the subject fairly enlightening:

– Ertai87 – 2018-10-15T17:29:26.230



In keeping with your specific distinction about charges of actively hating America and deliberately working to sabotage and/or undermine American ideals (as opposed to more general mudslinging about the disaster the opponents' ideas will wreak), you would be extremely hard-pressed to find an example of this charge coming from the left against the right. I've linked to a couple of examples below, but really, patriotism and love of country are basically the conservative party's entire schtick, so it doesn't make a lot of sense -- even among the left -- to argue that conservatives hate America.

As far as its novelty goes, it's a relatively new thing, only going back about 50-60 years or so. Most conservatives would point to the 1960's counterculture and the "New Left" as the beginning of the rise of domestic anti-American sentiment, although they would also argue that the seeds were sown during the Progressive era of the 1920's and 1930's. The reason? Communism and the Vietnam War respectively.

From the mid-20th century onwards, the American right has always criticized the left for its casually flirtatious attitude toward Marxist ideology. The New York Times just recently ran a glowing article titled Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You were right!

During the Progressive Era, many intellectuals on the left were openly supportive of the communist and fascist ideologies (the Frankfurt School and the American Eugenics Society, for example) that were taking hold in Europe and Russia. To be fair, those ideologies were new at the time and the atrocities of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were not yet known. The Red Scare during the 1950's (after those atrocities became apparent) was merely a reaction (overreaction?) to this marked shift in political philosophy.

However, during the Vietnam War era (and the reaction to the reactionary Red Scare), domestic anti-American movements gained a wide cultural foothold in the form of the Peace movement (hippies), 2nd-wave feminism, radical environmentalism, radical elements of the Civil Rights movement (e.g. Black Panthers), and American anti-impirialism. Many of the criminal acts promulgated by these radical leftist groups would be considered domestic terrorism today, and the ideologies that motivated them can have their roots traced back to Marxist ideology.

Much of that radical leftist streak is still present in modern hard-left political rhetoric in the form of identity politics, "Democratic Socialism", and postmodernism (I use the term here to mean skepticism of the Enlightenment-era philosophies on which America's founding documents are based).

So when the right says that the left hates America, it is this particular set of ideologies they are referring to. In the conservative's view, these ideals bear little resemblance to, and are fundamentally incompatible with, America's founding creed.

More broadly with regard to mudslinging in general, (my opponents will destroy America) there's nothing new or particularly conservative about it. Various ad-hominem attacks on political opponents are as old as the republic itself and by no means limited to either party; only the particular form it takes differs, depending on the time and political climate.

This site mentions some pretty good zingers going all the way back to the 18th century. In the 1796 election, John Adams claimed that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist, wanted to free the slaves, and would start a civil war (he was right about the last two -- but that was considered anti-American back then).

In modern politics, conservatives say liberals hate America, and liberals say conservatives will destroy America. Liberals are communists, conservatives are fascists, and they both hate American values if all the stupid rhetoric is to be believed. To balance out the examples you gave in your question, I submit the examples below of how the left thinks the right hates America:

  • The Hill reports that the Tea Party (a conservative group) hates America
  • Salon says the right hates America too.
  • Joe Biden said during the 2012 elections that Mitt Romney wants to "Put y'all back in chains"
  • Many on the left, including Senaror Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Alan Grayson, and others in the media, accused Republicans of wanting people to die during the 2017 Obamacare repeal bill debate in Congress, (hilariously mocked by this video -- well worth the watch!)
  • Google Republicans hate (sick people/poor people/brown people/women/etc and you will get more hits than you could possibly read (including this one from Salon which reports this "fact" as scientific research)
  • Pretty much any "documentary" from Michael Moore suggests that Republicans will destroy America.

Basically, fearmongering, demagoguery, and negative campaigning are a baked-in component of democracy and have been around since democracy was invented. It is only the particular form it takes that changes from era to era and from party to party.

