Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Can A Liberal Be Right About American Exceptionalism?

I just read a piece by liberal Ron Rosenbaum that makes me think that liberals occasionally understand the flaws in the conservative agenda better than many conservatives. That is not to say that Rosenbaum has a firm grip on the conservative mind, but can see a damaging flaw in the conservative movement in today's political climate. He has concluded that the right wing throws the words "American exceptionalism" around almost as mindlessly as his own left wing uses the words "fascist" and "racist." I must reluctantly agree.

As a short introduction to Rosenbaum for those who are unfamiliar with his writing, his opening paragraphs in the article start out with: "Don't get me wrong, I love America. I honor those who sacrificed and still sacrifice to protect and defend our freedom. And unlike most liberals, I actually listen to conservative talk radio. I think El Rush has a good b.s. detector (as well as a good b.s. projector) and I'll take Imus' word that Sean Hannity is a nice guy, although his prideful sense of his own righteousness rivals that of the Spanish Inquisition. In fact, the sin of pride (aka self-righteousness) is what I'm here to talk about today.

"The meme I'm talking about is the one where everyone is called upon to pledge allegiance to the doctrine of 'American exceptionalism.' Frankly I don't think many of the callers (and I'm not sure about Hannity himself) know what they're talking about when they use the word 'exceptionalism.' These days, on Hannity's show at least, it's mainly used in a simple-minded, dumbed-down, loutish 'we're number one!' Freddie Mercury 'we are the champions of the world,' boastful, sin of pride way."

Frankly, I had been thinking along the same lines. I'm a bit less critical of Hannity, but that might be because I occasionally pop over to his TV show on Fox News Channel, and have never heard his radio show. I sometimes see too much "rah-rahism," and too little thinking, but I'm certainly not in disagreement with much of his underlying patriotic agenda. More importantly, I am a firm and deep believer in American exceptionalism myself, and I suspect that my view of that is not much different from Rosenbaum's, and quite different from a great deal of what I hear and see from my friends on the right.

The picture I used illustrates one of those misconceptions about American Exceptionalism. Too many think it's another way of saying "manifest destiny," an expression whose time has come--and gone. It served the nation well (admittedly over the bodies of more than a few of the native residents) as the fledgling nation extended itself from sea to shining sea. The concept was a creature of its time, and contained large portions of racial thinking and religious fervor. Not much worse than its contemporary beliefs throughout the world, but definitely long outdated. White people in general (including all the colonizer nations of Europe) were destined to rule the world, and America was particularly suited to be the big fish in that pond.

Another large group seems to think along the lines that America is exceptional because we seem to have come out on top (a sort of worldwide social Darwinism). As Rosenbaum puts it: "[That view of exceptionalism] is a doctrine that [cannot] be taken seriously as anything but jingoistic boasting (Outta my way, lesser nations, I'm cutting to the head of the line 'cause I'm an American and we're exceptional)."

But don't make the mistake of thinking that I agree with everything Rosenbaum says. He's far too much the relativist, and excuses Barack Obama's many mis-steps in explaining America and American ways to others. "But recently 'American exceptionalism' has been used to club Obama, who, when asked whether he believed in American exceptionalism, replied with something like, 'sure, just as the British believe in British exceptionalism, etc.'" Rosenbaum sees that comment as "a remarkable instance of intellectual integrity not submitting to the demand for jingoistic blather." I see that as a lack of intellect and a complete lack of understanding what an American president should be saying about his own nation.

Obama's answer should have been a simple "yes," or in the alternative (my preference) to use those legal credentials he questionably holds to explain, in his best University of Chicago constitutional law professor way, that "American exceptionalism is not about military, economic or moral superiority but rather those bedrock principles upon which America was founded and bled for, to wit, a constitutional republic, embodied in a Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and giving a proper respect to Almighty God, which struggled more mightily than any other to guarantee the freedom of mankind and the potential to be a great force for good throughout the world."

