If there is one single idea that is central to the various conservative Republican views of the world, it is American exceptionalism. Let me attempt a definition and description of this concept.
The first component of American exceptionalism is that conservatives in America are, and always has been, God’s chosen people, whom he will exempt from any judgment or consequence. If there is any judgment upon America, it will be because of those whom they call liberals. But anything, no matter how perverse, that a conservative wants to do is, in advance, already approved by God. Modern American conservatives, alone among all people who have ever lived, are inerrant and automatically exempted from God’s judgment. They can say whatever they want, without evidence, and it’s just fine. They can believe that God created the whole world just for them to destroy for their own pleasure right now, and it’s just fine. They can use Jesus as their finger-puppet to wiggle in the air whenever they want the appearance of God’s approval on whatever they say or do, and it’s just fine. They do not worship God; God is their tool, and they sneer at him even as they exploit him. It is themselves whom they worship.
Today is not the first time that some people, calling themselves Christians, have assumed that God has already forgiven them in advance for whatever they might do. When Crusaders sacked Constantinople (which was the capital of a Christian, not a Muslim, land), the pope had forgiven them in advance for whatever brutalities they might perform. And those brutalities, which I cannot bear to list, were far beyond anything the Bosnian Serbs or the Islamic State have been able to invent. One can only hope that modern conservatives are not going to do anything like this, but they apparently believe that there is no higher authority preventing them from doing so.
So that is the first component of American exceptionalism: American conservatives, alone among all the people of the world, are exempted from judgment by God, humankind, or history, for whatever they might do.
The second component of American exceptionalism is that conservatives think that God has exempted them from any consequences of the laws of nature. They think they can release all the carbon dioxide they want to into the air, and this carbon dioxide will not, in fact, do what carbon dioxide always does. Carbon dioxide always does cause and always has caused global warming, but apparently the carbon dioxide released by American conservatives and the corporations whom they worship will not have this effect on the Earth. And if it does? Well, they don’t care. Conservatives can just stay indoors with the air conditioning on, and the heat waves will kill Europeans (as in 2003) and Pakistanis (as earlier this summer), whose lives do not matter to them anyway. The comfort, indeed every sensual whim, of American conservatives is more important than the survival of other people. If American conservatives want to release carbon dioxide, then God had better miraculously exempt the world from the consequences of it, if God knows what’s good for him.
American exceptionalism, then, is the belief that there are no laws of God or man to which American conservatives are obliged; they are excepted from all of them. American exceptionalism is a species of blasphemy. So if a conservative begins his or her line of reasoning with a defense of American exceptionalism, you know that no discourse is possible with them. As for me, I will never have any conversation with a conservative unless he or she is willing to renounce American exceptionalism at the start. And if they do—if a particular conservative individual is willing to admit that the same God (if any) judges all of us and we all live on the same Earth with the same rules—then it might be possible to have an exchange of ideas.