What’s Exceptional About American Exceptionalism?

“The task of restoring confidence in our exceptionalism will nevertheless be a daunting one. Exceptionalism will have to become what Lincoln called a “civil religion,” to be “breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap . . . taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges . . . written in Primmers, spelling books, and in Almanacs . . . preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.” The task will require a determined pushback against progressive unexceptionalism and the idea that only government can ensure efficiency and happiness. It will involve the revival of the rule of law (rather than agencies), the rejuvenation of our voluntary associations, and the celebration of their role in our public life. And it will force us to lift the burden of economic sclerosis, not merely with the aim of producing simple material abundance but also with the goal of promoting a national empathy, in which, as Georges Fisch saw in 1863, Americans rise and fall, and rise and fall again, without the stigma that consigns half the nation to a basket of deplorables.”  Allen C. Guelzo, “What’s Exceptional About American Exceptionalism,” City Journal, Summer 2019.

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