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How America fractured into four parts

[bold]People in the United States no longer agree on the nation’s purpose, values, history, or meaning. Is reconciliation possible?[/bold]

To understand America, you must first assemble the pieces. In the latest issue of our magazine, my colleague George Packer argues that the country has fragmented into four groups, each informed by a distinct narrative about the nation’s moral identity. These narratives “overlap, morph into one another, attract and repel one another.” The groups are:

1. Free America Libertarians who resent regulation in favor of individual freedom, tracing a through line from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Ted Cruz.

2. Smart America A class of high earners and technocrats who attend competitive schools, embrace meritocracy, own MacBooks, and don’t intermingle with the rest of the country.

3. Real America White Christian nationalists, as recently energized by Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

4. Just America A young generation that believes injustice is at the heart of the country’s problems and speaks the language of identity politics.

All four narratives, Packer argues, “emerged from America’s failure to sustain and enlarge the middle-class democracy of the postwar years”—and all four are helping pull the country apart.

Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 160Last Thursday at 5:58 PM

Is there a better magazine than The Atlantic?

by Anonymousreply 1Last Tuesday at 5:19 PM

I don't know R1. Is there? What do you suggest?

I thought it was an interesting article.

by Anonymousreply 2Last Tuesday at 5:34 PM

1 and 3 are the same to me.

by Anonymousreply 3Last Tuesday at 5:37 PM

I think a lot of is on DL would fall into group 2. I'm not 100% sure I like the description.

by Anonymousreply 4Last Tuesday at 5:42 PM

[Quote]1 and 3 are the same to me.

Me too

by Anonymousreply 5Last Tuesday at 5:44 PM

R2, it was rhetorical.

by Anonymousreply 6Last Tuesday at 5:46 PM

[QUOTE] Is there a better magazine than The Atlantic?


Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 7Last Tuesday at 5:47 PM

R7, I love their articles.

by Anonymousreply 8Last Tuesday at 5:48 PM

Hi OP - I want to read the article but it's paywalled. Any other link?

by Anonymousreply 9Last Tuesday at 5:51 PM

I'll copy it in here for your R9. Sorry about that.

by Anonymousreply 10Last Tuesday at 5:54 PM

1. Nations, like individuals, tell stories in order to understand what they are, where they come from, and what they want to be. National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one—they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires. Americans know by now that democracy depends on a baseline of shared reality—when facts become fungible, we’re lost. But just as no one can live a happy and productive life in nonstop self-criticism, nations require more than facts—they need stories that convey a moral identity. The long gaze in the mirror has to end in self-respect or it will swallow us up.

Tracing the evolution of these narratives can tell you something about a nation’s possibilities for change. Through much of the 20th century, the two political parties had clear identities and told distinct stories. The Republicans spoke for those who wanted to get ahead, and the Democrats spoke for those who wanted a fair shake. Republicans emphasized individual enterprise, and Democrats emphasized social solidarity, eventually including Black people and abandoning the party’s commitment to Jim Crow. But, unlike today, the two parties were arguing over the same recognizable country. This arrangement held until the late ’60s—still within living memory.

The two parties reflected a society that was less free than today, less tolerant, and far less diverse, with fewer choices, but with more economic equality, more shared prosperity, and more political cooperation. Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats played important roles in their respective parties. Americans then were more uniform than we are in what they ate (tuna noodle casserole) and what they watched (Bullitt). Even their bodies looked more alike. They were more restrained than we are, more repressed—though restraint and repression were coming undone by 1968.

by Anonymousreply 11Last Tuesday at 5:55 PM

2. Since then, the two parties have just about traded places. By the turn of the millennium, the Democrats were becoming the home of affluent professionals, while the Republicans were starting to sound like populist insurgents. We have to understand this exchange in order to grasp how we got to where we are.

The 1970s ended postwar, bipartisan, middle-class America, and with it the two relatively stable narratives of getting ahead and the fair shake. In their place, four rival narratives have emerged, four accounts of America’s moral identity. They have roots in history, but they are shaped by new ways of thinking and living. They reflect schisms on both sides of the divide that has made us two countries, extending and deepening the lines of fracture. Over the past four decades, the four narratives have taken turns exercising influence. They overlap, morph into one another, attract and repel one another. None can be understood apart from the others, because all four emerge from the same whole.

by Anonymousreply 12Last Tuesday at 5:56 PM

3. Call the first narrative “Free America.” In the past half century it’s been the most politically powerful of the four. Free America draws on libertarian ideas, which it installs in the high-powered engine of consumer capitalism. The freedom it champions is very different from Alexis de Tocqueville’s art of self-government. It’s personal freedom, without other people—the negative liberty of “Don’t tread on me.”

