Democratic and Republican Exceptionalism
How are the Democratic and Republican parties both complicit in turning the United States into a warfare/welfare state?
- Democrats sell heaven on earth (the government can solve any problem). Republicans sell hell on earth (the world is a dangerous place).
- Abroad, Republicans see their country (rather than their government) as the actor. This makes apologies intolerable.
- Democrats vote for the warfare state to protect the welfare state. Republicans go along with the welfare state to build the warfare state.
- The American government runs a global welfare system for military contractors. Democrats and Republicans have committed America to defend 56 countries.
The American experiment has failed. American exceptionalism and the Republic are dead. As in Communist countries before, the Constitution isn’t observed. The warfare state and the welfare state have replaced the citizen state.
The moral and philosophical character of American culture is depleted. Americans no longer prize or enjoy the same rights under the Constitution as they once did. The Founders mistakenly assumed that future generations would place the same value on limited government as they did.
The warfare state uses the two forms of government the Founders rejected: democracy and a strong executive. Political protection has replaced legal protection. As a result, American citizens no longer govern themselves and currently live in a halfway house between the rule of law and the law of the jungle.
The two-party system rejected the liberty of the Republic in favor of what the Founders called empire. Democrats see government as a force for good in America and the world. Republicans see America as a force for good overseas. “Bad guys” must be stopped from doing terrible things to their people. Supporting “good guys” spreads democracy and makes the world a safer place for Americans. By assuming global dominance, both parties hold America responsible for the fate of the world.
Democrats sell heaven on earth (the government can solve any problem). Republicans sell hell on earth (the world is a dangerous place). The Democratic Party sees government as an angel at home and abroad. The Republican Party sees the government as a devil at home and the country as an angel abroad.
In Republican exceptionalism, America abroad can be either an avenging angel or a beneficent angel. The avenging angel is the preferred mode of behavior, but, in the right circumstances, it is permissible to give hard-earned American tax dollars away to foreigners. The military isn’t seen as being part of Big Government. Republicans are reluctant to see the symbiosis between the warfare state and the welfare state.
In Democratic exceptionalism, government is a benign angel dispensing benefits to citizens and foreigners alike. Social engineering is the preferred mode of behavior. Since more government makes America strong, nation-building is good for foreigners too.
Democrats don’t suffer from a split personality. For them, government is good. Big Government abroad strengthens Big Government at home. If pushed to choose, Democrats care more about domestic programs and, therefore, are more apt to admit mistakes abroad than at home. There is less reluctance to acknowledge the synergy between the welfare state and the warfare state.
Republicans see Big Government in every domestic benefits program. Democrats should apologize for all of their willful interventions and repeated mistakes. Abroad, Republicans see their country (rather than their government) as the actor. This makes apologies intolerable.
In a world of avenging and beneficent angels, there is no place for mistaken interventions. Republican schizophrenia casts government as a devil at home, but America — via the military — as an unquestioned force for good in the world.
Democratic and Republican exceptionalism is antithetical to American exceptionalism. By seeing America as “a force for good in the world,” the two parties have become a force for bad at home, promoting the state at the expense of the individual.
The warfare state and the welfare state have replaced the citizen state of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The citizen no longer controls the government. The government now controls the individual.
The unchecked warfare state
For half a century, government spending has risen every year, creating a $15 trillion federal debt — larger than our annual GDP. While emphasizing individual opportunity and responsibility at home, Republicans shower the military with taxpayer money.
The federal government spends $1.2 trillion every year on “security,” which includes multiple wars, more than a thousand overseas bases, a military nation-building capability of almost a million troops, 11 aircraft carriers each housing 5,000 personnel, an unaudited Pentagon bureaucracy, 16 intelligence agencies, black budgets for special ops, 5,000 nuclear weapons, open-ended commitments for disabled Veterans, and homeland security.
Since the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, neither party has exercised effective civilian control over the military. Five percent of the world’s population spends half of the world’s military budget. Democrats vote for the warfare state to protect the welfare state. Republicans go along with the welfare state to build the warfare state. The two parties are locked into assigned roles, like a bad marriage.
In the process, the American economy has steadily declined as manufacturing moved overseas. Today, 40% of U.S. manufacturing resides in the unproductive federal jobs program Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex.
Contrary to what one might expect, Democratic presidents (or would-be presidents) also cannot be trusted to keep us out of war. Al Gore supported the first Bush war against Iraq. John Kerry and Hillary Clinton supported the second Bush war against Iraq.
Barack Obama expanded the war in Afghanistan out of fear of being labeled weak on national security. Not content with that, Obama has become the first “drone war” president — and, like Bill Clinton in Bosnia, attacked Libya without a declaration of war in the name of humanitarianism.
Democratic and Republican administrations have jumped at the chance to interfere in the affairs of other nations. The same question is always asked: What are we going to do about Iraq? What are we going to do about Afghanistan? What are we going to do about….?
Once we put troops on the ground, discussions always begin and end with the statement: “We can’t lose…!”
Both parties wrap themselves in the flag and compete for starting new wars and policing the world. In the name of freedom, Democrats and Republicans eagerly search the globe for monsters to destroy. Democrats and Republicans champion liberty abroad, while stealing it from our citizens at home.
The role of citizens and government has been reversed. Citizens no longer control their government, citizens are beholden to their government. The Constitution no longer guides the actions of the United States nor defines the existential purpose of Americans in the world.
The American government runs a global welfare system for military contractors. Democrats and Republicans have committed America to defend 56 countries. Democrats and Republicans are no longer content to lead the world by example. By enlisting under banners other than her own, America is engaged in a permanent war, with no apparent way to stop it.
No longer is America the ruler of her own spirit. The glory of American exceptionalism was liberty. The glory of Democratic and Republican exceptionalism is dominion. Force has replaced liberty.
As a result, American exceptionalism is dead. Republicans and Democrats no longer share the founding view that the government is fallible both at home and abroad.
This is Part II of The Globalist’s “Thomas Paine” series “Death of American Exceptionalism.” The other parts can be found here:
Part I: The Idea of American Exceptionalism
Part III: How We Lost American Exceptionalism
Part IV: American Exceptionalism and the Politics of Foreign Policy