Monday, May 15, 2017

#135 / Take Some Advice From Donald J. Trump

I am not a big fan of "American Exceptionalism," and I am particularly not a big fan when the term is used in the third sense listed by Wikipedia, in its article defining the term

American exceptionalism is one of three related ideas. The first is that the history of the United States is inherently different from that of other nations. In this view, American exceptionalism stems from the American Revolution, becoming what political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called "the first new nation" and developing the uniquely American ideology of "Americanism,"based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy, and laissez-faire economics. This ideology itself is often referred to as "American exceptionalism." Second is the idea that the U.S. has a unique mission to transform the world. Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address (1863) that Americans have a duty to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Third is the sense that the United States' history and mission give it a superiority over other nations.

Juliana Geran Pilon is not a big fan of "American Exceptionalism" either. If this is a topic that you think merits some attention,* you will probably be interested in Pilon's recent Opinion Editorial in The Wall Street Journal: "Let's Take Exception to the Term 'American Exceptionalism.'"

Pilon says that the term "American Exceptionalism" originated with Stalin. That's news to me - and I bet it's news to you, too! I was happy to get this background briefing, but what I found most compelling in Pilon's article was what she said about Donald J. Trump. I think that the quotations below show that candidate Trump, now our President, was right on target:

Candidate Donald Trump ... didn’t care for the term [American Exceptionalism]. As he told a group of Republicans in 2015, he thought it impolite: “I don’t want to say, ‘We’re exceptional. We’re more exceptional.’ Because essentially we’re saying, ‘We’re more outstanding than you . . .’ ” [Trump] also questioned the premise: “We’re dying. We owe 18 trillion in debt. I’d like to make us exceptional. . . . We may have a chance to say it in the not-too-distant future. But even then, I wouldn’t say it. . . . Let’s not rub it in.”

* I have paid some attention to "American Exceptionalism" in at least five postings in this blog: once on July 10, 2010, once on November 23, 2013, once on February 26, 2014, once on June 7, 2014, and most recently on May 1, 2017.  I definitely think we need to pay attention to what seems to be an American tendency to claim superiority (and thus the right to rule the world). Let's hope our current president remembers the insight he demonstrated as a candidate.

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