The conservative movement began to dominate the Republican Party in the 1970s, and then much of the country after 1980 with the presidency of Ronald Reagan. As the historian George H. Nash observed, it uneasily wove together several strands of thought. One was traditionalist, a reaction against the utopian plans and moral chaos of modern secular civilization. The traditionalists were sin-fearing Protestants, orthodox Catholics, southern agrarians, would-be aristocrats, alienated individualists—dissidents in postwar America. They were appalled by the complacent vulgarity of the semi-educated masses. Their hero was Edmund Burke, the avatar of conservative restraint, and their enemy was John Dewey, the philosopher of American democracy. The traditionalists’ elitism put them at odds with the main currents of American life—the one passage of American history that most appealed to them was the quasi-feudal Old South—but their writings inspired the next generation of conservatives, including William F. Buckley Jr., who introduced the first issue of National Review, in 1955, with the famous command to “Stand athwart history, yelling Stop. ”

Adjacent to the traditionalists were the anti-Communists. Many of them were former Marxists, such as Whittaker Chambers and James Burnham, who carried their apocalyptic baggage with them when they moved from left to right. Politics for them was nothing less than the titanic struggle between good and evil, God and man. The main target of their energy was the ameliorative creed of Eleanor Roosevelt and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., good old liberalism, which they believed to be a paler communism—“the ideology of Western suicide,” Burnham called it. The anti-Communists, like the traditionalists, were skeptics of democracy—its softness would doom it to destruction when World War III broke out. If these hectoring pessimists were the sum of modern conservatism, the movement would have died of joylessness by 1960.

by Anonymousreply 13Last Tuesday at 5:57 PM

4. The libertarians were different. They slipped more easily into the American stream. In their insistence on freedom they could claim to be descendants of Locke, Jefferson, and the classical liberal tradition. Some of them interpreted the Constitution as a libertarian document for individual and states’ rights under a limited federal government, not as a framework for the strengthened nation that the authors of The Federalist Papers thought they were creating. Oddly, the most influential libertarians were Europeans, especially the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, whose polemic against collectivism, The Road to Serfdom, was a publishing sensation in America in 1944, during the most dramatic mobilization of economic resources by state power in history.

What distinguished libertarians from conventional, pro-business Republicans was their pure and uncompromising idea. What was it? Hayek: “Planning leads to dictatorship.” The purpose of government is to secure individual rights, and little else. One sip of social welfare and free government dies. A 1937 Supreme Court decision upholding parts of the New Deal was the beginning of America’s decline and fall. Libertarians were in rebellion against the mid-century mixed-economy consensus. In spirit they were more radical than conservative. No compromise with Social Security administrators and central bankers! Death to Keynesian fiscal policy!

Despite or because of the purity of their idea, libertarians made common cause with segregationists, and racism informed their political movement from the beginning. Their first hero, Senator Barry Goldwater, ran for president in 1964 as an insurgent against his own party’s establishment while opposing the civil-rights bill on states’-rights grounds.

The first two strands of the conservative movement—elitist traditionalism and anti-communism—remained part of its DNA for half a century. Eventually the American people made their preference for taking pleasures where they wanted clear and the first faded, while the end of the Cold War rendered the second obsolete. But libertarianism stretches all the way to the present. James Burnham is mostly forgotten, but I’ve met Ayn Rand fanatics everywhere—among Silicon Valley venture capitalists, at the office of the Tampa Bay Tea Party, on a road-paving crew. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan (who read Atlas Shrugged in high school) brought Rand’s pitiless philosophy of egoism to policy making on Capitol Hill. Libertarianism speaks to the American myth of the self-made man and the lonely pioneer on the plains. (Glorification of men is a recurring feature.) Like Marxism, it is a complete explanatory system. It appeals to supersmart engineers and others who never really grow up.

by Anonymousreply 14Last Tuesday at 5:58 PM

5. How did Free America become the dogma of the Republican Party and set the terms of American politics for years? Like any great political change, this one depended on ideas, an authentic connection with people’s lives, and timing. Just as there would have been no Roosevelt revolution without the Great Depression, there would have been no Reagan revolution without the 1970s. After years of high inflation with high unemployment, gas shortages, chaos in liberal cities, and epic government corruption and incompetence, by 1980 a large audience of Americans was ready to listen when Milton and Rose Friedman, in a book and 10-part public-television series called Free to Choose, blamed the country’s decline on business regulations and other government interventions in the market.

