In Our Time

The Hell With Spinach!

In the early years of the Republic Americans focused their efforts on democratic government, geographic expansion and settlement, and a program of national improvements intended to promote them.  In the decades immediately following the War Between the States they concentrated on industrializing and amassing national wealth.  Then, in the 1880’s and 90’s, they began to cultivate the ambition to become a dominant power in the world, a colossus benignly robed in the spotless garments of virginal democracy.  Theodore Roosevelt laid the theoretical, rhetorical, and military foundations of “national greatness” that Woodrow Wilson transformed into full-blown ideological democratism as the moral justification (and cache-sexe) of the new republican giant.  In the 1930’s the obsession with national greatness was diminished by concerns for economic survival, eclipsed during World War II by the imperative to defeat the Axis Powers, and replaced between 1945 and 1991 by the alternate idea of America as “the leader of the Free World.”

But following immediately upon the demise of the Soviet Union the neoconservative cabal resurrected “national greatness” as “national greatness conservatism,” a reformulation of the ideological slogan of historical memory whose stamina is being demonstrated in the current election cycle by the leading candidates of the...

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