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Romney: the Case Against American Exceptionalism


Can Romney reconcile his upbringing with the right wing in the midst of a growing crisis?

By Hubert Ancelot, Staff Writer

by Eric Rowley/Getty Image

Late on Wednesday, January 4, 2012, we heard the news of Mitt Romney winning the Iowa caucus for the Republican candidacy, by only 8 votes. A previous contender for the 2008 Republican nomination, Romney is back and, in the meantime, his best-seller ‘No Apology: the Case for American Greatness’ has attracted my attention.

An analytical read, the book exposes the fears and challenges America is facing. More importantly, it is organised such that Romney emerges as the optimistic right-wing leader who uses data and logic to recognize and solve the issues. Politically, it makes sense. The United States are in deep crisis. Leadership appears absent as Capitol Hill stays numb, seemingly stuck in ideological trivia. The American voter is growing tired of inaction, and more than ever, needs facts.

In the book, the candidate Romney finds the audacity to advance the notion of American exceptionalism –the idea that the United States’ very nature is different from any other nation (while in Romney’s book, the idea of superiority is clearly revived).

To look back, Obama actually is a product of American exceptionalism. The idea that a black man could ever hold the position of President brings back to mind the old ideal of the American dream. Obama becoming first black president of the Harvard Law Review speaks to the triumph of the individual over adversity which is core to the idea of American exceptionalism. Obama referred to this in his campaign, asserting that ‘there was no other country in the world in which this ascension was possible’.

[pullquote]A real sentiment of class is appearing in America with poverty deepening and debt exponentially climbing.[/pullquote]Romney reiterates the concept, mainly by advancing conservative arguments of free-market economics (trickled-down and such).  But, here’s the problem:  American exceptionalism is simply misleading, as the ‘rise of the rest’ is obvious and has been more than clear in the 2000s-on. Also, a real sentiment of class is appearing in America with poverty deepening and debt exponentially climbing. Finally, American omnipotence in world affairs is decreasing over new players.

Eventually, all candidates wish to appear proud of their country, the same way an interviewee wants to appear fully motivated for the job. What’s more, among voters, this emphasis on American exceptionalism produces optimism and faith in the character of the candidate. Voters feel we have the honour of selecting the leader of this superior nation. We’re still in the hiring process.

As I mentioned earlier, this is not a new strategy. Only nowadays, the evidence against its core is so tangible it gets harder to justify as a political weapon.

Romney is the son of former Michigan governor and former chairman of the American Motors Corporation, George Romney. Apart from being the son of such a dominant figure in the economic, religious and political climax of George’s era, Mitt showed early signs of conformism: in 1966, Mitt took part in an anti-protest group for the sit-in of Stanford University, which he attended. Mitt also refused to engage himself in any debate about the black issue of membership within the Latter-Day Saints church. Later, Romney graduated from Harvard among the top students of his class, joined Boston Consulting Group, and co-founded Bain Capital, a venture capital enterprise. His resourceful network contributed to the success of his company and guaranteed the candidacy for the Massachusetts gubernatorial elections with funding.


The candidate Romney writes about how the American common man is always able to decide his own future. A year and a half later, the Occupy Wall Street movement began. Romney argues that America can stay first by putting forth a leader who can actively put Capitol Hill (read: Romney) to work. This was eventually followed by a Democratic administration with a Republican-led House responding to debt and currency crises. Romney’s profile just doesn’t match the change the country is seeing.

Today, what emerges as problematic as the campaign goes on is the lack of a trusted personality in the candidate Romney. Romney’s dilemma is conciliating his upbringing and past private experience with the gathering of all segments of the right, in an America baffled with a newfound rage against class division and declining American presence in world affairs. Reviving American exceptionalism by exposing facts often blurred by the media is an option, but it surely isn’t complete as Americans’ lack of trust towards the candidate is definitely palpable. More than ever, Romney needs to step up not only as a charismatic and truthful political figure, but as a moderate one, one who’s not only a Republican.

ARB Team

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