US elections and American Exceptionalism

first_imgContrary to what most of the political pundits outside US borders thought would be the case by now, Donald Trump is still setting the agenda for the US presidential race against Hillary Clinton. With their elections less than two months away and the polls indicating Trump is trailing Clinton by a whisker, it seems that with the capacity to outspend Clinton in advertisements and commercials during that time, Trump is well on his way to becoming the next president of the United States – as this paper proposed back in March even before Trump secured the Republican nomination.The force driving Trump forwards and over Clinton is he is representing some very deep fears in huge swathes of Americans who have seen the boast of “American Exceptionalism” (AE) exposed as being just a hollow boast. Clinton, as part of  the old politics, is blamed for allowing America to become “ordinary” and be subjected to all the ailments and challenges that only other nations were supposed to face – such as depending on “foreigners” to offer it credit to maintain its standard of living.American exceptionalism arose from three strands of thought, the first of which sprouted in the circumstance of their formation as the first nation to have become independent through a revolution. This revolution was not confined to defeating the colonial power Britain on the battlefield, but spread to instituting new ideas in governance, constitutionalism, individualism and business. Very early on, the US leaders also undertook a mission to export their vision of what the world ought to look like through doctrines such as the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 and its wars to “make the world safe for democracy” into the present. And finally, there is the firm conviction that because of their “exceptionalism”, the US is superior to other nations.After WWII, US was challenged by the USSR in the Cold War between the two nations, but by 1989, America emerged as the lone superpower standing as the USSR disintegrated. But even then, the seeds had already been set by economic forces that would witness the emergence of other nations such as Japan, China and India that would command enough resources to become quite independent of the US hegemony.Interestingly, the growth of those nations was facilitated by US-based global corporations that felt impelled to seek greater profits through first licensing their technology to foreign countries with cheaper labour costs and then to actually “outsource” production and operations there. American manufacturing prowess atrophied and their well-paid blue-collar work force atrophied. Trump is exploiting the resentment of the millions that have been adversely affected by this move by promising he would reverse it through “macho” unilateral actions that evoke “American Exceptionalism”. In trying to be more nuanced and acknowledging the limits of modern American power, Clinton is seen as “weak”.Simultaneously with the “outsourcing” of American production and services, illegal immigrants – generally non-White – were allowed in to perform the menial jobs that the Americans would not accept at the rates offered. At the other end of the spectrum, skilled workers – most of them also non-whites from India and China – were also encouraged in to perform high-paying jobs in the STEM areas. This created a backlash of “nativism” – that Trump has also exploited through threats of mass deportations and building a wall on the border with Mexico – against which, Clinton, as part of the old order, cannot compete.Finally, while both Trump and Clinton have committed to “defending democracy” abroad, Trump has placed more emphasis on other countries accepting greater responsibility for defending themselves. While this may appear to be a diminution of the American Exceptionalism commitment to “bear any burden” to defend “democracy”, Trump, much more effectively than Clinton, has struck just the right note of bellicosity towards the US traditional allies to be defended, which masks the retreat.last_img

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