America Should Lower Its Expectations

Triumphalism Has Made Us Reckless. Can Making Peace With Our Shortcomings Save Us?

I get how hard it is to admit defeat, to lower expectations. Even when things are breaking down in every part of the national machine, from public health to education to foreign policy to law enforcement, it’s hard to let go of the easy triumphalism that has characterized so much of American life.

Triumphalism is a domineering mentality that took off when the U.S. became a superpower in the mid-20th century. A byproduct of the old American exceptionalism—the belief that the U.S. is unique and even divinely blessed to lead humanity …