A Ragged US Flag

The End of American Exceptionalism

The “Greatest Generation” won the Second World War, helped rebuild Europe, stood up to communism and put a man on the moon. The present day United States of America could do none of those things. American exceptionalism is ending. 


A Ragged US Flag


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his week’s election results showed us something deeper about the United States than  simply the willingness to re-elect a president with a record that can be considered mediocre at best. It showed us that American exceptionalism is dead.

America is still a great country that has the capacity to do great things for themselves and the rest of the world, but the fact of the matter is that their political system is badly broken and Americans now face the prospect of at least 2, if not 4 years of divided government and gridlock in Washington. As of 12:01 AM on November 7th, 2012 the race to the 2014 midterm elections began and some are looking beyond that to 2016 where polling is already available.

However, the margin of victory and the results of some down ticket races have yet to be determined. Speaker of the House John Boehner is already stating that President re-elect Obama has no mandate for a tax increase . By immediately digging in and establishing his line in the sand for the upcoming budget fight over the impending “fiscal cliff”, the Republican party is preparing to risk driving America and potentially the world back into recession to appease a constituency that no longer has the capability to win them the presidency.

This constituency is, of course, white men. President Obama carried states like Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado and possibly Florida (at time of writing the state had not been called but President Obama did maintain a slim lead) on the backs of minority vote. He scored approximately 39% of the white vote nationally yet carried 93% of the black vote, 71% of Latinos and 70% of Asians (some preliminary data). The Republican Party is standing on the brink of an electoral abyss and unless they are willing to abandon the principles that have endeared them to their most vocal supporters– white men–they face a potentially bleak future.

It is in these divided election results where American exceptionalism ends. Billions of dollars were spent by both sides in this election and what resulted was a return to the status quo and potentially years of gridlock. Tom Brokaw (former NBC Nightly News Anchor) wrote a book called “Greatest Generation” in which he describes a generation of Americans that was both united in common cause and common values. This was a generation and an America that won the Second World War, helped rebuild Europe, stood up to communism and put a man on the moon.

The present day United States of America could do none of those things. Collective good will and willingness to share the burden has been removed from American culture. America is now defined by the 47%, or the 99% vs. the 1%, or any number of divisive and exclusive titles elevated by the talking heads of political punditry in an attempt to pander to the same groups that produced a divided election result. If you believe that the re-election of President Obama will erase these divisions, you are in the same level of denial as some Republicans and Fox News were when Ohio was called for the President and not Mitt Romney.

If this division and dysfunction only affected the United States then it wouldn’t be a problem; unfortunately it affects us all. Without the common purpose of the past generations of Americans, the ability for the United States to effectively lead on the international stage comes into question. Leadership on issues such as climate change, halting nuclear proliferation and taking action on the Syrian Civil War to name a few challenges is badly needed.

The election of November 6, 2012 showed us that the United States has refused to answer the world’s call for leadership. All that can be done now is to hope for change. Unfortunately, hope is a precious commodity these days.


Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack

9 thoughts on “The End of American Exceptionalism”

  1. There are a few things I’d like to address in this article:1. Common Cause: The only reason for the common cause for the US from 1939 to 1989 was a common enemy, first Germany then the USSR. This is not a generational decay but a paradigm shift. Surely the idea there is no great evil to unite to defeat is a good thing?2. The necessity of gridlock: There is little that suggests that the US will end up in a potentially world-recession-causing gridlock. This has been the same status of things for the last four years and things still got done during this period. In fact, the liberals are all the stronger this cycle, if not in numbers.3. The world needs the US as a leader: There seems to be no reason for this to be the case.4. The world called for US to be a leader: It didn’t.

    1. Peter Kelly Thanks for the reply. To respond to some of your comments 
      1) I personally don’t see paradigm shifts and generational changes as mutually exclusive. Times and people change which in turn changes the world. The fact that there hasn’t been a “great evil” to constrain US policy for the past 2 decades has resulted in the divisions which have always been underlying the United States to come to prominence as there was no existential threat to constrain them. Hence the divisive and polarizing politics that you see in the States and in turn the gridlock in Washington.
      2) There is a lot to suggest major issues could arise as a result of the gridlock in Washington and the  upcoming fiscal cliff. This morning’s headline on politico (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1112/83701.html?hp=t1) shows 5 scenarios of what could happen with these debt negotiations. Even if a deal is reached, the uncertainty of the process and the actual determination of program cuts/taxes raised likely will lead to a market slowdown. If the US goes over the cliff, everyone agrees that it will head back into recession and the world is too interconnected today for other countries not to be dragged down with it (see 2008).
      3-4) The United States is a world leader in many quantitative measures (military, size of its economy, greenhouse gas emissions etc.) and they are already leaders in many of the major international governing organizations (UN, WTO, IMF, World Bank etc.). I flat out disagree that the US isn’t a leader in many major aspects of the international political area and frankly without the US not a lot gets done in the world today. Pick a major international issue and the US is likely needed to either take part in or sign off on any sort of resolution for it to be effective. I’m not saying the world want the US to lead, I am saying that without the US leading nothing gets done.

      1. Frazier Fathers 1) But can these changes be levied on generational ‘decay’? I’m not sure they can, and in fact surely the lack of unity of opinions and enforced hatreds of a great enemy are a good thing? 2) There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ here. Considering the US has dodged these many times before is there really that great a fear they will not manage this time? 3-4) You said the world asked for the US to lead, I pointed out it didn’t. Also the charge that without the US nothing gets done is false. Look at ECOWAS and the Mali situation, the AU in Somalia, the EU in central Africa (just for present military examples). What of Russia’ intervention in South Ossetia, of the EU bailouts of Greece, Britain’s defense of the falklands? There is plenty that goes on without any involvement of the US at all.