But it took the alchemy of that year’s Republican nominee to transform the cold formula of tax cuts and deregulation into the warm vision of America as “the shining city on a hill”—land of the Pilgrims, beacon to a desperate world. In Reagan’s rhetoric, leveraged buyouts somehow rhymed with the spirit of New England town meetings. Reagan made Free America sound like the promised land, a place where all were welcome to pursue happiness. The descendants of Jefferson’s yeoman farmers, with their desire for independence, became sturdy car-company executives and investment bankers yearning to breathe free of big government.

In 1980, the first year I cast a vote, I feared and hated Reagan. Listening to his words 40 years later, I can hear their eloquence and understand their appeal, as long as I tune out many other things. Chief among them is Reagan’s half-spoken message to white Americans: Government helps only those people. Legal segregation was barely dead when Free America, using the libertarian language of individualism and property rights, pushed the country into its long decline in public investment. The advantages for business were easy to see. As for ordinary people, the Republican Party reckoned that some white Americans would rather go without than share the full benefits of prosperity with their newly equal Black compatriots.

The majority of Americans who elected Reagan president weren’t told that Free America would break unions and starve social programs, or that it would change antitrust policy to bring a new age of monopoly, making Walmart, Citigroup, Google, and Amazon the J.P. Morgan and Standard Oil of a second Gilded Age. They had never heard of Charles and David Koch—heirs to a family oil business, libertarian billionaires who would pour money into the lobbies and propaganda machines and political campaigns of Free America on behalf of corporate power and fossil fuels. Freedom sealed a deal between elected officials and business executives: campaign contributions in exchange for tax cuts and corporate welfare. The numerous scandals of the 1980s exposed the crony capitalism that lay at the heart of Free America.

by Anonymousreply 15Last Tuesday at 5:58 PM

6. The shining city on a hill was supposed to replace remote big government with a community of energetic and compassionate citizens, all engaged in a project of national renewal. But nothing held the city together. It was hollow at the center, a collection of individuals all wanting more. It saw Americans as entrepreneurs, employees, investors, taxpayers, and consumers—everything but citizens.

In the Declaration of Independence, freedom comes right after equality. For Reagan and the narrative of Free America, it meant freedom from government and bureaucrats. It meant the freedom to run a business without regulation, to pay workers whatever wage the market would bear, to break a union, to pass all your wealth on to your children, to buy out an ailing company with debt and strip it for assets, to own seven houses—or to go homeless. But a freedom that gets rid of all obstructions is impoverished, and it degrades people.

Real freedom is closer to the opposite of breaking loose. It means growing up, and acquiring the ability to participate fully in political and economic life. The obstructions that block this ability are the ones that need to be removed. Some are external: institutions and social conditions. Others are embedded in your character and get in the way of governing yourself, thinking for yourself, and even knowing what is true. These obstructions crush the individuality that freedom lovers cherish, making them conformist, submissive, a group of people all shouting the same thing—easy marks for a demagogue.

by Anonymousreply 16Last Tuesday at 5:59 PM

OMG. It's the length of a thesis...

by Anonymousreply 17Last Tuesday at 5:59 PM

7. Reagan cared more about the functions of self-government than his most ideological supporters. He knew how to persuade and when to compromise. But once he was gone, and the Soviet Union not long after him, Free America lost the narrative thread. Without Reagan’s smile and the Cold War’s clarity, its vision grew darker and more extreme. Its spirit became flesh in the person of Newt Gingrich, the most influential politician of the past half century. There was nothing conservative about Gingrich. He came to Congress not to work within the institution or even to change it, but to tear it down in order to seize power. With the Gingrich revolution, the term government shutdown entered the lexicon and politics became a forever war. (Gingrich himself liked to quote Mao’s definition of politics as “war without blood.”) His tactics turned the goal of limited and efficient government into the destruction of government. Without a positive vision, his party used power to hold on to power and fatten corporate allies. Corruption—financial, political, intellectual, moral—set in like dry rot in a decaying log.

