We're Obsessed With American Exceptionalism

Julian Sanchez tries to understand why:

You can think of patriotism as a kind of status socialisma collectivization of the means of self-esteem production. You don’t have to graduate from an Ivy or make a lot of money to feel proud or special about being an American; you don’t have to do a damn thing but be born here. Cultural valorization of “American-ness” relative to other status markers, then, is a kind of redistribution of psychological capital to those who lack other sources of it.

You can gin up bogus reasons why it might matter from a policy perspective when the president says something that can be construed as “apologizing for America,” or doesn’t engage in a lot of symbolism that’s supposed to signal commitment to “American values”but none of them have ever made much sense. The conventional take is that it’s really about markers of tribal affinity, but we can go a step further: Maybe it’s more precisely that people want high-status figures to invest in building the brand of their shared identitya sort of status redistribution as noblese oblige.