The Atlantic

The Souring of American Exceptionalism

Commitment to liberalism once distinguished the United States. Now it stands apart for the disregard of its elites for the troubles of so many of their fellow-citizens.
Source: Brian Synder / Reuters

Tomorrow, the Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate their independence, the birth of a free nation. Leading the celebrations will be a president mysteriously dependent on a foreign power—a president who lavishly praises dictators and publicly despises the institutions of freedom, not only the free press but also an independent judiciary and other constitutional restraints on his will.

This is a Fourth tinged with sad ironies. Can we put the occasion to any good use? Near the end of a much more terrible national ordeal, Abraham Lincoln urged Americans: "Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from.” Good advice. We should try.

A traditional theme of the rhetoric of

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