The aggressive new populism of talk radio and cable news did not have the “conservative orderly heart” that Norman Mailer had once found in the mainstream Republicans of the 1960s. It mocked self-government—both the political and the personal kind. It was rife with destructive impulses. It fed on rage and celebrity culture. The quality of Free America’s leaders steadily deteriorated—falling from Reagan to Gingrich to Ted Cruz, from William F. Buckley to Ann Coulter to Sean Hannity—with no bottom.

While the sunny narrative of Free America shone on, its policies eroded the way of life of many of its adherents. The disappearance of secure employment and small businesses destroyed communities. The civic associations that Tocqueville identified as the antidote to individualism died with the jobs. When towns lost their Main Street drugstores and restaurants to Walgreens and Wendy’s in the mall out on the highway, they also lost their Rotary Club and newspaper—the local institutions of self-government. This hollowing-out exposed them to an epidemic of aloneness, physical and psychological. Isolation bred distrust in the old sources of authority—school, church, union, bank, media.

by Anonymousreply 18Last Tuesday at 6:00 PM

Can someone do us a precis?

(The Internet has shrunk my attention span)

by Anonymousreply 19Last Tuesday at 6:00 PM

8. Government, which did so little for ordinary Americans, was still the enemy, along with “governing elites.” But for the sinking working class, freedom lost whatever economic meaning it had once had. It was a matter of personal dignity, identity. Members of this class began to see trespassers everywhere and embraced the slogan of a defiant and armed loneliness: Get the fuck off my property. Take this mask and shove it. It was the threatening image of a coiled rattlesnake: “Don’t tread on me.” It achieved its ultimate expression on January 6, in all those yellow Gadsden flags waving around the Capitol—a mob of freedom-loving Americans taking back their constitutional rights by shitting on the floors of Congress and hunting down elected representatives to kidnap and kill. That was their freedom in its pure and reduced form.

A character in Jonathan Franzen’s 2010 novel, Freedom, puts it this way: “If you don’t have money, you cling to your freedoms all the more angrily. Even if smoking kills you, even if you can’t afford to feed your kids, even if your kids are getting shot down by maniacs with assault rifles. You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life.” The character is almost paraphrasing Barack Obama’s notorious statement at a San Francisco fundraiser about the way working-class white Americans “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.” The thought wasn’t mistaken, but the condescension was self-incriminating. It showed why Democrats couldn’t fathom that people might “vote against their interests.” Guns and religion were the authentic interests of millions of Americans. Trade and immigration had left some of them worse off. And if the Democratic Party wasn’t on their side—if government failed to improve their lives—why not vote for the party that at least took them seriously?

Free America always had an insurgent mindset, breaking institutions down, not building them up. Irresponsibility was coded into its leadership. Rather than finding new policies to rebuild declining communities, Republicans mobilized anger and despair while offering up scapegoats. The party thought it could control these dark energies on its quest for more power, but instead they would consume it.

by Anonymousreply 20Last Tuesday at 6:00 PM

9. The new knowledge economy created a new class of Americans: men and women with college degrees, skilled with symbols and numbers—salaried professionals in information technology, computer engineering, scientific research, design, management consulting, the upper civil service, financial analysis, law, journalism, the arts, higher education. They go to college with one another, intermarry, gravitate to desirable neighborhoods in large metropolitan areas, and do all they can to pass on their advantages to their children. They are not 1 percenters—those are mainly executives and investors—but they dominate the top 10 percent of American incomes, with outsize economic and cultural influence.

They’re at ease in the world that modernity created. They were early adopters of things that make the surface of contemporary life agreeable: HBO, Lipitor, MileagePlus Platinum, the MacBook Pro, grass-fed organic beef, cold-brewed coffee, Amazon Prime. They welcome novelty and relish diversity. They believe that the transnational flow of human beings, information, goods, and capital ultimately benefits most people around the world. You have a hard time telling what part of the country they come from, because their local identities are submerged in the homogenizing culture of top universities and elite professions. They believe in credentials and expertise—not just as tools for success, but as qualifications for class entry. They’re not nationalistic—quite the opposite—but they have a national narrative. Call it “Smart America.”

