The recent revival of American exceptionalism as a political issue has been noted a few times at USIH. In November, I wondered why an idea so generally scorned by historians could be getting new legs in politics. Last month, Ben traced the term’s shifting meanings over time, from its origins in Marxist thinking to its status today as a “conservative shibboleth.” Another, slightly more recent (February 14) take on this phenomenon can be found on the website of The New Republic, where Georgetown historian Michael Kazin (The Populist Persuasion, A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan) has approached the subject from the perspective of President Obama’s political difficulties surrounding the phrase. The president’s measured support for American exceptionalism has been too lukewarm to earn him points with conservative critics, and Kazin assesses Obama’s use of the term to date as neither “productive” nor “convincing.” Kazin nonetheless argues that the president, despite his difficulties with celebrating the nation’s uniqueness, “neither can nor should discard the exceptionalism creed…[Instead, he] can use exceptionalism to suggest that the country has yet to live up to its ideals and simultaneously, to garb his policies, from health care to immigration to foreign aid, as what the country needs for this to finally happen.” Click here for Kazin’s post.
U.S. Intellectual History Blog
Robert Greene II
December 3, 2017
The Continuing Mission of Black Intellectuals: Stamped From the Beginning and African American HistorySomething that caught my eye when reading Ibram Kendi’s excellent Stamped From the Beginning was his admonition early in the book about for whom he was writing. Kendi insisted that Read more
January 7, 2016
Yes, the Culture Wars Are Over (or, stuff I say on Facebook)Recently, Andrew Hartman posted a review by Paul Horwitz of his book, A War for the Soul of America, on Facebook. He noted that, like most reviewers of his book, Read more
June 19, 2009