Independence Day is a conservative holiday, and promotes conservative values. The objective evidence is in—from Harvard University, no less. Today, the John F. Kennedy School of Government released a study showing that children who attended Independence Day events in just one year were 2 percent more likely to be conservatives, 4 percent more likely to vote conservative, and 1 percent more likely to turn out to vote.
Details of the Independence Day study
The study authors used the usual proxies for conservative and liberal politics: the Republican and Democratic Parties. They used an anti-proxy for going to an Independence Day event as a child: whether it rained in any given year. The study also assumed that most people do not move out-of-State between childhood and adulthood. (That might not hold today.)
The findings are surprisingly strong. One Independence Day season without rain, for a child younger than 18, will make that child more likely to be a Republican, to vote Republican, and to vote—period.
Furthermore, the effect sticks. Independence Day makes a lasting impression on a child—or it did in children born earlier than 1970. Children who had more chances to celebrate Independence Day grow up to be staunch conservatives, and no other adult will shake them of that.
But for persons born in 1970 and later, the effect is weaker. (The higher voter turnout effect remains; the conservative bias falls off.) The study authors suggest two possible reasons:
- Independence Day has become a less-intense holiday season.
- Independence Day has become far less political.
2010 District 2 Constitutional candidate Peter F. Boyce has already suggested a third reason. Today, Independence Day is too commercial. The Fourth of July, to some people, is a day to get a bargain in a store. They would do well to remember how this country came to be. Without this country, that store would not stand.
Your editor has a fourth reason. Regulations on Independence Day observance have now made the holiday more difficult to observe in the old spirit.
A personal perspective
The Second Continental Congress observes the first Independence Day by signing the Declaration of Independence. Credit: John Trumbull.
Your editor was born in 1957. Every year on Independence Day, our family flew its US flag, if only from a door post bracket. Fireworks were another part of the celebration. Your editor lived in five neighborhoods before going off to Yale College. In one, all the children and adults bought fireworks on that special day. We brought them to one common place where we could set them off under supervision. Beginning in 1970, more and more cities banned home fireworks within their limits. And now, even the professional fireworks shows are disappearing. The ostensible reason is that the explosions can kill birds. But maybe the real reason is that the same ideologues who say they’re so concerned about the birds, don’t much want people celebrating such “hokey” days as Independence Day.
In any event, those childhood celebrations worked for your editor. That is why the title of this site is Conservative News and Views, and not Progressive or Internationalistic News and Views. But younger people haven’t had the chances to walk in an Independence Day parade or to put on their own fireworks show that your editor had.
A wider perspective
That the study would use the Republican and Democratic parties as proxies for conservatism and liberalism is telling. In the 1960s, the two parties were not very far apart. George C. Wallace famously observed that
There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties!
He ran for President in 1968 as an independent conservative. He almost cost Richard M. Nixon the election.
In 1972 the differences between the two parties became stark. George S. McGovern ran the most overtly socialistic and Communist-sympathetic campaign to date. Nixon shellacked him by default. The Republicans lost the 1976 election only because they nominated the incumbent, Gerald R. Ford, instead of the conservative champion, Ronald W. Reagan. Reagan won the next two elections, though no one thought he would.
But in the last twenty years, the Republicans abandoned their consistent advocacy of conservatism and American values. So the country got eight years of Bill Clinton and (thus far) three years of Barack Hussein Obama.
But now we have the Tea Party. This movement has proved that voters still like conservative values. They took the House of Representatives from the Democrats, and look likely to take the White House from them next year.
But the Tea Party must do more than get out the vote. They must reach out to the children, to educate them. To do that, they must plan activities that take the place of the Independence Day parades and barbecues of the Sixties and Seventies. Happily, the Tea Party knows this. Savvy Tea Party organizers include “family activities” to occupy the children while the adults make stem-winding speeches. They would do well to emphasize these “family activities” on Independence Day, and save the politicking for Labor Day and other days closer to the election.
An international perspective
The study authors suggest running studies like this in other countries that have their own Independence Days. They cite Bastille Day in France, and Freedom Day in South Africa. A French study should be especially instructive. It might predict whether France will be France for much longer, or instead become Algerie du Nord.
The authors forgot one country whose Independence Day is unusually intense: Israel. That country has nasty neighbors who mark Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’Atzmaut) as a day, literally, of catastrophe (Naqba). It also has its own leftists and internationalists. These people lament the intensity of patriotic fervor of their fellow citizens. Israel recently celebrated its 63rd year of independence. It also has a cohort of citizens who came to the land from other countries after a very intense event affected them as children: the Six-Day War of 1967. That should provide an instructive data set.
More to the point, internationalists have a direct motive to stop people from observing Independence Day. They always suspected that the simple lessons of childhood, about what Boyce (in these pages) called the Simple Miracle of America, would be hard lessons for them to fight. Now they have direct evidence.
Featured image: a framed copy of the Declaration of Independence. Photo: CNAV