        1. Peter Kelly Frazier Fathers 
          1) I think they can, likely this is matter of an opinion but hey we are here for debate. From my point of a view rivalry can breed the best or worst of human nature: whether individuals running a race, sport teams in neighbouring cities or nation states in the international arena. America has not had a rival for nearly 20 year and as a result this generation has been missing that competitive edge while domestic rivalries have emerged and proceeded to divide their society. Now I am not saying the new rival must be a “Great Satan” but it needs to be someone who can been as an equal to the United State and can constrain its power. Japan was supposed the economic rival to the US in the 1990s, then the EU and many predict China will be in the 21st century, who knows what the future holds. 
          2) You have a more optimistic view of the American political system then I do, the fact that David Gregory on Meet the Press this past weekend was comparing the current US political climate to that of clips from the upcoming Civil War movie Lincoln is pretty telling IMO. The last time the US was this politically divided they were fighting over slavery, now it is tax cuts. 
          3-4) I personally think that the World does need the US to get involved to solve some major problems. Your choices of examples are frankly small potatoes IMO to some of the big issues where the US is needed – Iran’s nuclear program, Mid-East Peace, Syrian Civil War, Climate Change, South China Sea Disputes, On-going Drone Strikes, dealing with arctic sovereignty and helping to maintain the overall health and well being of the global economy. 
          To address your specific examples: 
          – The US has been involved in Mali with Sec State Clinton meeting with the Algerian leaders to attempt to gain their support for an intervention. In other words giving tacit support for the intervention without putting US boots on the ground. It is likely this will be backed up by some funding or logistical support (Drones) 
          – The US has been involved in Somalia with drone strikes targeting the same Islamist groups that the AU has been fighting. Offshore the US has led the crackdown on pirate activity and I believe navy seals have been conducting rescues as well. 
          – Central Africa has had an on going war for over a decade, yes the EU is involved. I would point to the lack of direct engagement by the US as to possibly why this conflict has continued for so long. Unfortunately it is largely out of sight and out of mind
          – The US has provided support for Georgia both during its conflict with Russia and afterwards. It is true they didn’t go to war with Russia over a small province on the other side of the world that many people would confuse with US state, but frankly it would not be rational to do so. 
          – EU has used IMF funds for bailouts of Greece, the US contributes to the IMF funds. Ergo the US bailed out Greece too… President Obama has been a vocal support for the EU to take whatever measures are necessary to maintain the stability of the bloc. 
          – The US recognizes Britain’s rule of the Falklands and remains neutral in the dispute as do many countries. Just because it can get involved doesn’t mean it needs to get involved. There are dozens if not hundreds of disputes around the world it isn’t involved in, if Argentina attacked the Falklands, the US would quickly side with the UK. 
          Again, thanks for commenting, I hope you keep reading!

        2. Frazier Fathers 1) So you’re saying the world would be better off if the US had an opponent? 2) The US is not that divided politically, it only appears so because of the Republican Party’s pandering to the far right. This is not evidence of the reality of the political system. 3-4) The US is already involved visa Iran’s nuclear program, Mide-East Peace, the Syrian Civil War and is the cause of on-going drone strikes. As for the individual concerns: Mali and Somalia are largely being handled by Africa, the US is completely unnecessary and is being forced to keep its distance. Direct engagement by the US in central Africa is a political impossibility and would probably make the conflict worse by giving warlords a great enemy to rally against. The US provided only token support to Georgia, and only for the sake of appearances, an example of where their intervention was unnecessary. The EU has not only used IMF funds and the US is not the main source of these funds. Vocal support means nothing. The US declared they would not be involved in any military confrontation in the falklands. This was true in the war and this is true now. I find you vastly underestimate the world’s ability to act regionally and vastly overestimate the US’s necessity to the rest of the world and it’s capability to do so. (Apologies for the block paragraph, this site won’t let me use paragraph spaces)

        3. dmahan I personally don’t think the United States is inherently superior to any other nation but there are certain areas where it seems to consistently excel. Certain aspects can be quantitatively measured (size of economy, military strength, technological achievement etc.) and it is clear that America is superior, in other areas it is not so clear.It’s my opinion that expectionalism in the geopolitical context has less to do with intrinsic superiority of a nation and more to do the broader context of the global system at this point in time and how people perceive the current leader. Many nations have been exceptional in the past and I am sure new nations will emerge as exceptional in the future.

  2. America is war on mankind:
    “The US is losing even a bigger war at home where a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes.”

    The types of crimes committed by the fbi/cia/dod,etc., as I have witnessed over the course of my lifetime are not new to mankind; indeed, for as long as man has walked on the face of the earth he has been confronted with his own savagery and inhumanity to fellow man. War has become legal; fbi/cia covert intelligence operations (including mass murder and other assassinations & tortures) are well known by many but never spoken about in polite conversations because they are also legal by awful custom. Thus, the end game for man is now being shaped by the most barbaric feature of his character: man’s criminal urge to destroy one another for myriad purposes. Mark Twain perhaps captured this truth as he said,

    ” A crime preserved in a thousand centuries ceases to be a crime, and becomes a virtue. This is the law of custom, and custom supersedes all other forms of law.”

    The recent wars are paid for largely by the lives of (and taxed on the backs of) the poor .

    Send the senators (like Lindsey Graham, et al) into battle on the front lines to remove the hidden bombs and see how long the war would last.
    Other candidates for the proposed congressional bomb squad battalion are found in the marble hallways of Congress and specifically from here:


    War not worth fighting by a USA not worth defending

    The awful irony of our time is that the three official branches of government are now overthrown by the unofficial fourth branch, Administrative Agencies.












    The fbi remove the data on brain entrainment,etc., from the internet; here is the former link to the site which shows the US Marines use of the torture tool:



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