The End of American Exceptionism — Updated

I wrote this blog on Election night back in November and it generated some of the most robust discussion on theriskyshift that I have had.

What we have seen since then is that in the first 5 and a half months since President Obama was inaugurated I feel that my argument has been justified. Very little getting done and America is wallowing in its own self destructive tendencies.. Washington has become gripped in the recent scandals from ongoing Benghazi hearings, to the revelation that the IRS targeted the Tea Party and the Justice Department seizing phone records at the Associated Press. All of which adds up to absolutely nothing being done to solve the fundamental challenges that America faces. The sequester which was supposed to be a political/economic suicide pact was allowed to pass, much needed immigration reform has stalled in Congress, the economy is still sluggish and show no signs of coming back to life. Meanwhile on the international stage the administration seems to lurch from one crisis to another be it Syria, Iran or North Korea.

Personally I think this series of tweets by Foreign Policy’s Stephan Walt sums up my argument well

The following is my original poast from theriskyshift

This 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.

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One thought on “The End of American Exceptionism — Updated

  1. Pingback: A Few Thoughts For Week 22 | gingerpolitics

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