I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism…[W]e have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional…I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.
long live American exceptionalism!
According to the Washington Post, American exceptionalism is making a comeback. In an effort to score political points, Republicans have taken to criticizing President Obama’s comments of over a year ago, given in Strasbourg, France.
Mitt Romney writes in his campaign book that “[t]his reorientation away from a celebration of American exceptionalism is misguided and bankrupt,” while Mike Huckabee has claimed that “[t]o deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.” The article also finds Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum echoing similar ideas.
(I note that some might find Obama’s statement to be actually rather celebratory of the United States. On this subject, I believe that conservatives tend to take issue with the first and last sentences quoted above, rather than Obama’s overall positions or policies. A quick review of a transcript of the entire event reveals an Obama who, in my view, expresses a great deal of pride in his country, if with perhaps a bit more circumspection and somewhat less swagger than Republicans typically prefer.)
Within the history profession, I think it is fair to say that the mention of American exceptionalism is typically greeted with derision, scorn and mockery. It is odd, therefore, to see professional politicians embrace the phrase, and its attendant ideas, so aggressively. Of course, the people making these attacks are not running for president of the AHA, and the views of academic historians may not track well with those of the electorate at large. According to a poll cited in the article, fully fifty-eight percent of Americans agree with the statement that “God has granted America a special role in human history.”