Vital Signs

Woodrow Wilson and America’s World Empire

Twenty-first century America is the creation of President Woodrow Wilson, who used the messianic ideology of American Exceptionalism (the belief that America is unique and morally superior to other countries) and the opportunity afforded by World War I to turn America into one of the first ideological empires of the 20th century.

To achieve this, Wilson discarded the last faded trappings of the Old Republic, which had been retained after Appomattox to preserve the illusion at home and abroad that the United States was still a constitutional government.  In the process, he exposed the face of the American political system during the Progressive Era.  It was still Tammany Hall—just run by a different gang of crooks and cranks posing as idealists and humanitarians.

Though a Democrat, this former president of Princeton University was a political disciple of two Republicans, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.  Like them, he suffered from a messianic complex.  After his election in 1912, Wilson told the chairman of the Democratic Party that God, not the Democratic Party, had made him president.  Motivated by this belief, Wilson used the opportunity the 1912 elections afforded him—the Democratic Party had also won control of both houses of Congress—to expand the twin empires of Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Abraham Lincoln had established the consolidated government that Wilson...

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