On this July 4th holiday weekend, the “American exceptionalism” promoted by President Joe Biden and almost every other president deserves examination. Biden frequently talks about America as an inspiring idea — equality of opportunity in a nation of immigrants, with the inalienable rights of each individual recognized — not based on geography, tribe, ethnicity or race. The U.S. alone was born from a devotion to liberty, he said in a Memorial Day address at Arlington Cemetery. “We have never fully realized that aspiration of our founding,” Biden said, “but every generation has opened the door a little wider … to include those who have been excluded before.” He often quotes Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, that America was “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all (people) are created equal.”
Biden is “determined to save (America) from those who would recast the United States’s founding as a cynical exercise in subjugation,” observed Matt Bai, a columnist for The Washington Post. He noted that “in some other moment, nothing about this rhetoric would be terribly notable. It’s the way Barack Obama talked about United States, too. It’s the version of the American story — of a relentlessly self-improving country, despite painful setbacks and reckonings with our past — that most of us were taught to believe.
“But Biden’s vision doesn’t square at all with what a loud segment of the left now proclaims to be the truth. In the past year or so, another story has taken hold among activists on social media and opinion writers — that of a country tumbling backward, mired in a myth of equality in which its founders never really believed.
“The bible of this movement emerged in 2019 with publication of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which proclaimed a version of history in which racism fueled the country’s creation — and everything that followed.
“The movement’s power is reflected in books popular among Democrats in the past year, such as Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” and Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.”
Other journalists have criticized the notion of American exceptionalism:
The End of the End of American Exceptionalism, by Suzy Hansen, New York magazine.
Biden’s American Exceptionalism Has Limits by Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post.
Myth of American Exceptionalism (Scott Warren, Baltimore Sun)
America is Under Indictment. But Who Else Can Lead the World? Yes, the United States is deeply divided and probably undeserving of global leadership, as two new books argue. (By Michael Hirsh, ForeignPolicy.com)