One month after decrying the entire American notion of exceptionalism in his infamous “You didn’t build that” rant in Roanoke, VA, Obama has turned around and hopped on board the American exceptionalism bandwagon. At a Denver, CO campaign rally, he stated:
[W]e’ve still got the best workers in the world. We’ve got the best entrepreneurs in the world. We’ve got the best scientists and researchers in the world, the best colleges, and the best universities in the world…We’re still a young nation, and we’ve got the greatest diversity of talent and ingenuity, and people want to come here from every corner of the globe.
If Mitt Romney’s conservatism is a second language, as columnist George Will put it, then Obama’s exceptionalism is a fourth language spoken in broken phrases.
Ignoring the repeated nods to unions and academia in the comments above, Obama’s new rhetoric accepts a basic reality of the American political scene. While many Americans differ on what “exceptionalism” means, most Americans still want to believe in an America that is great, and they want to believe that each of us is a part of it.
Americans still closely associate the success of the country with individual success and initiative, contra the socialized greatness described in the Roanoke speech, an attitude more in line with our European friends across the Atlantic.