[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
So Richard Cohen decided to tackle “[t]he myth of American exceptionalism” and well… it goes about as well as you would think it would. It’s a tour de force of either mind-numbing stupidity or just plain dishonesty. Let’s read it together, shall we?
He starts right off by declaring that
“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,” W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in 1903 — and I will not quibble. But the problem of the 21st century is the problem of culture… what I would call the culture of smugness. The emblem of this culture is the term “American exceptionalism.” It has been adopted by the right to mean that America, alone among the nations, is beloved of God. Maybe so, but on some days it’s hard to tell.
So right off the bat, he is getting it wrong. That is not what the doctrine of American Exceptionalism is about and a quick Google Search would find a plethora of informed statements on the subject. For my money the best summary is Stephen Calabresi’s that “the idea of America as a special place with a special people called to a special mission[.]” And it has been present for well over four centuries. A classic example of that exceptionalism was found in the X, Y, Z affair, where the French expected American diplomats to engage in the same casual corruption that every other nation engaged in. Our diplomats refused for little other reason that we were Americans and we were different.
Alas, he goes on:
The term “American exceptionalism” has been invoked by Mitt Romney, Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and, of course, Sarah Palin. I would throw in Michele Bachmann, since if she has not said it yet, she soon will because she says almost anything. She is no exception to the cult of American exceptionalism.
So he accuses Bachmann of being about to say it because “she says almost anything.” Did an editor actually read that line? She says almost anything? Really? Does she say “Karl Marx was right?” or “the Jews should be wiped out” because somehow I doubt it. It’s really fascinating to watch a person actually demonstrate irrational hatred toward the woman.
Then he goes on to explode the “myth” of American Exceptionalism (that is, to kill his straw man) by basically arguing that America is cursed, cursed I tell you: