April 25, 2019

Joe Biden announced his candidacy with the slogan "America is an idea," and I've been searching for earlier examples of that saying.

Now, I'm reading "No, Senator Graham, America Is Not an Idea/The South Carolina Republican was right to rebuke Trump. But the U.S. is a nation, not a set of ideals," by Ramesh Ponnuru (from January 2018).
“America is an idea, not a race,” the South Carolina Republican said, adding that diversity is a strength and not a weakness.... “I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.”

Graham deserves credit for rebuking the president... America isn’t a race. But it’s not an idea either. It is, rather, a nation. It is a nation whose identity is more bound up with political ideals than most nations: ideals such as equality before the law, self-government and freedom of religion. But those ideals are part of a national culture that is not reducible to them.

The ideological conception of American nationhood runs into several problems. First, many people who are not Americans can and do believe in American ideals. Second, many Americans historically have rejected some of those ideals, while others have not lived up to them.... Third, disagreement about the application of those ideals persists. To define Americanness purely by those ideals is to make routine political disagreement a threat to the integrity of the nation.... Fourth, if these ideals form the country’s very identity, it becomes difficult to resist a missionary foreign policy that requires us to export them, by force of arms if necessary....

Graham is wrong...  to treat America’s ideals as superior to its people.... President Trump is often described as a nationalist, but he is a deficient one...

23 comments:

Guildofcannonballs said...

I am America.

Drago said...

Democrat America Is An Idea That Involves Weaponizing Govt Against Domestic Political Opponents

Hagar said...

Fourth, if these ideals form the country’s very identity, it becomes difficult to resist a missionary foreign policy that requires us to export them, by force of arms if necessary....

Well, we have done a lot of that.

Also see Henry the K on "Diplomacy." He keeps saying U.S. officials have a hard time understanding their counterparts around the world - and vice versa - because they think a lot in terms of ideas and ideals while their interlocutors are all about real estate and realpolitik.

Guildofcannonballs said...

(attribution to Buckley to be included later if I can find and paste it from my previous remarks, but know it is Buckley's dictionary, something maybe Joe can spend his later years doing also)

emplace (verb) To put into position.

The Israelis emplaced their nuclear-capable Jericho-2 missiles in hardened silos and in September 1988 mounted their first satellite launch.

encysted (adjective) Enclosed in a cyst, capsule, or sac.

Do we need to describe how bad the scene is in Detroit? It is the encysted home of unemployment and unrest, on account of unemployment plus the racial tensions that are engendered in communities in which whites and blacks vie for desperately needed jobs.

endemic (adjective) Widespread; taking hold through a community or society.

A great, indeed a massive, change was under way in America in the late fifties, the beginning of an endemic disenchantment with American liberalism.

Buckley Buckley Buckley

The Lexicon

A cornucopia of wonderful words for the inquisitive word lover

The Godfather said...

I'm an American. Some of my ancestors came to Massachusetts in the 1600's to get away from the oppression they felt from the established church in England. Others came in the 1860's and '70's to get away from the threats they felt from the the Prussians in Germany, or just for more opportunities than were open to them in Ireland. They made their way here. My German immigrant great-grandfather was a founder of the first English-language Lutheran church in Brooklyn. My Irish immigrant grandfather was a physician who devoted his life to providing medical care to poor people (mostly immigrants). My Yankee great gramdfather devoted his life to ending slavery. Joe Biden seems to me to be a decent man (for a politician), but like most politicians he says what he thinks will work. That's fine, but it won't work for me.

Mark said...

Ramesh Ponnuru can always be depended upon for saying asshat things.

doctrev said...

Oh Ramesh, you absurd loser. I should be agreeing with you just out of self-interest. Yet you make preening assertions that literally contradict themselves. What do we do if an immigrant like Ilhan Omar obviously isn't "willing to become an American?" Do we send them back? Have their family killed? Send a blunt-but-SFW letter to them? I've noticed that none of your discussion of the American nation talks about American children, and their right to have America work first for their benefit. Instead we have a nation that condemns millions to debt slavery, drug addiction, and sex trafficking.

