Exceptionalism

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Dawson.jpgAnother candidate for RNC chairman, South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson, has posted his manifesto, which includes the following call:

Renew our commitment to our Party’s timeless principles…by reconfirming our commitment to be the party of smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, strong national security, respect for the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, the importance of family and the exceptionalism of America.

So far as I know, this is the first time American exceptionalism has, as such, been nominated as a timeless partisan principle, but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. What was once a term of art employed by historians and political scientists to debate the distinctiveness of the American thing has over the past few years been embraced by conservatives as an article of national faith. Thus NRO’s Victor David Hansen, writing just after the 2004 election:

George Bush—through the beheadings, the kidnappings, Abu Ghraib, the hysteria of a Richard Clark, Joe Wilson, Anonymous, Rathergate, the 9/11 Commission, CIA rogue analysts, cheap European slurs, insane remarks from Walter Cronkite to Bill Moyers, and last-minute media fabricated “scandals”—has never faltered, so confident was he in the exceptionalism of America and the unshakeable resolve and competence of the U.S. military.

More recently, Sarah Palin used the term to attack Barack Obama as unAmerican:

Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country. This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America. We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.

Seeing is believing.