You'll notice that in my version, I have avoided both Obama's multiple apologies for pretty much everything America has ever said or done, while at the same time avoiding Hannity's simplistic (and untrue) "We ain't got nothin' to apologize for." Apologies (or refusals to recognize the facts) are substitutes for critical thinking and honest patriotism. And as for good hard-nosed realpolitik, nations don't apologize to anyone, even their own people. Apologies are for individuals to be made to those whom they have harmed. Nations (at least good nations) see their flaws and do their best to correct them. I truly believe that America has done more of this "national correction" than any other nation on earth, including fighting a bloody Civil War to produce the rights only partially realized in the documents of the Founding Fathers.

Having said that, I agree with Rosenbaum that flaunting our goodness is, indeed, the sin of pride. Too often, genuinely good and patriotic Americans flaunt the good others have accomplished, now and in the past. And that is merely the mirror image of apologizing for the evil others have done. The exceptionalism of America is that it is the only nation which has produced such an extraordinary group as the Founders who produced two documents which do not make perfect citizens, but rather have guided a nation by rules which best allow for advancing the good in human beings while restraining the evil.

American exceptionalism should never be used as a phrase which means American "superiority." We have gone from thirteen small colonies to the leader of the free world because of the American exceptionalism evidenced in the Declaration and the Constitution. Even the great patriot George M. Cohan wrote that under that grand old flag, there's "never a boast or brag." Confidence and firmness must not be mistaken for manifest arrogance. A much more thoughtful author wrote "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall." Proverbs 16:18

It is that true exceptionalism which has made America a great nation. It is not the oft-quoted, and nonexistent Tocquevillianism "America is great because she is good." Nor has America's preeminent position in the world been the result of despotic uses of power or industrial militarization of the American soul. America's exceptionalism is the result of its founding documents, the good will of great men and women, and the freedom to combine Judeo-Christian beliefs into an entirely non-religious form of government which seeks perfection, but never claims it. As a result, America has had to fight, and use its great military capabilities to advance freedom throughout the world. As a human institution, it has made some major mistakes. Yet it didn't produce a true imperial power. If it had, Germany and Japan would currently be colonies of the United States rather than allies free to express their own views and go their own way, while Britain and France would be friendly satrapies.

So the next time you hear someone braying about American exceptionalism, ask yourself if that person has the least clue what he or she is talking about. Mindless adherence to a patriotic mantra serves nobody well. The true patriot knows why America is exceptional, and can explain it without using meaningless catchphrases.

22 comments:

StanH said...

Sean Hannity is a one trick pony, and though a very decent man, tows the party line (Republican) in myopic obedience that turns me away at times. My guess is Sean could give you chapter and verse on American Exceptionalism, but in his capacity uses it as a catch phrase to anger the left. Rush is a bit more nuanced and will give examples of American Exceptionalism which there are many, and not just as a pure jingoist, but as a proud American, I like that - - and will use the reality that American Exceptionalism is a tool to fight the left.

To be humble is the best example of pride of country, or just to be a decent human being, but the greatness of America however needs defense today, we are drifting in the malaise of ‘60s moral relativism, where there is no difference between the USA and say, Rwanda, to put it bluntly, we are right, they are wrong. Though the premise of your article is correct, in order to utterly defeat the left, it will require, rah-rah pride of country, or jingoism if you will, and once again American Exceptionalism will go without saying.

AndrewPrice said...

I can't stand Hannity on many levels. He confuses his own opinions with right and wrong.

In terms of American Exceptionalism, I don't equate it to anything Rosenbaum is talking about. It's not a historical thing at all. If that was the case, it would have ended decades ago -- like manifest destiny.

American Exceptionalism is the fact that average Americans are exceptional. . . we're not like the rest of the world. Anyone who has traveled the world can see that. Americans are unique in the world in believing that they have control over their own lives and their own destinies. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans believe that they can shape their own futures. The rest of the world, from first world Europe to third world Africa, believes that their lives depend on their government. That's what makes us exceptional.