Wes Sayeed

Posted 2018-06-30T12:47:01.053

Reputation: 11 044

The distinction I'm making (and think is key) is between "Their policies are misguided and will cause a disaster" and "Their policies are deliberate sabotage intended to cause a disaster". – Paul Johnson – 2018-07-01T11:05:19.987

@PaulJohnson I have updated my answer to better reflect the distinction you're drawing and the edits that have been made since you asked it. I hope this is what you're looking for. – Wes Sayeed – 2018-07-01T22:27:48.167

Thanks. The reason for my distinction is that I see "hates America" as a de-legitimisation strategy. If you say that the opposition is misguided, however disastrously, then you are engaging in a debate about policy. However if you claim they are actively trying to wreck America then you stop any debate about policy and instead start laying down the battle lines for a second civil war. My concern is that this is new (since the last civil war) and growing. It used to be only the far-left who were considered anti-American. Now it is becoming all "liberals". – Paul Johnson – 2018-07-02T08:14:52.117

5@PaulJohnson I think America is a long way off from another civil war. But if you want to see it from both sides, you should also ask about the left's charges of bigotry towards the right, which are also relatively new, and equally as terminal to rational discourse. Whereas racism and sexism used to be the domain of right-wing hate groups, now that grenade is being lobbed at all conservatives. In fact, I personally believe that Trump's entire presidency is reactionary; middle America finally had enough of being marginalized and called bigots. None of this is good at all for democracy. – Wes Sayeed – 2018-07-02T09:42:50.130

Good point about "bigotry", although non-bigotry as a political and social value started on the far left in the 60s and has now spread to be mainstream, so it would be hard to find a credible charge of "bigoted right winger" before then. As for the distance to civil war, in January 1989 pretty much everyone thought the Warsaw Pact was a long way from collapse.

– Paul Johnson – 2018-07-02T10:15:10.707

Very clear. For a petfect answer, I would love a more worldwide overview. How does this stance develop, where and when. "French liberals hate France", "German liberals hate Germany", "Swedish liberals hate Sweden"... This phenomenon is absolutely present in Russia, and it's very interesting that it's not exclusively Russian. – Evgeniy – 2018-07-02T10:33:46.773

But surely "radical environmentalism" is about the purest form of conservatism? – jamesqf – 2018-07-02T17:43:18.623


The Weather Underground were about Marxism and anarchy, not environmentalism .

– K Dog – 2018-07-02T18:20:02.400

@jamesqf How so? You might be confusing "conservative" with "conservationist" perhaps? – Wes Sayeed – 2018-07-02T20:34:06.077

1@KDog Good catch. I always thought Weather Underground was an eco-terror group. Probably because of their name. Also Bill Ayers (who actually built the bombs they used) is a radical environmentalist himself (as well as radical everything else -- dude is a very bad man). Anyway, I removed the reference. – Wes Sayeed – 2018-07-02T20:46:01.390

1@Evgeniy. Perhaps you should pose it as a question on this site? – Paul Johnson – 2018-07-03T08:56:28.703

@PaulJohnson Perhaps. But I'd like not to get too involved in the forum. So I'd better let it go. :) – Evgeniy – 2018-07-03T15:02:44.617

@Evgeniy. OK, I've posted it for you.

– Paul Johnson – 2018-07-03T15:42:33.480

@Wes Sayeed: Not confusing, just saying that conservationism is (or IMHO should be) an inherent part of conservatism. – jamesqf – 2018-07-03T16:06:10.140

1@jamesqf You're right up to a point. But radicalism is not a 'pure' form of anything; it's just craziness. The definition of what 'radical' means exactly is also subjective to a point. But engaging in violence is not an acceptable way to bring about political change by anyone's definition. – Wes Sayeed – 2018-07-03T16:59:53.017

This whole answer makes the assumption that things like Marxism are inherently bad. I hate to point this out but much of that criticism, especially of the Frankfurt School, is Nazi propaganda. – user – 2018-10-16T10:35:29.843


Hardly new. My immediate thoughts go to the secession movements that have cropped up routinely in American history, the first major one was the Hartford Convention and the most impactful obviously the Civil War. Similarly acts of rebellion like the Whiskey Rebellion that preceded the Hartford Convention by two decades. Added to the list are Nat Turner's Rebellion, John Brown's Raid and the Revolution itself, for the schisms it created among the American population and how they viewed each other. I'm sure there exist examples in colonial America as well.

I think the underlying theme in these examples is that the other side was viewed inimically by the other.

