After 9/11 and even now, there have been a lot more statements articulating what America is against than what America is for and what her exceptionalism entails. It is often said the terrorists did not like the idea of America, and that is what they attacked.
But what is this idea that makes America exceptional? When Republicans say they do not want America to be the “United States of Europe,” what do they mean? When they excoriate Obama for making America less exceptional, what do they mean?
No current presidential candidate articulates what American exceptionalism is about more clearly and concisely than Newt Gingrich. In addition, in an era where campaigns and candidates seem to have forgotten what a thesis statement that serves to tie together a campaign’s message is, the former history professor also uses American exceptionalism to articulate not only what he is fighting against but what he is for. This is why Gingrich is needed — more so than being the ombudsman — in the debates.
While the mainstream media often does not ask questions that will allow candidates to expound on what makes America exceptional, Gingrich got a chance to do exactly that in his introductory remarks on Labor Day in South Carolina at the Palmetto Freedom Forum. There is a reason Gingrich has posted this ciip, shown below, on his Facebook page twice in the last week–it is an exceptional and succinct articulation of American exceptionalism.
After criticizing President Barack Obama for leaving out the fact that “we are endowed by our Creator” on “at least four occasions,” Gingrich said “the fact is what makes American Exceptionalism different is that we are the only people I know of in history who say, ‘Power comes directly from God to you.'”
As a result, Gingrich continued, “You are personally sovereign,” and “so you are always a citizen, you are never a subject.”
Gingrich said when the founding fathers wrote “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” they did so because it was a “set of truths, as they understood it, about the nature of being human” and not a “philosophy,” “an ideology,” or a “theory.”
Gingrich said “we are human within a fabric created by God,’ and “these rights are unalienable,” which means “no politician, no bureaucrat no judge can take them away from you.”
According to Gingrich, the “gap between the America the founding fathers created” and the current system in Washington is “extraordinary.” Gingrich said the country is in “grave danger of decaying from citizenship to being subjects,” which occurs when sovereignty leaves the people and goes to Washington bureaucrats. He cited the Gibson Guitar case as an example of the system run amok.
To put it simply. More than anything else, what makes America exceptional (more than her geography and ability to historically assimilate different groups of people under a common culture and set of values) is that rights cannot be taken away from its citizens because they are granted to Americans by God and not a sovereign. According to Gingrich, this exceptionalism is under siege by liberals, led by Obama, who seek to slowly take away those rights. This framing allows Gingrich to use the Gibson Guitar incident, the Dodd-Frank legislation, and ObamaCare (in addition to a litany of other things) as supporting pieces of evidence to indict Obama and liberals as unexceptional. It is a powerful message that perfectly frames what election 2012 is really about.