It also brings with is a lot of fantastic characteristics that are missing in the rest of the world, like independent thinking, striving for a better world, respect for each other and a sense of charity that is missing from the people who expect the government to handle all such matters. That is what drives us to build, to create, to think about the future -- even long after we're dead.

You simply don't see those kinds of thoughts and behaviors in the rest of the world.

And that's why the rest of the world (particularly the Europeans) don't understand us. They are busy worrying about making sure they get their fair share of government goodies, and about righting ancient slights, and they can't conceive of another way. That's why they think things like the invasion of Iraq are about getting a greater share of Iraqi oil -- because that would be the SOP for Europe.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: It's possible to root for the home team and know why you're rooting, which is the point of my article. I'm as big a rooter for our troops as anyone (and in peacetime, nobody can beat me for touting American exceptionalism), but I think it's vitally important that we know why we should win as well. If we lose sight of that, then Obama becomes correct, and we're rooting for our side just like they're rooting for theirs. But, yeah, I'm certainly not above "go, troops!"

StanH said...

Let me redefine my point, “jingoism towards the left.” We are at war from within, and will in my opinion require fierce patriotism, unabashed love of the USA, American Exceptionalism. The left will cry foul, and call you a, jingoist, fascist, racist, homophobe, etc. My point is, when some maggot infested hippie wannabe comes along and says, “it’s all relative man,” our retort needs to be an unequivocal, STFU you idiot. Complacency is something that the conservatives can no longer abide.

Lawhawk I’ve read your writings for a year, there is no more patriotic American on the blogs, even if you do come from San Francisco! LOL!

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Everything is historical. Unless there's an American "gene," the difference between Americans and others is those historical perspectives we get from our parents and our ancestors. And for those who come to America for all its potential, it's the history they know about us and wish to join.

Why are average Americans exceptional? Their ancestral homelands? Their astounding insight? Their religion? Those are part of it, but they are built on the historical foundation of the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration, and the Constitution, which have become deeply-ingrained in our psyches. Based on that history, we believe in and assume things that no other people believe or assume at all, or as deeply.

Americans are not alone in wanting freedom, but we are among the very few who assume it is a God-given right, and the natural order of things. Before the Founders preached a different idea, even most Americans didn't make those automatic assumptions. But we have ever since.

Freedom, individual rights and opportunity, and natural liberties are great theories, but the Founders promoted them, then cast them in concrete, and we've had 220 years and dozens of generations to live them. And that makes us exceptional by thought and deed.

The main purpose of the article is to reaffirm the reasons for our exceptionalism. The Marxists in DC and the universities don't like that exceptionalism, so instead of concentrating on why America is exceptional, they do everything they can to make it just another oppressive empire. The innate understanding of the reasons for our exceptionalism are under attack, and knee-jerk patriotism alone won't counter it.

You and I both come from fairly recent American stock, but our parents knew why they were coming to America better than the average college student will understand for most of the rest of his life. If it ever comes down simply to "us" versus "them," "us" can change to something very much resembling "them." Those who fail to learn the lessons of history, are condemned to re-live them.

You and I agree on America as exceptional. Apparently, we don't entirely agree as to why Americans are exceptional. Many of my brightest constitutional law students were absolute babes-in-the-woods when I first taught them what actually went into creating the Constitution, and particularly the Bill of Rights. Many had no idea how very different our form of government is from those of other western democracies. By the time they left, they knew, and they understood American exceptionalism, perhaps for the first time in their young lives.

patti said...

sean hannity makes me twitch more than beck most days. give me rush any day. he's funny, smart AND a clear independent thinker. much like me. (that's my new year's funny for ya!)

american exceptionalism is alive. so much so, i would offer it's going to be the one thing that saves us.

my german mother used to tell her children that they had no idea how lucky they were to have been born americans. it was true then, and is true now. we have so much available to us, and at the same time we generously offer so much to the rest of the world.

it's a spirit that cannot be told, an imprint of our history, a strength that cannot be quenched. we are weird, and passionate, and divided, and innovative, and caring, and loud, and opinionated, and unafraid of our government, and independent, and asskickers, and freedom lovers. all of this lends to our exceptionalism.

that and the fact we'll batter and deep fry anything not tied down...

