The End of the American Exception

Norman Podhoretz’s speech “Is American Exceptional?” in the latest issue of Imprimis opens with the statement: “Once upon a time, hardly anyone dissented from the idea that, for better or worse, the United States of America was different from all other nations.” When Podhoretz speaks of the American “exception” he means that most people are not subject to the “passion for economic egalitarianism that made for the spread of socialism in other countries.” However, in the wake of our recent national election, America cannot be seen as markedly different from other developed countries which have embraced political, social and economic “progressivism.”

Podhoretz assumes a degree of cultural continuity which is open to question. Today’s regime bears little resemblance to the early republic of Washington and Adams. The fundamental beliefs of ordered liberty are an enduring value — a concept beginning with ancient Greece. If we look at it more objectively we see that these beliefs can be acquired, or discarded, by any nation at any time. When the behavior and expectations of the voting population changes dramatically we can also assume that the governing classes have undergone a radical shift, despite the retention of venerable (now empty) labels and slogans.

At this stage of 21st century American life it is rather delusional to insist on our uniqueness. It can only led to continued complacency, blinding us to the unexceptional statist direction in which we have been headed over the past century. Despite some valiant attempts at opposition, America has yet to see a successful movement toward true restoration of its founding political order. It is only through a recovery of those values and institutions that our nation can again become historically exceptional.

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