American exceptionalism. It's the new, Obama-age battle-cry of American conservatism. It was the foundation of their attack on Obama's earliest efforts to launch health care reform. America should be celebrated, in their minds, for the fact that it doesn't offer free, universal access to health care, unlike every other industrialized society in the world. That makes us different from the rest of the world, and therefore, for that reason alone, makes us better than the rest of the world.
Even though health care is more expensive than it is anywhere else in the world.
Even though Americans have to leave the country just to get treatment and medicines that are routinely available in other countries.
Even though tens of millions of Americans have no access to health care at all.
Even though medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcies.
Just doesn't matter. If anything, all of the above proves just how exceptional we are.
Not prosperous. Not happy. Not optimistic. Just exceptional.
That exceptional status is cold comfort to millions of Americans who can only dream of living in a country where the economic problems that crush so many people simply don't exist. Not to the extent that they exist here, anyway.
Like Norway, recently voted the world's best country for the 12th year in a row.
Or Germany, a social democracy with more billionaires than every European country but one.
The conditions in these countries have a very simple explanation. In Europe, even in a county like Germany with a very conservative government, people are completely unafraid of a very simple word.
Socialism is associated in this country with top-down societies where power is concentrated in the hands of a privileged few. Hmmm ... guess than means America under 30 years of Republican politics must be a socialist country. After all, their policies are why things they way they are here.
But what if socialism really means something else?
What if socialism is simply the idea that society is more prosperous and more dynamic if the wealth of nations is more evenly shared among the peoples of the nations that produce it? And remember, Adam Smith called it "The Wealth of Nations," not "The Wealth of a Handful of Kleptocrats."
What if socialism simply meant "We're all in this together, we all produce the fruits of our labors together, we should share them in a way that promotes the individual interests not just of a few individuals, but every individual."
What would be so bad about that? It works everywhere around the world. Everywhere but America, where it's never been tried. Not in the country that could more easily afford it than any other.
Because, remember, its all about the exceptional, folks. Without being exceptional, we're not really Americans.
Maybe it's time we start asking who this "exceptionalism" really benefits. And then, start electing more people like this one.
Wouldn't that be a pretty exceptional thing for the New Year? I think so.