“American Exceptionalism” is a term that has resurfaced in recent times. This phrase has echoes in the American Revolution, Alex de Tocqueville and Abraham Lincoln. It reflects the unique origins and principles upon which the United States was established and its role in the world.
If ever that phrase was under challenge it is now. When a nation of over 300 million people has placed before it two very unexceptional people as a choice for president any claim to exceptionalism comes under intense scrutiny. It could be argued that the two candidates, in fact, represent two aspects of American society that reveal the baser instincts of humanity – the power hungry political machine and the excesses of capitalism.
No matter who wins on Tuesday, the USA is going to struggle to assemble some social and political equilibrium in the future. This comes on top of its unwillingness as a society to deal with issues of guns, race and social inequality.
To prove to itself and the world that the title of being exceptional is justified, the nation needs to show that it has the willingness and moral fortitude to confront these issues. The next few decades will reveal which aspect of the American character will come to the fore.