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: I completely understand what you are saying, and I totally agree. There is always an American flag on proud display in my home. But there are other things. And the only thing in my home that has a place as prominent as the Bible is the Constitution. An American is unlike anyone else on earth. We have no genuine ethnic identity.

To be an American is not to be a Frenchman, or an Englishman. We are as much a people of ideals as we are a physical nation. Our laws, our history, and our Constitution bind us together as a people, as a nation. Without them, we might just as well be Lower Slobovia or Freedonia. Borders can define the physical boundaries of a nation, but only its history and foundational documents can define its soul. Many nations have beautiful flags, but only Old Glory has the deep meaning that our flag holds. The blood of patriots. The love of freedom. And a union of liberty-loving people in each of the states, bound together by a grand history and the finest governmental document ever created.

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: Well said. You, Andrew and I all seem to have a common ancestral thread in Germany (we are still the largest ethnic group in the United States). But my one quarter-Irish children, my Filipino daughter-in-law, and my two Mexican sons-in-law are all Americans, first and foremost. I'm enough older than you (b. 1944) that when I came home from elementary school and announced that I was German-American, my mother exploded (a rare thing for her), and said that I am an American, and nothing else.

When Samuel Johnson said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, he was not criticizing patriotism. He was criticizing those who used it to support evil purposes, as well as those who were not deeply rooted in their history and easily convinced that the thing being promoted was not patriotism, but demagoguery.

American exceptionalism will be the strength of the nation so long as we do not lose sight of why we are exceptional. Thus, the left brays "dissent is the highest form of patriotism," without understanding for one second what that actually means. Dissent is deeply-ingrained in what we are as Americans. Our nation was founded on it, and our founding documents give it a place of preeminence (the First Amendment--freedom of speech, religion, to petition the government for redress of grievances, and the right to assemble). It doesn't mean that dissent is good as long as you're dissenting against someone else, not "us."

The Nazis and the Communists were patriotic, but not in anything like the way the Founding Fathers and their successor were patriotic. It's important to be patriotic, but equally important to be able to say why one is patriotic. I love America not because we're the best, or the strongest, or the richest (though we are all of those), but rather because of why we are those things. History, the Revolution, the Declaration and the Constitution provide those reasons.

We will, indeed, survive so long as we maintain that exceptionalism, including the knowledge of what makes America exceptional.

Hannnity is too shrill for my tastes, and I find Beck too emotional, though I think both are providing some invaluable services. Rush is by far the best, but I think that's because he sees that broad view of American exceptionalism that I find so important.

Writer X said...

Perhaps those who can only articulate a one-dimensional version of American exceptionalism are no better/no worse in their thinking than those who carry the "America is bad" torch. Sometimes I think it mostly all boils down to how well a person can communicate, not so much as what they feel in their heart.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: You got to the heart of the matter. And that's what worries me. As you surmised, those who do not know the underlying reasons for American exceptionalism are no better on the right than they are on the left. Knowledge imparted is communication. And if neither side knows the reasons behind their beliefs, then the side which communicates its revised version best wins. I think we all know which side communicated best in the elections of 2006 and 2008. Let's hope that changes in 2010 and 2012. But I still hold to the belief that the ultimate victory for American exceptionalism will come from those who both feel it and communicate it well.

