I wouldn't say I found the list to be offensive. One of the least pertinant (but most striking) differences between liberals and conservatives is that for whatever reason, liberals tend to be offended by all
sorts of things, while conservatives tend not to be offended by much at all.
"Outdated", rather than "offensive", is how I would describe the list; and "misguided," "distorted," "oversimplified," "leading,"
I'm still kind of new to conservatism, though I've had three years practice since I quit the Democratic party. I'm one of the growing number of conservative atheists. I don't like much of lefty social politics but most of the conservatives I know don't object to gay marriage (not a priority but not an objection), and I'm against all forms of prohibition. So I can't tell you what the really, really
religious people think about American Exceptionalism; but the truth is I've found the evangelicals to be a minority, and I've been through some pretty conservative circles now.
Anyway, in casting America as "created by God and given a special purpose"
, the author and JJoyce seem to impose a vision of
'natural rights' to what they perceive as conservatives' idea of American Exceptionalism. Some very bizarre Southern Baptists might think of it that way (or the author might suppose they do), but there's no valid origin for what is put forward as the 'popular idea' that America, the nation, was 'created by God'. Its just a far reaching assessment of the opposition's ideology.
You go into a rural enough area in a religious enough region and you can find somebody who thinks just about anything you can imagine. Then again you can go to 'Occupy Cleveland' and find five people who think its a good idea to buy fake bombs from the FBI and try to blow up a public bridge (this year). Shall I write a list of ten of their
ideas and use it to describe the whole of liberal ideology? I'd be tempted, but I'd be wrong.
So if you want to understand contemporary conservatives' conception of American Exceptionalism, start by discarding any notions of "what we think the Baptists think."
Personally, I find the valid observations on American Exceptionalism to be points most everyone would agree on, conservative or not:
Unlike the Spanish who came west and found gold, English settlers came to North America and found dirt, cold, starvation and hardship. Early settlements never would have survived without the natives' help; but once they did survive, they eventually began to thrive. Few people found instant prosperity but through hard work, thrift and sacrifice a very productive society emerged. Unlike England where everything there was to be had was already owned and everybody poor was guaranteed to work hard for the few and stay poor for life, colonists could work off their debt in a short span of years and soon become land owners themselves.
The greatest distinction about the newly formed society was always its ability to break form from class based societies of old. Sure - class still exists. But now anybody could become rich; anybody could act on their ideas and use them to literally shape the world around them. To the extent that class structures have been softened, America has been exceptional; to the extent that we still find new ways to enforce these old barriers, America has not.
Nonetheless, a certain form of 'institutional exceptionalism' developed naturally and became tradition. It happened here because it couldn't happen anywhere else (no room). The first generations of settlers were a highly industrious people whose intellectual leaders cut their teeth on the edge of the Enlightenment at history's perfect moment to put a lot of new, profound ideas into practice - as if the perfect dreamers guided by the perfect muse found the perfect clay in these rugged New Englanders who set the precedent for all of us. The result was a societal value to empower the individual to generate social good, while working for his own prosperity. Working - not being 'given'. Because people value what they work for, they had a vested interest in the availability of this opportunity for anyone who seeks it.
"American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. In this view, America's exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming "the first new nation," and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire."
I don't often wholly approve of Wikipedia's version of history, but that description is (in my opinion) as suitably accurate as it is far from John Cassidy's off-mark sneer. I did also enjoy (and recommend) the bit of Tocqueville's writing on the subject that I perused last year.