The United States, as every American schoolchild knows, is the oldest and still greatest political democracy on earth. Non(Un?)-Americans may disagree, but on one point there is complete unanimity: the United States is different. Just how different can be gleaned from two seemingly innocuous statements by the man who is still America’s numero uno, Bill Clinton. The first is one of Clinton’s favourite aphorisms, one he is fond of repeating at nearly every opportunity:
There’s nothing wrong with America that can’t be cured by what’s right with America.footnote1
The second is a little homily he delivered in December 1997 at a televized ‘town hall’ meeting in Akron, Ohio:
We live in a country that is the longest-lasting democracy in human history, founded on the elementary proposition that we are created equal by God. That’s what the Constitution says. And we have never lived that way perfectly, but the whole history of America is in large measure the story of our attempt to give more perfect meaning to the thing we started with—the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.footnote2
Both statements are worthy of close inspection. The first is of value because of the insight it offers into the solipsistic nature of us politics. If what’s wrong with America can be fixed by what’s right with America, then it is a very small step to concluding that all answers must come from within. Since Americans have no need to learn from anybody else, outside help is unneeded and unwanted. Foreigners have nothing to offer. They should keep their opinions to themselves.