Patriotism and politics cannot be affected by monkish self-realization. It must be broadcast. Thomas Paine was probably the best of those early patriots in realizing that. And communicate it, he did. Once those thoughts were put together by the other patriots, it became a document to which they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. That is the foundation from which all our exceptionalism flows, and we must be able to communicate that, or we risk losing our nation and our souls.

I believe that the tea party activists generally understand the reasons behind American exceptionalism better than all the faux intellectuals in the Obama administration. If they, and conservatives in the Republican Party can just communicate that idea, we will win, and the victory will be for the ages.

Writer X said...

LawHawk, so well put!

He who communicates best, wins.

Unfortunately, as we all know, communication is not the strong skill of most Republican politicians. I think Bush got away with it, to a certain extent, because there was no denying his sincerity.

Bottle true sincerity with communication skills and you've got a winner.

Contrast that to Obama: While he may be able to communicate (if his teleprompter is working), he's an empty suit. And his falling poll numbers reflect that, among other things.

StanH said...

Wow, Lawhawk! I heard, “The Star Spangled Banner” in my head, and put my hand over my heart as I read your reply, stirring.

But we mustn’t get in a circular firing squad, Sean Hannity, though sometimes irritating is on our team. And going back to Andrew’s brilliant article about how a third party will destroy the conservative movement, Sean has to be included, what did the great Reagan teach us, The Eleventh Commandment, “thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” I don’t want to be Sean’s defender but he is an example of American Exceptionalism, a poor boy through hard work and dedication has reached the pinnacle of success, and preaches conservative ideals to millions daily, that’s a good thing, and could only happen in America.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: Yep. I think Obama is like that proverbial snake-oil salesman with the silver tongue and flashy product who comes to town, makes promises he can't keep about a product that doesn't work, and leaves everybody smiling and happy. Yet somehow, he's not quite so popular when he makes the next rounds. Without new people to hear the speech for the first time, and facing citizens who now know the snake-oil doesn't actually work, his empty words don't convince nearly as many people. The wise snake-oil salesman doesn't make a third trip to that town. Obama is a good snake-oil salesman, who doesn't know when to quit.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: I hope I got it across that whatever criticism of Hannity and Beck that I might have has nothing to do with my thinking that they are not valuable. They are good for people who are wavering in their devotion, and good for those who have a solid foundation of belief, but who need to know they're not alone in their strong belief in American exceptionalism. I wish they could explain it better, but nobody's perfect.

You'll see in my comment on Andrew's "New Year's Resolutions" that I clearly know my enemy from my friend, and Hannity and Beck are both friends.

As for the Star-Spangled Banner, I think sometimes I have delusions of adequacy. But I'm working on humility. Haven't had much success, so I didn't include that in my Resolutions. Still, when I start writing about America, I seem to hear the strains of either the National Anthem or the Battle Hymn of the Republic. That a reader picks up on it is a matter of personal, well, pride. Thanks.

StanH said...

That’s why I like this blog Lawhawk, it has passion.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: We are known for getting on our soapboxes occasionally. LOL

patti said...

i just want to be clear as well on my feelings for hannity and beck. i have great respect for their brand of communication and for their willingness to stay at it for the sake of what they believe (and the $$$). it obviously works on many levels, for many folks. and there are days when i have tuned in to both shows and have found myself agreeing. it's just the day in, day out repetitiveness of what they each offer that i find chafing. i realize the same can be said of every offering, mine included. that so much is offered, in so many venues, with so many voices, is in part the key to our exceptionalism.

LawHawkSF said...

Patti: Well said. I know that I am sometimes guilty of assuming that everyone has had the blessings and good breaks that I've had over my life. What I sometimes find redundant may be the first time someone else has heard it. And I'm no different from anyone else in occasionally "not getting it" from the first shot out of the gate. So like you, I have that point where I just "shut it off," but we both know that some people need to be hearing that, and having it reinforced. I would last about three minutes running a huge forum like those of Hannity and Beck.

I have a tendency to assume too much of my audience, and although I was very good at getting down to brass tacks with juries, I'm afraid my academic lectures can be very shotgun, and very, well, academic. My kids often said to me "Dad, could we have the simple answer, please?" Beck's blackboard is more effective for 90% of Americans than my lectures on constitutional law would ever be. But at least I share with them a determined enthusiasm about my subject.

Individualist said...

Lawhawk

American Exceptionalism, if I had to defend using that term I would point to Bill Whittles expose answering Bill Mayer and Barack Obama on PJTV. My problem is why do I have to defend this to begin with. There is a rag in Jacksonville called the Folio that printed an article from a local educator explaining how America is not exceptional and making all the accusations that there is something wrong with the idea. The point he kept coming back to was that someone in France would be put off by it.

My problem with this is twofold. First does my statement that I think America is exceptional have any bearing on France. I say it does not. Can France not be exceptional or Frenchman not be allowed to state France is exceptional because I said America is. I say it does not. Why then should I have to argue against the ridiculous argument that I have injured Frenchman.

As to the jingoism let me tell you this forget patriotic American Slogans. If jingoism is wrong the worst offenders are people that are fans of college football teams. My Dad has a shrine to Jopa in his office. Gator and Seminole fans express the craziest sentiments about their teams. At a Florida Georgia game I personally witnessed Florida and Georgia fans throwing beer at each other just because they dared to wear their school colors. These are things I have yet to see happen when Ame4ricans and British people meet. Maybe its becaue we don't get involved in Soccer I don't know. I guess my point is that sometimes when having drinks at a bar we start talking about America being a Great Country it is just the same kind of banter equated to school spirit. It does not require an in depth 20 page discourse defending the idea or we are lessor people for having said it. No one is telling France how to run their government.

The problem I have with the left and the European Relatavistic America is not exceptional attacks is that usually they are based on myths and not reality (i.e. we have yet to steal a drop of Iraqui oil), they are to a fault almost always propagandist attacks to demoralize and condemn our American way of life and ultimately that elistist liberal from London or Paris is trying to explain to us how we should run our government (socialized medicine).

To my mind having to argue with anyone that America is not exceptional is beneath contempt.

But that's just me. For the record I think the French and English etc. should think their country is exceptional. I leave it to them to justify why?

LawHawkSF said...

Indivualist: I couldn't care less what any of the Europeans think. On the other hand, I believe strongly that when an American says that America is not exceptional, we had damn well better be ready to refute the argument with something better than "yes we are." That is followed by "no we're not," "yes we are," no we're not," etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

I don't see American exceptionalism, and the debate about it, to be anything like the enthusiasm and mindlessness of rooting for sports teams. It's too serious, and too basic to our freedom.

I too think that it is beneath contempt for anyone to believe that America is not exceptional. That belief, not the need to argue otherwise, is beneath contempt. We had better be prepared to do just that. Many believe it, and it's our job to teach them why they should believe differently. Otherwise, it's just playground warfare. Simply calling them stupid and/or unpatriotic may be true, but it doesn't change their minds, now does it? We don't need merely to defend American exceptionalism, we need to spread it far and wide, with intelligent, adult arguments and firm conviction.

I just argued for American exceptionalism in a one or two page article and a few comments. It doesn't require a twenty page document, nor should it. After all, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence together don't add up to twenty pages. But the Founders considered them both important enough to argue in the Federalist Papers, which is considerably longer than twenty pages.

I never argue American expectionalism or religion in bars with drunks, so I don't see that analogy at all. Jingoism belongs in those bars. American exceptionalism belongs in the open forum in the light of day.

As you and Obama have said, the British and the French do think their countries are exceptional, and in many ways they are. So was Nazi Germany. And they can argue it with their own people as to why from now until doomsday, for all I care. I am solely concerned with American exceptionalism, and how it has deteriorated and been misused and misunderstood by too many Americans because of the failure of good, thinking conservatives to take the time to understand it and promote it.

