To liberals, the charge that Obama threatens American exceptionalism is daft. He is, after all, fond of declaring, “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” For some progressive pundits, things hit rock bottom when conservative Washington Post columnistKathleen Parker flayed Obama for not using the words “American exceptionalism” in his 2011 State of the Union speech, even though he had called America a “light to the world” and “the greatest nation on Earth.” The entire discussion, declared liberal Post blogger Greg Sargent, had become “absurd,” “self-parodic,” and an exercise in “nonstop idiocy.”
But that’s not quite right. When conservatives say American exceptionalism is imperiled, they’re onto something. In fundamental ways, America is becoming less exceptional. Where Gingrich and company go wrong is in claiming that the Obama presidency is the cause of this decline. It’s actually the result. Ironically, the people most responsible for eroding American exceptionalism are the very conservatives who most fear its demise.