clock menu more-arrow no yes

Jeb Bush reminds us who Americans like to root for: Americans

Politics is a sport — just listen to how the crowds cheered Jeb Bush. During Bush's announcement of his presidential campaign on Monday, audience members chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" during remarks about foreign policy and again shortly after he finished discussing the American experience in Spanish. He's heard it before, most publicly during a speech at CPAC in February, when a group of Rand Paul supporters walked out on him.

The chant is familiar to most Americans since it's used during sports events. But it also has a specifically political, and even ethnically based, history, directly tied to the Cold War, a time in which propaganda fueled support for national hypersurveillance in the face of nuclear destruction. A popular memory of its use is in the late 1970s (although a Slate reader noted it was used as early as the 1930s) as Daniel Fromson wrote at the Atlantic:

Although the U-S-A chant is often said to have originated with the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," in which the U.S. ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, at least one incident of the cheer predates that famous game.

David Litterer, co-author of The Encyclopedia of American Soccer History, points out that a U-S-A cheer occurred on October 26, 1979, when the U.S. men's soccer team traveled to Budapest and beat Hungary 2-0, "one of the most significant upsets in years."

The "Miracle on Ice" gave political opponents of the Soviet Union, as well as hockey fans, a very national reason to celebrate their country of origin:

In the post-9/11 era it again saw a resurgence, perhaps most memorably in 2011, when crowds in front of the White House gathered and chanted after the news of Osama bin Laden's death, as Alexis Madrigal wrote at the time.