The cosmopolitan outlook of Smart America overlaps in some areas with the libertarian views of Free America. Each embraces capitalism and the principle of meritocracy: the belief that your talent and effort should determine your reward. But to the meritocrats of Smart America, some government interventions are necessary for everyone to have an equal chance to move up. The long history of racial injustice demands remedies such as affirmative action, diversity hiring, and maybe even reparations. The poor need a social safety net and a living wage; poor children deserve higher spending on education and health care. Workers dislocated by trade agreements, automation, and other blows of the global economy should be retrained for new kinds of jobs.

Still, there’s a limit to how much government the meritocrats will accept. Social liberalism comes easier to them than redistribution, especially as they accumulate wealth and look to their 401(k)s for long-term security. As for unions, they hardly exist in Smart America. They’re instruments of class solidarity, not individual advancement, and the individual is the unit of worth in Smart America as in Free America.

The word meritocracy has been around since the late 1950s, when a British sociologist named Michael Young published The Rise of the Meritocracy. He meant this new word as a warning: Modern societies would learn how to measure intelligence in children so exactly that they would be stratified in schools and jobs according to their natural ability. In Young’s satirical fantasy, this new form of inequality would be so rigid and oppressive that it would end in violent rebellion.

But the word lost its original dystopian meaning. In the decades after World War II, the G.I. Bill, the expansion of standardized tests, the civil-rights movement, and the opening of top universities to students of color, women, and children of the middle and working classes all combined to offer a path upward that probably came as close to truly equal opportunity as America has ever seen.

by Anonymousreply 21Last Tuesday at 6:02 PM

10. After the 1970s, meritocracy began to look more and more like Young’s dark satire. A system intended to give each new generation an equal chance to rise created a new hereditary class structure. Educated professionals pass on their money, connections, ambitions, and work ethic to their children, while less educated families fall further behind, with less and less chance of seeing their children move up. By kindergarten, the children of professionals are already a full two years ahead of their lower-class counterparts, and the achievement gap is almost unbridgeable. After seven decades of meritocracy, a lower-class child is nearly as unlikely to be admitted to one of the top three Ivy League universities as they would have been in 1954.

This hierarchy slowly hardened over the decades without drawing much notice. It’s based on education and merit, and education and merit are good things, so who would question it? The deeper injustice is disguised by plenty of exceptions, children who rose from modest backgrounds to the heights of society. Bill Clinton (who talked about “people who work hard and play by the rules”), Hillary Clinton (who liked the phrase God-given talents), and Barack Obama (“We need every single one of you to develop your talents and your skills and your intellect”) were all products of the meritocracy. Of course individuals should be rewarded according to their ability. What’s the alternative? Either collectivization or aristocracy. Either everyone gets the same grades and salaries regardless of achievement, which is unjust and horribly mediocre, or else everyone has to live out the life into which they’re born, which is unjust and horribly regressive. Meritocracy seems like the one system that answers what Tocqueville called the American “passion for equality.” If the opportunities are truly equal, the results will be fair.

But it’s this idea of fairness that accounts for meritocracy’s cruelty. If you don’t make the cut, you have no one and nothing to blame but yourself. Those who make it can feel morally pleased with themselves—their talents, discipline, good choices—and even a grim kind of satisfaction when they come across someone who hasn’t made it. Not “There but for the grace of God go I,” not even “Life is unfair,” but “You should have been more like me.”

by Anonymousreply 22Last Tuesday at 6:02 PM

For America Reagan was the crunch of the grave diggers spade.

by Anonymousreply 23Last Tuesday at 6:02 PM

11. Politically, Smart America came to be associated with the Democratic Party. This was not inevitable. If the party had refused to accept the closing of factories in the 1970s and ’80s as a natural disaster, if it had become the voice of the millions of workers displaced by deindustrialization and struggling in the growing service economy, it might have remained the multiethnic working-class party that it had been since the 1930s. It’s true that the white South abandoned the Democratic Party after the civil-rights revolution, but race alone doesn’t explain the epochal half-century shift of working-class white voters. West Virginia, almost all white, was a predominantly Democratic state until 2000. If you look at county-by-county national electoral maps, 2000 was the year when rural areas turned decisively red. Something more than just the Democrats’ principled embrace of the civil-rights movement and other struggles for equality caused the shift.

In the early 1970s, the party became the home of educated professionals, nonwhite voters, and the shrinking unionized working class. The more the party identified with the winners of the new economy, the easier it became for the Republican Party to pull away white workers by appealing to cultural values. Bill and Hillary Clinton spoke about equipping workers to rise into the professional class through education and training. Their assumption was that all Americans could do what they did and be like them.

