#American Exceptionalism

Note on American Exceptionalism in Crisis

We may need to consider that what Daniel Larison calls “hegemonism” is on some level embedded within the American project itself, its revolutionary liberalism, its Enlightenment universalism, its Jeffersonian “federative” imperialism. A divorce from such pretensions, or even a declaration of their fulfillment and therefore their obsolescence, does not merely require but likely entails, is likely already entailing, a political and economic crisis corresponding to the deeper conceptual or ideological crisis. Even a re-conception of liberal-universalism, a notion of some truer realization of its essence, leaves the fate of American nationalism, and of the American nation, meaning the real lives of its people, or the real meaning of the lives of its people, in question. The transformation to a self-understanding of “one country just like the others” might still be experienced as a greatest loss, spiritual as well as material, by many or in some sense all Americans, even the ones promoting it and perhaps able to look at the world it creates and call it good and necessary.

Posted in History, Neo-Imperialism, Philosophy, Politics, US History Tagged with:

Exceptionally Exceptional

In order to support a strong hypothesis – that the American public has been fed a “Big Lie” about the President being an “anti-American hyper-leftist… spending the US into oblivion,” Andrew Sullivan proposes – or, rather, conducts and concludes –

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

No exceptionalism to the rule…

Even when confronting striking evidence that something is wrong and that no one has an implementable solution, even when imagining that at least they have stepped outside of political-philosophical gridlock, American pundits, politicians, and popular historians write with unquestioning optimism

Posted in Future History, History, US History Tagged with: , , , ,

Totally greatest country like ever

Mike suggests he believes that the United States is not the greatest country in the history of the world; I disagree, for manifold reasons I will detail if anyone cares. But I think he is right to argue that telling

Posted in Future History Tagged with: , ,

From the Featured Archives

Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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