And with the country knee-deep in a disastrous war, an opposition party should have no trouble making that case on the merits, instead of whining endlessly about how the GOP needs to play fair and stop questioning their patriotism. ~Ross Douthat

Ross is right that the opposition party should have no trouble making the case on the merits.  It would help if the leaders of the opposition party knew what the merits were, and it wouldn’t hurt if they had party leadership that actually knew what it was doing.  In addition to not whining, pushing back and arguing the case on the merits, the Democrats could take a page from their opponents’ playbook and make the argument why getting out of Iraq is precisely the more patriotic thing to do.  They could also argue that patriotism may sometimes entail courses of action that directly oppose what the state believes is in its own best institutional interest. 

Unfortunately, the party whose leader once said, “You cannot love your country and hate your government” is not prepared to make such an argument.  Because more than a few left-liberals actually do have a more, shall we say, complicated, qualified relationship with patriotic feeling they do not play the patriotism card themselves because they a) don’t necessarily think it’s true or b) cannot speak in the idiom that would make such an appeal credible.  For more than a few of these folks, at least among the elite, patriotism itself really does strike them as chthonic, retrograde and backwards; naturally, they resent accusations of disloyalty (as anyone would), but it seems that enough left-liberals lack the ability to unequivocally express patriotic feeling that they are left with complaining.  Democrats “whine” about having their patriotism impugned, which is reasonable inasmuch as they are actually being falsely attacked, but to successfully counter these attacks they would need to be able to appropriate the full-throated language and imagery of patriotism (much of which their more intellectual friends regard as manipulative and artificial).  This appropriation is something they either will not or cannot do.