There are two Americas and two versions of American exceptionalism.
The right-wing version is that that a strong military makes America “exceptional.” That we don’t take any crap from anyone is what makes America great. That’s why they liked President Bush. It doesn’t matter that the two wars cost America its standing in world affairs and some three trillion dollars. We blew up a lot of people and they won’t mess with us again, or so they believe. Or if they do, we’ll blow up a bunch more and it will make us feel good doing it.
Why do right-wingers feel so strongly about the military making America “exceptional?” It’s something they can achieve in their lives. They can join the military and follow orders. It’s not so easy to go to college and actually create something great, so they place more importance on military might.
Right-wingers are all about emotion.
The left-wing version of American exceptionalism is much different and diverse. It’s about making a better planet, improving living conditions for the poor, helping people achieve the American dream, innovation, preserving nature, being the first in technology, our national parks…
We saw examples of American exceptionalism with the space program back in the 60s, in the 30s with our PWA and other New Deal programs.
Now, all that our country stands for is making money. And that doesn’t make us exceptional.