This very interesting article from The Globalist includes:
For many Americans, the phrase “American exceptionalism” has become another way of saying “America is number one.” For many Europeans, American exceptionalism is an example of the American chauvinism that they have always found so irritating.
Meanwhile, the historical reality of American exceptionalism is ignored. First and foremost, American exceptionalism is not about American superiority, but about unique aspects of America in the first century and a half of its existence.
How the United States differs from Europe
America differed first in its setting, buffered from Europe by the Atlantic Ocean and having a frontier – space for people to spread out, to make a new start, to seek their fortune – that was unknown in Europe.
America’s isolation decisively affected its foreign policy. Its frontier decisively affected the development the “rugged individualism” that marked Americans relationship to their government.
America also differed in its ideology. The narrow limits that the U.S. constitution put on the powers of government had no counterpart elsewhere in the world, not even in its closest cousin, Britain. Those limits were founded on a belief in the ability of ordinary people to make their own decisions and live their own lives.
America differed in its civic culture as well. Four American traits central to that culture are: