American Exceptionalism

Mike Coffman, a Colorado Representative, recently made National news when he said that “Obama is not an American in his heart.” While dealing with the fallout from this, he released an apology where he said:

I have mixed feelings about this… No, not the Birther-allusions or the ridiclously hilarious and sad video of him repeating the same line like a prisoner of war when he was asked to elaborate on said apology.

A Pit thread about that silliness would be appropriate, purhaps.

But the concent of American Exceptionalism is an interesting one to me. On one hand, I can see why having pride in one’s nation or origin is not necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, the concept that the USA is the most awesome place in the world seems like the kind of thing that makes the international community roll their eyes at us.

And despite what Coffman said, I can probably cull quotes from Obama that would make him both proponent of AE (when he talks about how he could not have rose to lead any other country with his background) even if his more diplomatic quotes might lend creedence to the thought that Obama is against it.

I find it also interesting that I cannot imagine a politician in the USA say they are NOT for AE - I can see such a position - even if it’s brought about purely by modesty and diplomacy - be branded as scandalous and traitorous. May as well be an atheist… :slight_smile: Is it really scandalous to say “we can learn from other countries?”

What do we think of AE? Is it a fact? Was it a fact that is now tarnished? Was it never true and just arrogance? How come it matters? And am I right that a politician with national ambition could never come out and say that the USA is just one of many other countries, better in some ways, maybe not in others? Do non-Americans think we’re arrogant poopy heads when we talk about AE? Let’s discuss this…

America, I love you, but you ain’t so special.

Seriously, America, get over yourself.

Tell us about Canadian Exceptionalism.


I have never heard a Canadian talk about Canadian Exceptionalism. Nor have I read about a Parliamentary Committee on Un Canadian activities.

Obama, today, in his Air Force Academy commencement speech:

So, either he believes in American Exceptionalism, or he’s lying. Take your pick.

As I see it American exceptinalism is the belief that everything that makes the United States different from other affluent democracies is an aspect of American superiority. What is more, anyone who does not think so should leave the country.

Yeah, 'cause it ain’t like we be a continental hyper power able to wield such a disparate conglomeration of differing races and creeds together into such a dynamic nation. Hell, everyone can do it. I mean look at how successful our Euro buddies have been as one of the few comparative examples…

:smack: oh, wait! They haven’t been very successful at it on second thought. Well, the old Soviet Union was pretty similar and…oh, wait…they ran into a speed bump, IIRC. I’m sure they will get over it. Well, there was the French Empire which is doing…er, well the British Empire did really well. Oh, but they WERE exceptional, come to think of it. Rome…um, exceptional as well.

Er…well, since Bryan weighed in, there is always Canada, who is a hyper power, economic super power, has a huge disparate population and…

Um. Er. Well, maybe we ought to consider that at this point in history, America is kind of exceptional. Just a thought…


Australia is the best country. :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway define best…

I’d say he sounded more like a mafia boss taking the 5th at a Congressional hearing. Oddly, he repeated the same phrase five times in answer to five different questions.

Don’t a lot of nations engage in exceptionalism on some level or another? Germany, China, Russia, France, etc. They seem to have strains of exceptionalism.

Is the US exceptional? I don’t really think so. The fact that we bury ourselves in arrogance rather than face our shortcomings is not very exceptional. We have good and bad, but we weren’t picked by god to run the planet.

We have 6-7x the population of most OECD nations, and we are protected by 2 oceans. So we’ve got that going for us. But per capita I don’t think we are exceptional. I don’t know how a politician saying ‘the US is a good country, but we aren’t the center of the universe’ would go over. I think a lot of people would actually be refreshed that someone was speaking honestly instead of engaging in empty platitudes. The more politician’s speeches disconnect from the daily reality people have to face the more annoying it gets. A politician saying something that reflects the reality a lot of people have to face day to day could go over well with a lot of citizens.

As an Obama supporter, I pick lying.

We have just the right amount.

What do you think the word “fact” means?

I’ve certainly heard Canadians says Canada’s the best country in the world. In fact, we tend to drone on about it. You’ll never, ever see a Canadian politician say “You know, this place isn’t that great in this/that regard, let’s be more like Country A.”

“American Exceptionalism” is (today, anyway) just a political dog whistle of a phrase, but every country has a jingoist, chauvinist streak.

To me, AE goes far beyond merely thinking America is exceptional. It clearly is, insofar as it is powerful, polyglot, and rich. I would say it even goes beyond the chauvinism of other nations expressly because America is powerful and rich.

A proponent of AE must go further: s/he must believe America is a shining exception, and an exception in every way. There must be a conviction that America need not follow the rules of good citizenship laid down by nations, but need be answerable only to God.

I further posit that some notion of God, obvious or otherwise, is a big part of AE, if not actually indispensable to AE. Mark Coffman’s feeling that Barack Obama is not an American is obviously rooted in a religiously flavored chauvinism that Coffman intuitively senses Obama does not share. An American is an exceptionalist or s/he is nothing.

A moderate view. America is “kinda” exceptional. We do a lot of things really well. We also stumble really badly in other ways. We’ve got a gigantic economy…and no health care plan. We have a multi-cultural society…and a hell of a lot of bigotry. We have some of the best educational resources on earth – look at our scores in the Nobel Prizes – and we also have a huge amount of yahooism and ignorance. We’re the world center of creationism and Biblical literalism.

As I see it, the single most exceptional thing about the U.S. is that we got really, REALLY lucky in our founders and our first President. George Washington was as close to a miracle as we’ve ever had. He could so easily have been just a petty tyrant masquerading as a legitimate president. He could easily have just thrown the constitution aside and taken over all control, the way Napoleon III did. Washington set us on the right course.

(And cheated on his expense forms, but, hey, I didn’t say he was perfect…)

Such a harsh word! As an Obama supporter, I prefer “pandering.”

Exceptional doesn’t equal best at everything, including the best place to live. I realize that some folks using the term mean that the US is the ‘best’ at, well, everything, but I don’t see it that way. By the same token, anyone who says the US is just like every other nation is, IMHO delusional or blinded by bias. Pretty clearly at this point in history we ARE exceptional and have joined the dubious ranks of past exceptional nations or empires. That might not be the case a hundred years from today…look at Rome or the British Empire to see past fairs of ‘exceptional’ nations…but right now, today the US is exceptional among the nations of our time.

(sorry didn’t directly answer you Trinopus, but on travel and don’t have the mental energy tonight to cut and paste with the iPad and give your post the more lengthy answer it deserves).