American Exceptionalism in action!

Commentary

How’s it working out in the Age of Trump?

In many of my previous columns, I’ve invoked the term “American Exceptionalism.” As you might sense, my use of the term has been overwhelmingly ironic.

With that as background, I thought it would be appropriate to inspect the definition of the term American Exceptionalism and what it actually stands for in the “Age of Trump.”

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 its emergence from the American Revolution, thereby becoming what political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called “the first new nation” and developing a uniquely American ideology, “Americanism,” based on liberty, equality before the law, individual responsibility, republicanism, representative democracy and laissez-faire economics. This ideology itself is often referred to as “American exceptionalism.”
  • Second is the idea that the US has a unique mission to transform the world. As Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg address (1863), Americans have a duty to ensure, “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.

In Ronald Reagan’s version of American Exceptionalism, “America is the shining city on the hill.”

Wow, pretty heady stuff, this American Exceptionalism!

Given that, inspecting how in today’s “Age of Trump” America stacks up against the the ideas of American Exceptionalism and how we’re living up to Reagan’s “Shining City,” might be instructive.

  • America is exceptional because its citizens have been banned from traveling to the EU because the U.S. has so mis-handled the Coronavirus pandemic, it continues to see a high number of cases. While citizens of over 50 non-EU countries will be able to travel to the EU beginning July 1, including, Australia, New Zealand, China, Cuba, Japan, South Korea, Morocco and Vietnam, citizens of the United States will be excepted from this travel. That’s real-live American Exceptionalism.
  • America is exceptional because it’s Coronavirus cases per capita are among the highest in the world, bested only by Peru, Singapore, Chile and Kuwait. Exceptional!
  • America is exceptional because we have a bi-cameral legislature in which one House, the Senate…the Upper House, is so politicized that dozens of bills passed by the Lower House, the house of the people, are not even brought to the floor for a vote. One of those bills is the one that will allow Washington DC to become the 51st state. As it stands now the 705,749 citizens of the district, with a population bigger than the current states of Vermont and Wyoming and about the population of the 49th state, Alaska, pay more federal taxes than 20 “real” states, and pay those taxes without representation. Disenfranchising almost three-quarters of a million U.S. citizens for only one reason – if Washington DC becomes a state it will likely send two additional Democrats to the Senate – is truly “exceptional.” (No, I did not come up with that rationale on my own – here are the words of Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of this outrageous house of our Congress: “They plan to make the District of Columbia a state — that’d give them two new Democratic senators.”)
  • Continuing on the DC statehood issue, America is exceptional because Americans can elect a member of that august body, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark), a man who is wearing a run for the presidency in 2024 on his sleeve, who uses the following argument to support his opposition to the bill: “Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded working-class state. A new state of Washington would not be.” What does well-rounded working-class mean?” I’ll let you figure it out, but I will give you a hint…1.3% of Wyoming’s citizens are African-American; 49% of Washington DC’s citizens are African-American. Hmm. Not to mention that Wyoming pays $4.9 million in federal taxes while Washington DC pays $28.4 million. Guess they didn’t teach the Boston Tea Party in school in Arkansas – you know that incredible affair with the balloons and banners proclaiming, “No Taxation Without Representation.” I wonder how they taught the Civil War in Arkansas? Never mind, I can only imagine…in a truly exceptional way!
  • America is exceptional because unlike other powerful countries, the United States has closer relationships with its foes than its friends. The most recent example: The U.S. is pulling troops from Germany, since World War II, the bastion America has maintained to help protect our European allies from the threat from first, the Soviet Union and it’s Eastern Bloc, and now from Putin’s Russia; a pull-back meant to punish Germany for not contributing sufficient resources according to America’s president and his administration.
  • America is exceptional because it is led by a man who is supposed to be the ultimate recipient of all U.S. intelligence, who said he did not know that Russia had secretly offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. Troops. This, despite confirmed reports that the Trump administration has been deliberating for months about what to do about this stunning intelligence assessment. And despite the fact that during this “deliberative” period, this “leader,” rather than doing something about Putin’s U.S. troop “bounty hunting,” chose to announce to the world that Russia should be readmitted to the G7/8. So rather than punish an adversary who is actively engaged in killing U.S. soldiers, he is attempting to reward that adversary. Truly exceptional!
  • America is a “federation of states” bestowing much power to those states and their governors (except when it’s not in the best interests of the federal administration). But that’s not the exceptional part – plenty of countries are organized on a federal basis. America is exceptional because its citizens have the such lack of intelligence and foresight that they elect governors who are sycophantic, toadies like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Georgia’s Brian Kemp, Arizona’s Doug Ducey and Texas’ Greg Abbot, among others, whose “leadership” is distinguished by simply doing the bidding of their “dreadful leader.” In so doing, their most egregious actions have made the Coronavirus pandemic in their states even worse than it should have been. Truly exceptional – not because of these leaders’ ignorance, gullibility and general obsequiousness, not because of any beliefs or convictions, but only to be able to maintain their personal power and presidential favor.
  • America is exceptional because of its devotion to memorializing, through monuments, statues and flags, enemies of the United States…people and symbols commemorating an unlawful insurrection, by rebels and traitors against their country and its Constitution. But even more exceptional is the fact that finally, as the movement to take down these symbols is in full swing, we have an president, from New York of all places, who is more fond of Robert E. Lee than Ulysses S. Grant!

There are many, many, more examples of American Exceptionalism during this “Age of Trump.” Feel free to write back/comment if you want to add to the list. Just be aware, incredibly, the ones I’ve detailed above have occurred in only the last few days and weeks.

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy.

11 thoughts on “American Exceptionalism in action!

  1. I’m so down and sad about this time. You are right

    On the money and I am still so frightened by foreign interference on Election Day

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good one, Ted.

    Relative to upcoming travel regs, maybe we should describe it as ‘American Except-ism’, i.e. many can travel to The EU countries…’except’ us. I’m keeping close track of any possible ‘exceptions’ and variances to the rules.

    In the category of health care, here we are in the midst of the worst global pandemic in a century, so of course, we drop out of the WHO, and the administration and republicans yet again try to take health care coverage away from millions of Americans. When / if we come out of this situation, and can’t pass legislation for some measure of universal health care, I can’t imagine how that could possibly happen anytime soon.

    Same situation applies to racial and economic inequality…if not now, then when?

    This is really a turning point in our little American Experiment in Democracy…which was / has been chancy from the beginning. America was NEVER ‘great’ for all citizens. To make it great moving ahead, maybe we shouldn’t concern ourselves so much with ensuring that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” and start by focusing a bit more on ensuring that it doesn’t perish from The US of A. We can get to the rest of ‘the earth’ a little e later. ‘Do as we do, not as we say’ was never more on point.

    Let’s hope our allies understand this is a short-term aberration in American governance…and let’s make certain it is! Otherwise…aaaaaiiiieeeee! 😉

    Vote, contribute, write, talk, shout, march…do whatever!

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Charles. You provide some great examples of why America is exceptional, particularly regarding healthcare. Regarding greatness, you’re right…America was never great for everyone. That’s, of course, the irony of “MAGA,” where great, for these people at least, is the 40’s and 50’s when Jim Crow and virulent anti-semitism ran rampant and people like them, not the “Other” were in control. And isn’t it also ironic that just as we’re corresponding, the president is tweeting (and then, apparently untweeting) that “White Power” advocates are “good people.” BTW, great phrase…”American Except-ism.” You really captured it.

      Like

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