Expect Exceptional “isms”

It’s an intensely political and multifaceted debate. But what is it?



Wow.  Today on my dog walk, I read the article by the Washington Post on President Obama’s views and those of his critics on American exceptionalism.

It’s an intensely political and multifaceted debate. But what is it?

Born out of revolution, the United States is a country organized around an ideology which includes a set of dogmas about the nature of a good society. Americanism, as different people have pointed out, is an “ism” or ideology in the same way that communism or fascism or liberalism are isms. (Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double Edged Sword, Washington Post, 1996).

Like any “ism“, it is collectively forged by individuals with a similar set of beliefs.  These beliefs are transferred into an ideology to inform and explain behavior.

American Exceptionalism is no different.  I recognize American Exceptionalism as rhetoric, the struggle for the power of defining “truth”, and historical revisionism.

What is interesting is the debate on how the personal traits and life experiences of our political leaders increasingly shape our social worldview and sense of truth.  Kudos for President Obama for using his unique position and speaking his version of the truth for a long overdue perspective.

In case you have long dog walks and are interested, the Washington Post has several (one, two, three) articles that explain the history, uses and consequences of American Exceptionalism.