April 3, 2016


Without Exceptionalism : Trump doesn't know what makes America great. (DANIEL KRAUTHAMMER, 4/11/16, Weekly Standard)

[H]e repeats words like winning, great, huge, beat, kill, deals, successful, rich. He quotes himself and his own books. The central idea at the heart of Trumpism is the idea of winning. And winning, by his definition, means beating a loser. Right now, he says, we're losing to China and Mexico and Japan and all the rest. But he'll change that. He'll reverse the flow of money from foreigners and illegal immigrants back into the pockets of hardworking Americans. Trump's world is a zero-sum game, and Trump's America will start winning again only when everyone else starts losing.

This simplistic thinking defies logic and basic economics. But it does appeal to a certain sense of American nationalism: that "we" as a collective need to rally around a strong leader who will make us once again richer and more powerful than everyone else. Why? Because we're us and they're them. This kind of nationalism, however, is completely unexceptional. The leaders of literally any other country on earth could--and often do--say the same thing to their people and appeal to the same nationalistic sentiments. There is nothing uniquely American about what Trump espouses. There is no American ideal or philosophy providing a moral reason for this national mission to "win."

What has been unique in American political discourse for 240 years is that our ideals have given a higher purpose to our common mission to govern ourselves at home and champion our values abroad. Americans, Jefferson wrote, are "trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth, if other regions of the earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence." It fills me with pride to belong to the one country in history to have built its foundation and forged its bonds of citizenship on these magnificent ideals. It has given me a deep love for my country--a patriotism I feel in my bones.

Many foreigners find this somewhat mystifying, if not unsettling. My European friends in particular are often shocked when they come to America and see how often and fervently we wave the flag, sing the national anthem, and celebrate our military. They recoil and ask how I can partake in such naked displays of nationalism. In their countries, comparable shows of national sentiment are often linked to racism, xenophobia, militarism, and chauvinism. And not without reason: The history of Europe and much of the world is replete with countless tragic examples of political leaders whipping their countrymen into a nationalistic fury to start wars, crush individual rights, oppress minorities, and even commit genocide.

But America is different, I explain, unique in that our national identity is based on ideas. Without a shared belief in liberty, democracy, and equal opportunity, we would cease to be Americans in any meaningful sense. Our patriotic displays express a shared pride and dedication to those ideals far beyond any brittle bond of race, ethnicity, or narrow sense of nationality.

Donald Trump is chipping away at that truth, reducing American patriotism to an ugly and tawdry nationalism bereft of true American values

Posted by at April 3, 2016 8:45 AM