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The problem, according to Bolton, Jeremy Rabkin, and fellow “new sovereigntists,” (Foreign Affairs) is that global legal trends and international organizations are challenging the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution and eroding the foundations of American “exceptionalism”. This argument rests on several claims.

To begin with, as John Fonte of the Hudson Institute contends, progressive activists and their NGOs allies are seeking to create new legal “norms” at the global level, in fields ranging from human rights to the environment. Unable to prevail domestically, left-wing political actors are essentially making an end-run around U.S. democracy, using UN conferences and “global civil society” to establish new international norms on issues ranging from small arms to the death penalty.

Second, conservatives are agitated by what they consider misguided trends in “international law” (a phrase they surround with skeptical quotation marks), which they believe threaten the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution. One bone of contention is whether foreign law should be cited by the U.S. Supreme Court (New York Times).[…]

Third, conservatives (as well as some liberals) are convinced that international organizations, not least the United Nations, are inherently undemocratic. Within such bastions of cronyism and corruption, unaccountable elites pursue their own agendas, often at odds with the interests and desires of the American people.[…]

Finally, and most fundamentally, conservative critics fear that trends in global governance will increasingly erode the foundations of American exceptionalism—the conviction, embedded in U.S. political culture since the earliest days of the Republic, that the United States is a beacon among nations, a “city on a hill” (in John Winthrop’s phrase), a righteous country founded on inviolable political principles of eternal truth and guided by a special providence to act abroad in furtherance of those values.[…]