The narrative of Free America shaped the parameters of acceptable thinking for Smart America. Free trade, deregulation, economic concentration, and balanced budgets became the policy of the Democratic Party. It was cosmopolitan, embracing multiculturalism at home and welcoming a globalized world. Its donor class on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley bankrolled Democratic campaigns and was rewarded with influence in Washington. None of this appealed to the party’s old base.

The turn of the millennium was the high-water mark of Smart America. President Clinton’s speeches became euphoric—“We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history,” he said in his final State of the Union message. The new economy had replaced “outmoded ideologies” with dazzling technologies. The business cycle of booms and busts had practically been abolished, along with class conflict. In April 2000, Clinton hosted a celebration called the White House Conference on the New Economy. Earnest purpose mingled with self-congratulation; virtue and success high-fived—the distinctive atmosphere of Smart America. At one point Clinton informed the participants that Congress was about to pass a bill to establish permanent trade relations with China, which would make both countries more prosperous and China more free. “I believe the computer and the internet give us a chance to move more people out of poverty more quickly than at any time in all of human history,” he exulted.

by Anonymousreply 24Last Tuesday at 6:04 PM

Our country's population has increased substantially in the past 80 years. More people bring more voices, more disagreements, more of a crowd. In 1940 the U.S. population was 132 million, in 1960-180 million, in 1980-226 million, currently estimated at 333 million.

The population has almost doubled since I grew up; we could face challenges together; we had a civil and gentle society; we grew into suburbs. I miss that world. Even though the 1960s were fraught, we survived them and we were united in pride when we sent a man to the Moon.

People would have responded to COVID and its restrictions far more patiently than we have now. I see how growth has changed us.

by Anonymousreply 25Last Tuesday at 6:04 PM

12. You can almost date the election of Donald Trump to that moment.

The winners in Smart America have withdrawn from national life. They spend inordinate amounts of time working (even in bed), researching their children’s schools and planning their activities, shopping for the right kind of food, learning to make sushi or play the mandolin, staying in shape, and following the news. None of this brings them in contact with fellow citizens outside their way of life. School, once the most universal and influential of our democratic institutions, now walls them off. The working class is terra incognita.

The pursuit of success is not new. The Smart American is a descendant of the self-made man of the early 19th century, who raised work ethic to the highest personal virtue, and of the urban Progressive of the early 20th, who revered expertise. But there’s a difference: The path now is narrower, it leads to institutions with higher walls, and the gate is harder to open.

Under the watchful eye of their parents, the children of Smart America devote exhausting amounts of energy to extracurricular activities and carefully constructed personal essays that can navigate between boasting and humility. The goal of all this effort is a higher education that offers questionable learning, dubious fulfillment, likely indebtedness, but certain status. Graduation from an exclusive school marks the entry into a successful life. A rite endowed with so much importance and involving so little of real value resembles the brittle decadence of an aristocracy that’s reached the stage when people begin to lose faith that it reflects the natural order of things. In our case, a system intended to expand equality has become an enforcer of inequality. Americans are now meritocrats by birth. We know this, but because it violates our fundamental beliefs, we go to a lot of trouble not to know it.

A common refrain, in places like southeastern Ohio and southern Virginia and central Pennsylvania, is that the middle class no longer exists. I once heard a woman in her 60s, a retired municipal employee in Tampa, Florida, who had made and then lost money in real estate, describe herself as a member of “the formerly middle class.” She meant that she no longer lived with any security. Her term could apply to a nonunion electrician making $52,000 a year and to a home health aide making $12 an hour. The first still belongs financially to the middle class, while the second is working-class—in fact, working-poor. What they share is a high-school degree and a precarious prospect. Neither of them can look with confidence on their future, less still on their children’s. The dream of leaving their children better educated and better off has lost its conviction, and therefore its inspiration. They can’t possibly attain the shiny, well-ordered lives they see in the houses of the elite professionals for whom they work. The espresso maker on the quartz countertop, the expensive art hanging on the living-room walls, the shelves of books lining the children’s bedrooms are glimpses of a foreign culture. What professionals actually do to earn the large incomes that pay for their nice things is a mystery. All those hours spent sitting at a computer screen—do they contribute something to society, to the family of an electrician or a home health aide (whose contributions are obvious)?

by Anonymousreply 26Last Tuesday at 6:04 PM

13. So these two classes, rising professionals and sinking workers, which a couple of generations ago were close in income and not so far apart in mores, no longer believe they belong to the same country. But they can’t escape each other, and their coexistence breeds condescension, resentment, and shame.

As a national narrative, Smart America has a tenuous sense of the nation. Smart America doesn’t hate America, which has been so good to the meritocrats. Smart Americans believe in institutions, and they support American leadership of military alliances and international organizations.

But Smart Americans are uneasy with patriotism. It’s an unpleasant relic of a more primitive time, like cigarette smoke or dog racing. It stirs emotions that can have ugly consequences. The winners in Smart America—connected by airplane, internet, and investments to the rest of the globe—have lost the capacity and the need for a national identity, which is why they can’t grasp its importance for others. Their passionate loyalty, the one that gives them a particular identity, goes to their family. The rest is diversity and efficiency, heirloom tomatoes and self-driving cars. They don’t see the point of patriotism.

Patriotism can be turned to good or ill purposes, but in most people it never dies. It’s a persistent attachment, like loyalty to your family, a source of meaning and togetherness, strongest when it’s hardly conscious. National loyalty is an attachment to what makes your country yours, distinct from the rest, even when you can’t stand it, even when it breaks your heart. This feeling can’t be wished out of existence. And because people still live their lives in an actual place, and the nation is the largest place with which they can identify—world citizenship is too abstract to be meaningful—patriotic feeling has to be tapped if you want to achieve anything big. If your goal is to slow climate change, or reverse inequality, or stop racism, or rebuild democracy, you will need the national solidarity that comes from patriotism.

by Anonymousreply 27Last Tuesday at 6:11 PM

Interesting take. Real and free vs. Smart and Just. Has there ever been a classless society?

by Anonymousreply 28Last Tuesday at 6:12 PM

14. That’s one problem with the narrative of Smart America. The other problem is that abandoning patriotism to other narratives guarantees that the worst of them will claim it.

by Anonymousreply 29Last Tuesday at 6:12 PM

15. In the fall of 2008, Sarah Palin, then the Republican nominee for vice president, spoke at a fundraiser in Greensboro, North Carolina. Candidates reserve the truth for their donors, using the direct language they avoid with the press and the public (Obama: “cling to guns or religion”; Romney: the “47 percent”; Clinton: “basket of deplorables”), and Palin felt free to speak openly. “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit,” she said, “and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hardworking, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us.”

What made Palin alien to people in Smart America prompted thousands to stand in line for hours at her rallies in “Real America”: her vernacular (“You betcha,” “Drill, baby, drill”); her charismatic Christianity; the four colleges she attended en route to a degree; her five children’s names (Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, Trig); her baby with Down syndrome; her pregnant, unwed teenage daughter; her husband’s commercial fishing business; her hunting poses. She was working-class to her boots. Plenty of politicians come from the working class; Palin never left it.

She went after Barack Obama with particular venom. Her animus was fueled by his suspect origins, radical associates, and redistributionist views, but the worst offense was his galling mix of class and race. Obama was a Black professional who had gone to the best schools, who knew so much more than Palin, and who was too cerebral to get in the mud pit with her.

Palin crumbled during the campaign. Her miserable performance under basic questioning disqualified her in the eyes of Americans with open minds on the subject. Her Republican handlers tried to hide her and later disowned her. In 2008, the country was still too rational for a candidate like Palin. After losing, she quit being governor of Alaska, which no longer interested her, and started a new career as a reality-TV personality, Tea Party star, and autographed-merchandise saleswoman. Palin kept looking for a second act that never arrived. She suffered the pathetic fate of being a celebrity ahead of her time. Because with her candidacy something new came into our national life that was also traditional. She was a western populist who embodied white identity politics—John the Baptist to the coming of Trump.

by Anonymousreply 30Last Tuesday at 6:12 PM

16. Real America is a very old place. The idea that the authentic heart of democracy beats hardest in common people who work with their hands goes back to the 18th century. It was embryonic in the founding creed of equality. “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787. “The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.” Moral equality was the basis for political equality. As the new republic became a more egalitarian society in the first decades of the 19th century, the democratic creed turned openly populist. Andrew Jackson came to power and governed as champion of “the humble members of society—the farmers, mechanics, and laborers,” the Real Americans of that age. The Democratic Party dominated elections by pinning the charge of aristocratic elitism on the Federalists, and then the Whigs, who learned that they had to campaign on log cabins and hard cider to compete.