I don't honestly care if Ramesh Ponnuru understands this or not. This is how you got Trump. This is how you will get much, much worse than Trump. Contra Ramesh's -stupid- notions, Donald Trump goes out of his way to celebrate progress for American minorities and permit immigration from populations that don't have a propensity for terrorism and criminal behavior. Because that is portrayed as white supremacism by Paper Americans, actual citizens will correctly conclude that a simple moratorium on immigration will not suffice. Some of them will have to go back.

Unknown said...

Do I have to pay property tax if

I am living in an idea?

Unknown said...

an idea whose time has passed

tear down the statues

Unknown said...

Yang is the ideas candidate

Unknown said...

Kate Smith used to sing

God Bless the Idea

Unknown said...

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the idea

Tina Trent said...

Nice to hear Ramesh Ponnuru has figured out that America is something other than a nice piece of real estate to sell to the highest foreign bidder.

Baby steps.

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h said...

I've read some of the material in these posts, and I have to say "America is an Idea" is either meaningless or deliberately confusing way of expressing something. It has the superficial appearance of being a "deep thought" because the person who hears this doesn't understand what it means, so that person is inclined to think, "Oh this must be a very deep thought indeed, since I don't understand it." I think the serious writers on this subject actually mean to say: "There is a set of ideals (notice the word ideals is not ideas) that Americans throughout history have striven to uphold." But saying it this clearly means that you lose the vague and fuzzy mystery that makes others think you must be very smart and saying something very profound.

PB said...

Like many ideas I guess Biden doesn't understand America either.

Ama said...

Whenever someone claims something is an "idea" I suspect relativism. Kevin Smith attempted to make Christianity "a nice idea" in the movie "Dogma." SJW decry that my morals are just ideas in order to devalue them. As an "idea" the object be can assigned its own degree of importance as well as how good or evil within each individual's head and any criticism is "well, like, that's just your opinion, man." America, with its culture, it's government, its history is very real, very concrete.

Roy Jacobsen said...

The phrase "diversity is a strength" is pap; it's so vague as to be meaningless. Some kinds of diversity are good, but some are bad. Simple example: On a football team, you have to have diversity in the players' positions--you can't have a team where everybody is quarterback--but those players MUST have a singular mindset regarding what they're supposed to do when the quarterback calls a given play.

dbp said...

"It is a nation whose identity is more bound up with political ideals than most nations: ideals such as equality before the law, self-government and freedom of religion. But those ideals are part of a national culture that is not reducible to them."

I think Ramesh really nails this. A nation cannot thrive on ideas alone--especially when the ideas are corrosive and evil as was the case in communist nations. But even when the ideas are noble, as they are with the US, they are not enough. We feel American because of our love for this familiar place and the traditions we grew up with.

JK Brown said...

America was a manifestation of an idea. An idea born in Magna Carta and slowly expanded to more people over the 800 years since. We can't say that we've lived up to the idea, but it lingers to reassert and to change people's hearts. It is an idea that overcame slavery, Jim Crow and will over come the sectarian/group identity violence being promoted today in its name as a means to undermine the idea. It is not an American idea, but a a human idea.



"The whole English-speaking world is haunted by the idea of human equality, and though it would be simply a lie to say that either we or the Americans have ever acted up to our professions, still, the idea is there, and it is capable of one day becoming a reality."
-- George Orwell

Unknown said...

America is a gaffe

Kep Hartman said...

FYI:
Theodore Roosevelt
Address to the Knights of Columbus
New York City- October 12th, 1915

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all.

“This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance.

“But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.

“The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English- Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian- Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality than with the other citizens of the American Republic.

“The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American.”

Theodore Roosevelt
Address to the Knights of Columbus
New York City- October 12th, 1915

Lurker21 said...

“America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just.”

― G.K. Chesterton, What I Saw in America