Tim Goodwin is one of the Black Hills Republicans cloaking himself in cross and flag to get elected to the Legislature (specifically, one of five apparent right-wingers competing for two House slots in the five-way District 30 House primary). But one line of his soldier-salesman bio gets me scratching my head:
Tim has spent his life living the ideal of exceptionalism. With his wife Marcia at his side, Tim has instilled that value to his children and grandchildren [Tim Goodwin, campaign website, downloaded 2016.04.14].
Now I can guess that a guy who talks about putting on the armor of God and fighting the devil in District 30 is the kind of arch conservative who subscribes to American exceptionalism, the notion that America’s awesomeness is not just descriptive but normative; that America not only is a uniquely moral and powerful nation but should be, is called to be, was ordained by the Christian God to be. That notion is rife with fallacies and Christian contradiction, but hey, if the notion persuades policymakers to do the right thing, it may be useful.
I’m struggling to figure out how exceptionalism figures into a state legislative campaign and specifically what it means to spend one’s life living that ideal. Goodwin doesn’t specify American exceptionalism; he speaks of it in more personal terms, as if exceptionalism is something he can actualize every day, at work and at home with his family.
I e-mailed the Goodwin campaign seeking clarification but received no response. I am thus left to speculate…
- Is exceptionalism just one more anti-Obama dog whistle for fact-free Fox voters?
- Does it mean he thinks he should receive favors that no one else does? See, for example, his campaign lit, as depicted on Gordon Howie’s conservative blog:
“Stop Obama Care” and “Save VA”—right next to each other! Down with government involvement in health care, except for veterans like Goodwin—sounds exceptionalist to me.
- Does it mean he’ll support Gordon Howie’s long-running position that highways for everyone except for bicyclists?
- Does it mean he’ll take the position of some of his less-informed Republican colleagues that America is the most powerful and moral nation in world except when Syrian refugees knock on our door, at which point America becomes a powerless victim that must cower behind locked doors?
- Does it mean he’ll legislate like his state party as an exceptionalist, looking ways to except women, LGBT South Dakotans, American Indian voters, and other folks from their full Constitutional rights?
Goodwin’s use of exceptionalism could mean nothing—lots of Republicans use words with fire-and-forget casualness. Guys like Goodwin absorb language from the national propaganda mills and karaoke it back in their little campaigns, fantasizing that they are running for President or asking Tomi Lahren out on a date. They don’t even get to the point of wondering how a foreign policy abstraction relates to the practical business of passing practical laws for South Dakota.
But I’m not an exceptionalist. I expect everyone to use language meaningfully, even Christian warriors like Tim Goodwin.