The idea of American exceptionalism is obnoxious to progressives, who, evidently unaware of the idea's long pedigree (it traces to Alexis de Tocqueville) and the rich scholarship concerning the idea, assume it is a crude strain of patriotism. America, Tocqueville said, is unique because it was born free - free of a feudal past, free from an entrenched aristocracy and established religion.
The American Revolution was a political, not a social, revolution; it was about emancipating individuals for the pursuit of happiness, not about the state allocating wealth and opportunity. Hence our exceptional Constitution, which says not what government must do for Americans but what it cannot do to them.
Americans are exceptionally committed to limited government because they are exceptionally confident of social mobility through personal striving. And they are exceptionally immune to a distinctively modern pessimism: It holds that individuals are powerless to assert their autonomy against society's vast impersonal forces, so people must become wards of government, which supposedly is the locus and engine of society's creativity.
Two years into Barack Obama's presidency, we now know what he meant about "hope" and "change" - he and other progressives hope to change our national character. Three weeks into his presidency, Newsweek, unhinged by adoration of him and allowing its wishes to father its thoughts, announced that "we are all socialists now" and that America "is moving toward a modern European state." The electorate emphatically disagreed and created the 112th Congress, with its exceptionally important agenda.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
George F. Will - A Congress that reasserts its power