If you are looking for 20th-1st century examples, I would say most hate, racial supremacy and separatist groups, and extremists of all sorts (collectively hate groups from here on out) would consider that the other to hate America, or the hate groups' view of their America. So you could add the KKK, Neo-Nazis generally, the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army, La Raza, the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, Islamic supremacists generally, the Real (Black) Hebrew Israelites. This list could go on a long ways.

In the 60s, counter-culture groups, like the SDS and VVAW, were distressingly common, and often addressed establishment types and soldiers in particular as baby killers, not to mention the cop killers that sprung up during that time.

The OP tracks the point when the GOP, or elements of the GOP, viewed some on the Left as inimical to the US. This undoubtedly started as a result of the USSR infiltration of Democratic institutions and some industries in the US starting in the 30s and 40s. That some of the counter-culture groups in the 60s-70s were associated with the Left reinforced this conviction among some. It continues to this day.

Final point, the Democrats have been calling certain Republicans Nazis at least since Goldwater

K Dog

Posted 2018-06-30T12:47:01.053

Reputation: 1

2Interesting, but are there any more recent examples? I've edited my question to clarify. Also, to say that a secession movement "hates America" is not a huge leap. – Paul Johnson – 2018-06-30T13:46:59.583

4The question was "is this new" so an example from 1815 seems to answer this very nicely. – gnasher729 – 2018-06-30T15:15:19.777

1THe Vietnam era is a more recent example. Additionally the red scare of the 50s – Frank Cedeno – 2018-06-30T17:08:22.610


More of a longer comment than an answer, but regarding a relevant facet thereof...

In an over-literal sense memes like the recent "hates America", the 1950s' "Un-American", and the earlier "Americanism", etc. are all circular fallacies that conflate a presently dominant party's controversial and partisan policies, (or its preferred scholarship), with vaguer and vulgar ideas of the nation as some magically unified whole, while ignoring that much (or most) of the nation is neither of that particular party nor favors its partisan policies.

A secondary and more terrible implication (or perhaps function) of over-literal interpretations of such memes is the idea that political controversy in general is therefore evil or both irrational and unhealthy. Freedom means only personal adjustment, as though living under a kind of permanent martial law.

OTOH, not everybody who uses those phrases takes them quite so seriously, and their usages are served with a grain of salt, (akin to "that's not Cricket", or "that's not Kosher"), consciously applied to opposing partisans burdened by unseemly attitudes and styles, rather than to actual points of controversy; a jocular ad hominem...


Posted 2018-06-30T12:47:01.053

Reputation: 11 325


There are not many liberals who say that Conservatives hate America. There was this one from Obama saying that adding $4B in debt during the Bush years was "unpatriotic", but I think it was mostly rhetorical, not actually saying that Bush hated America.

That said, there are some assertions that are close to what you are asking for, though not actually on the mark. For example, the assertion that "Trump is like Hitler" seems to happen pretty regularly:

Forward -- obv. to the left of most Liberals
NY Union leader
Sacramento Bee

Along the same lines is the assertion that he is a "dictator". Notably, the assertion is not rhetorical; the authors really seem to mean it:

The Atlantic
New York Magazine

There are also assertions that Republicans hate black people, or similar:

Biden says Romney wants to "put y'all back in chains"
Vox opinion piece saying the Tea Party is racist
And now the NAACP
almost certainly false accusations of Tea Party racial slurs from the Congressional Black Caucus

William Jockusch

Posted 2018-06-30T12:47:01.053

Reputation: 3 378

3I think this answer is a good observation and might be a good comment, but I don't think it actually answers the question. – Readin – 2018-07-01T02:25:22.190

10Is "Trump is like Hitler" really equivalent to "Trump hates America"? You can (and should) say a lot of bad things about Hitler, but "Hitler hated Germany" isn't among them (except maybe for the last days before his death). – Philipp – 2018-07-01T09:33:09.760

1@ Philipp: Isn't "Trump is like Hitler" simply an observation? And WRT both, it seems possible to do as much or more damage from (perhaps) well-intentioned stupidity as from actual malice. E.g. Hitler's decision to open a two-front war. – jamesqf – 2018-07-02T17:48:31.460