Loyalty Day

Loyalty Day, as many have pointed out, is not some weird thing Donald Trump thought up.  It is an artifact of the weird things we used to do during the Cold War (and even before–it dates to the Red Scare of the 1920s) when we were scared of communism.  To me it is the kind of thing that actually sounds like what an authoritarian regime would have, rather than something a democratic regime would do to criticize an authoritarian one.

(It is also an example of how we in the US do not like to celebrate labor in the collective sense, as May Day has associated with organized labor since the mid-19th century.)

You can compare Loyalty Day proclamations issued by Trump, Obama, and Bush here.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. KM says:

    While it may not be a specific Trump thing, he and his pride themselves on breaking “archaic” rules and traditions that make no sense. This is one bit of federal regulation they could have easily done away with and not only would most not care, they wouldn’t even have noticed.

    I was not happy Obama did it and I’m less happy Trump did. A complete waste of time he could have set a positive precedent for once. But since the man just signs whatever is put in front of him, I can’t really blame him since I doubt he understood what it was in the first place.

  2. @KM:

    This is one bit of federal regulation they could have easily done away with and not only would most not care, they wouldn’t even have noticed.

    This isn’t just a matter of “rules and traditions,” Loyalty Day has been a recognized Federal Government “day” since at least 1955 and is currently codified in the United States Code at 36 USC 115. That provision also states that the President is “requested” to issue a proclamation marking the day every year, something that every President since has done. since the law was passed. I tend to agree it’s a rather silly relic of the Cold War, but this isn’t some kind of weird Triumpian thing like several of my friends on social media seemed to be thinking over the weekend.

    Incidentally, a companion section of the U.S. Code also provides that May 1st was “Law Day U.S.A.”and, pursuant to 36 USC 113, there was also a proclamation issued by the Trump White House marking that day.

    There are many such “days” designated by Federal law, and it’s been the regular practice for the sitting President to issue the appropriate proclamation.

    Additionally, since these “days” are a matter of Federal law rather than a mere tradition or regulation, only an act of Congress signed into law by the President can do away with them.

  3. JohnMcC says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Gosh, I didn’t know that Loyalty Day was actually a thing; as always, learning something like that is great. I know something new about my country, it’s history, that kind of stuff.

    Still… it seems peculiar that I have lived 71yrs without knowing this. And then Mr Trump became president.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Yesterday I, like Doug, saw this as a nothing burger. Yes, Loyalty Day is a throwback to the cold war, and a slap at labor, but Trump just made a routine declaration, as have his predecessors. Actually reading the Trump, Bush, and Obama proclamations at your link, that’s not entirely true. These phrases are unlike his predecessors’ declarations. As one of the WAPO commenters said, Trump’s declaration seems more appropriate to Armed Forces Day.

    As one Nation, we will always stand strong against the threats of terrorism and lawlessness. The loyalty of our citizenry sends a clear signal to our allies and enemies that the United States will never yield from our way of life. Through the Department of Defense and other national security agencies, we are working to destroy ISIS, and to secure for all Americans the liberty terrorists seek to extinguish.

    To express our country’s loyalty to individual liberties, to limited government, and to the inherent dignity of every human being, the Congress, by Public Law 85-529…

    emphasis mine.

    And there’s the unconscious irony of,

    The United States stands as the world’s leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.

  5. @JohnMcC:

    It’s not exactly a thing that most Americans are aware of I would imagine. I was familiar was it, but I’m not sure where I first learned about it but it may have been elementary school back in the 70s..

    I didn’t know about Law Day until I became an attorney and noted the local bar associations marking the day somehow, usually with a mid-day lunch even at which some locally prominent judge or lawyer would speak, Usually, they also use the occasion to hand out their annual scholarships to local High School students graduating that year.

  6. @JohnMcC:

    I saw many conservatives make a big deal of it when Obama issued his proclamation every year, citing it as evidence that the President was demanding we proclaim loyalty to him personally and claiming that it was evidence of Obama’s intent to become some kind of authoritarian tyrant. This year, I’ve seen some of my liberal and “Never Trump” friends doing the same thing with Trump’s proclamation.

    There’s much about Donald Trump to criticize or by concerned about. This isn’t one of them.

  7. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Colbert had a good line last week about Trump signing what’s put in front of him: somebody should try slipping a letter of resignation into the pile. Might work.

  8. Mikey says:

    In Germany (and maybe the rest of Europe, I don’t know), May 1 is Labor Day and a national holiday.

    It’s also my birthday, which is much more important, really. 🙂

  9. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @JohnMcC: Not so much when you think about how partisan the public/blogosphere have become. People are gunning and ready for anything and everything they can criticize Trump over, just like Clinton, Dubya, and Obama before him.

    The fact that he gives them so much to shoot at may be another question, but this one was a nothing burger combo.

  10. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mikey: More important than either Loyalty OR Law Day for sure. Belated Happy Birthday!

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: Happy Birthday!

    (I still think we should celebrate May 1st by raising a toast to the Wobblies and singing “L’internationale.” If nothing else, it’s a spiffing song which can actually be sung by someone who isn’t an opera singer.)

  12. DrDaveT says:

    by raising a toast to the Wobblies and singing “L’internationale.”

    Would you settle for “If I had a hammer”?

    (I discovered too late that my mother-in-law never introduced me to her friend Pete Seeger because she had no idea that I had any interest in that kind of music. Arghggghhhh.)

  13. Mr. Bluster says:

    Law Day was established in 1958. I was 10 years old at the time. The TV had been a fixture in our house for at least 5 years by then. I might have seen a newsreel of Ikes proclamation on the tube.
    I know I remember learning in grade school how Law Day was supposed to celebrate Democracy as opposed to Communist Rule.
    My ex wife was in Law School when I met her so everyday for me was Law Day after that till our Divorce.
    That was the only time I ever remember being in Court other than a speeding ticket and Jury Duty…
    Damn! Almost forgot the time I sued that bar for…never mind.