Individualist said...

Lawhawk

Yes you did write a succinct well written article. The liberal in the folio did not. It is one of those free mag dimensioned 20" x 11" per page (in small newsprint) and they devoted almost three full pages to this guy’s article which took the "I can't stand when Conservatives insist America is Exceptional when it is not" argument to a critique on our capitalist society especially in comparison to enlightened European socialism, to a lecture on how arrogant said Europeans would find the US, to a call for the Public Option and single payer Health Care. That was what I was thinking about when I mentioned 20 pages.

I do agree that if there are others that believe this nonsense that we need to engage the argument but the thing I would like to point out is the argument is a red herring. While you are defending why America is great they are pushing socialism. Any argument you make will be countered with other arguments equally ridiculous just to keep you focused on it. They don't care what the facts are, they figure if they have got you to a point where you have to defend America being Great that they have won to begin with. This is what I find frustrating. The argument is not being made honestly. In the rules of debate these things work because one assumes the participants are arguing honestly backing up their points with facts. This is not an honest debate. It is propaganda. America is not Exceptional is a liberal code word for America is not socialist enough. This is the real argument.

As to arguing the actual facts Bill Whittle has done the best job I've seen.

http://www.pjtv.com/video/Afterburner_with_Bill_Whittle/2009_Favorite%3A_Bill_Maher%2C_Barack_Obama_and_the_Truth_About_American_Exceptionalism/2378/

LawHawkSF said...

Individualist: There are a certain number of diehards on both ends of the spectrum who will never be convinced by good argument contrary to their views. But the "market" we have to reach are those in the middle who are not entirely convinced either way. Those "independents" are the key to success for either party, and we need to win them over. One way to drag them away from Eurosocialism is to get them to understand and feel strongly about American exceptionalism.

We have the arguments that begin with the Declaration and the Constitution, which have produced the strongest and freest nation on earth see Whittle, below). The hardcore left has only their Marxist history, which is nothing more than a history of failure and oppression. The hardcore left isn't where the argument is--it's that middle that really wants to be on our side, and just needs convincing. Arguing anything with the willfully deaf, dumb and blind is indeed a waste of time. It doesn't require PhD level argument to keep bringing the topic back to "history proves our point." For those who think there's such as thing as "your history, and my history," there's no hope. They are the fact and logic deniers, and they are strong supporters of the left. But the middle can see which side can say "prove your theory has ever worked, then look at our exceptional history." And it sure ain't the left.

Bill Whittle did an excellent job, by the way. But even he still needed almost fifteen minutes to explain the four areas he believes prove American exceptionalism. And that's without counterargument. I agree with every word he says, and I think he proves the point that you need to know what you're talking about. Maher (and to a lesser extent, the ignorant Obama) would have simply dismissed his arguments with snark and pretentious twaddle. Whittle is both talking to and about the exact audience I'm talking about. His discussion is extremely good, but it relies solely on current conditions, and I prefer to build the Declaration and Constitutional arguments first. Strictly a matter of choice.

Most importantly, he hit a serious nail right on the head when he explained that when discussing American exceptionalism (or French, or British, or Greek) you need to know the difference between patriotism and exceptionalism. They complement each other, but they are certainly not the same thing. I am patriotic because I believe America is exceptional.

And as for Rosenbaum, remember that I agree with him solely on the point that saying "American exceptionalism" and understanding it in such a way as to convey it properly are not the same things. Whittle certainly takes the same view that I do, and merely emphasizes different facets. There is no one good approach which covers all the bases quickly and succinctly, but there are plenty of good ones which are good enough to convince those on the fence. Having no argument beyond "we're exceptional" is not good enough.

Concentrating on trying to win an argument with academic leftists is an exercise in futility. We need to get to the audience that they are indoctrinating. Any decent person of average intelligence can quickly see that their arguments are academic nonsense, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.

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