Greatest country in the world?

December 23, 2011 | By | Reply More

To what extent do candidates for President need to declare their belief in “American Exceptionalism”? More specifically, is the United States of America the greatest country in the world? If ever patriotism dovetails with religion, this has got to be the place, because the typical user of these phrases has no interest in real world factual inquiry regarding either the United States or of other countries. In other words, those who use this phrase almost never engage in any comparisons based on evidence, yet the use of these phrases denotes that a factual comparison has been conducted.

At his well-researched article at Huffpo, Jerome Karabel explores the historical use of the term “American Exceptionalism.”

What might be called the “U.S. as Number One” version of “American exceptionalism” enjoys broad popular support among the public. According to a Gallup poll from December 2010, 80 percent of Americans agree that “because of the United States’ history and its Constitution … the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Support for this proposition varied somewhat along party lines, but not by much: 91 percent of Republicans agreed, but so, too, did 73 percent of Democrats.

Image by Keith Szafranski at (with permission)

For President Obama, the issue of American exceptionalism could be his Achilles’ heel. In that same 2010 Gallup poll, Americans were asked which recent presidents believed that “the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Reagan was highest at 86 percent, followed by Clinton at 77 percent, and George W. Bush with 74 percent; President Obama was a distant fourth at 58 percent. Obama’s vulnerability on the issue may be traced in part to his response to a question in April 2009 from a Financial Times reporter about whether he subscribed, “as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism.” “I believe in American exceptionalism,” declared Obama, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Though taken out of context, the remark serves as Exhibit A for Republicans making the case that Obama does not believe in “American exceptionalism” and, by extension, in America’s greatness.



Category: American Culture, Orwellian, Patriotism/Nationalism, Politics, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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