Harvard has released a study in its own unique way of celebrating the Fourth of July with America. Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam argue that Fourth of July celebrations tend to turn people into Republicans and help advance the GOP in elections. I would differ. I think Harvard studies tend to push people toward conservative candidates.
The study suggests that Republicans benefit most from patriotic celebrations: “Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation’s political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party.” They go on to say that these celebrations dovetail with conservative causes and themes. They warn “there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party. Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans.”
In fairness to these professors, they are simply giving the results of a survey that shows the influence on individuals in terms of their political views. Moreover, they suggest that Republicans do in fact celebrate the Fourth of July more rigorously than do Democrats.
I came from one of the most liberal families on Earth and we always celebrated the Fourth of July. We were taught it was a celebration of our rights and our success as a free and pluralistic nation. As a father, I go crazy on the Fourth of July and, over Leslie’s annual protestations, buy enough fireworks to take over a small nation.
I actually would have been more interested in the difference not in how we celebrate the Fourth of July but why we celebrate the Fourth of July. I often talk to the kids about the struggle for liberty from free speech to free exercise. Others seem to celebrate America’s might and dominance. I would have been more intrigued by a survey on how people view the holiday.
There is a danger that some may take the study as a reason not to participate in patriotic celebrations after reading lines like “There is no evidence of an increased likelihood of identifying as a Democrat, indicating that Fourth of July shifts preferences to the right rather than increasing political polarization.”
That is only true if citizens allow the Fourth of July to be associated with Republican values. There can be a self-fulfilling prophesy in such studies if liberals view these celebrations with greater suspicion. I am appalled by the decision this year in Chicago to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks in Chicago to save money. This is the one holiday that unites us all — a celebration of not just our history but our pluralism and values. I grew up going to the fireworks every year on the beach with my family. We joined thousands of Chicagoans of different races and religions and backgrounds. It summed up for me what is it to be a citizen. I am ashamed of my home city in its decision to cancel the fireworks. Any Chicagoans are welcomed to join the Turley clan in McLean for a true patriotic pyrotechnic extravaganza.
John Adams, no conservative, once stated “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival,” he wrote his wife, Abigail. “It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”
From one end of this continent to the other . . . even on Harvard yard.