Biden’s American exception has its limits


Nonetheless, President Biden refuses to abandon the specter of American exceptionalism. Throughout his election campaign and his first weeks in office, he invoked the supposedly unrivaled state spirit. Biden said during this, “It’s not a good bet at all to bet against the American people.” Address prime time Thursday He announced his administration’s plans to have vaccines available to all Americans by May.

Biden continued: “America is coming back.” The development, manufacture and distribution of vaccines in record time is a true scientific miracle. It is one of the most extraordinary achievements any country has ever achieved. “

The president neglected the vital role played by multinational corporations and scientists Outside the United States In helping to develop and produce coronavirus vaccines. Then a greater rhetorical boom followed: “And we just saw the Tenacity Rover on Mars – amazing images of our dreams now a reality, another example of extraordinary American ingenuity, commitment, and belief in science and each other,” Biden said.

This is not a superficial victory. Unlike some of his Republican counterparts, Biden uses mourning rhetoric over the toll from the pandemic and a sober acknowledgment of the work that needs to be done. His administration will not take off, unlike that of former President Donald Trump Distorted commissions That you are trying Delegating the Teaching of American Excellence In schools or, as the Trump Commission has done, school materials about the sins of the nation’s past are seen as a threat to “the civic bonds that unite all Americans.”

Biden appears to believe in the virtuous power of the American model. He and his allies support seeing the country as a “city on a hill,” a puritan beacon to the rest of the world It gained currency in American politics With the escalation of cold war tensions. They see the Trump administration’s ultra-nationalist agenda of “America first” as a betrayal of that legacy and hope to compensate for it with efforts like the “Summit of Democracies” discussed later this year, backed by an implicit belief in the validity of American values ​​and liberal ideals. . (Unsurprisingly, the summit has already taken place A legion of skeptics.)

“The differences are seldom displayed as clearly as in recent weeks and months,” They wroteIn one case, there is no reliable, clean running water in Texas neighborhoods not far from the NASA control room that directed that spacecraft that Biden celebrated to Mars. Historic breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology coexist closely – and with difficulty – side by side with massive failures of infrastructure, public health, and equitable access to basic human needs.

On many levels, Biden’s America is not particularly exceptional. Compared to many other societies in the developed world, it has its own citizens Less healthyAnd the Less secure, And less educated. Its political system is increasingly seen to Its shortcomings are out of date.

“ While there is much to appreciate about a government that has survived civil wars and world wars alike, and has progressed slowly, albeit slowly, to provide expanded rights to many of its citizens, including immigrants, it is time to end the myth of exceptional Americans, ” Scott Warren wrote. , Founder of Generation Citizen, a national civic education organization, at A column noted the sweeping lack of confidence of the American public In the federal government and the superior results achieved by voting systems in some other countries. “This concept is not only correct, but perhaps most importantly, there is much that we can and must learn from democracies around the world.”

Then there is the country’s physical infrastructure – from power grids, utility lines, and broadband networks to ports, roads and train tracks, all of which need generational repairs and upgrades. “The Eisenhower administration is really a time when we had a goal or a vision for our infrastructure,” Joseph Kane, Associate Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Tell my colleagues. “We are now in a completely different era with a more extreme and unpredictable climate, more inequality, and a lack of access. We still function as if we were in the 1950s.”

American exceptionalism is a theological principle, “an affirmation not of truth but of faith,” Books commentator Peter Beinart. It is a kind of “magic thinking” that obscures a wise strategy. Consider, as Beinart suggests, the current predicament with Iran: Tehran wants to see at least some degree of sanctions relief if it is to risk a return to the nuclear deal that the Trump administration scrapped for the first time. But Biden and his allies did Indicated so far The ball is in Iran’s court to make the first move.

“Whatever America does, Iran’s leaders are supposed to take America’s goodwill,” Beinart said Observed. Yet why are they?

“This magical thinking is a serious problem for US foreign policy,” he wrote. “It is a problem because it blinds US policymakers to how the United States views non-Americans who, of course, judge the United States not from its own perspective but on its actions.”

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