The triumph of popular democracy brought an anti-intellectual bias to American politics that never entirely disappeared. Self-government didn’t require any special learning, just the native wisdom of the people. “Even in its earliest days,” Richard Hofstadter wrote, “the egalitarian impulse in America was linked with a distrust for what in its germinal form may be called political specialization and in its later forms expertise.” Hostility to aristocracy widened into a general suspicion of educated sophisticates. The more learned citizens were actually less fit to lead; the best politicians came from the ordinary people and stayed true to them. Making money didn’t violate the spirit of equality, but an air of superior knowledge did, especially when it cloaked special privileges.

The overwhelmingly white crowds that lined up to hear Palin speak were nothing new. Real America has always been a country of white people. Jackson himself was a slaver and an Indian-killer, and his “farmers, mechanics, and laborers” were the all-white forebears of William Jennings Bryan’s “producing masses,” Huey Long’s “little man,” George Wallace’s “rednecks,” Patrick Buchanan’s “pitchfork brigade,” and Palin’s “hardworking patriots.” The political positions of these groups changed, but their Real American identity—their belief in themselves as the bedrock of self-government—stayed firm. From time to time the common people’s politics has been interracial—the Populist Party at its founding in the early 1890s, the industrial-labor movement of the 1930s—but that never lasted. The unity soon disintegrated under the pressure of white supremacy. Real America has always needed to feel that both a shiftless underclass and a parasitic elite depend on its labor. In this way, it renders the Black working class invisible.

From its beginnings, Real America has also been religious, and in a particular way: evangelical and fundamentalist, hostile to modern ideas and intellectual authority. The truth will enter every simple heart, and it doesn’t come in shades of gray. “If we have to give up either religion or education, we should give up education,” said Bryan, in whom populist democracy and fundamentalist Christianity were joined until they broke him apart at the Scopes “monkey trial” in 1925.

by Anonymousreply 31Last Tuesday at 6:12 PM

17. Finally, Real America has a strong nationalist character. Its attitude toward the rest of the world is isolationist, hostile to humanitarianism and international engagement, but ready to respond aggressively to any incursion against national interests. The purity and strength of Americanism are always threatened by contamination from outside and betrayal from within. The narrative of Real America is white Christian nationalism.

Real America isn’t a shining city on a hill with its gates open to freedom-loving people everywhere. Nor is it a cosmopolitan club to which the right talents and credentials will get you admitted no matter who you are or where you’re from. It’s a provincial village where everyone knows everyone’s business, no one has much more money than anyone else, and only a few misfits ever move away. The villagers can fix their own boilers, and they go out of their way to help a neighbor in a jam. A new face on the street will draw immediate attention and suspicion.

By the time Palin talked about “the real America,” it was in precipitous decline. The region where she spoke, the North Carolina Piedmont, had lost its three economic mainstays—tobacco, textiles, and furniture making—in a single decade. Local people blamed NAFTA, multinational corporations, and big government. Idle tobacco farmers who had owned and worked their own fields drank vodka out of plastic cups at the Moose Lodge where Fox News aired nonstop; they were missing teeth from using crystal meth. Palin’s glowing remarks were a generation out of date.

This collapse happened in the shadow of historic failures. In the first decade of the new century, the bipartisan ruling class discredited itself—first overseas, then at home. The invasion of Iraq squandered the national unity and international sympathy that had followed the attacks of September 11. The decision itself was a strategic folly enabled by lies and self-deception; the botched execution compounded the disaster for years afterward. The price was never paid by the war’s leaders. As an Army officer in Iraq wrote in 2007, “A private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.” The cost for Americans fell on the bodies and minds of young men and women from small towns and inner cities. Meeting anyone in uniform in Iraq who came from a family of educated professionals was uncommon, and vanishingly rare in the enlisted ranks. After troops began to leave Iraq, the pattern continued in Afghanistan. The inequality of sacrifice in the global War on Terror was almost too normal to bear comment. But this grand elite failure seeded cynicism in the downscale young.

The financial crisis of 2008, and the Great Recession that followed, had a similar effect on the home front. The guilty parties were elites—bankers, traders, regulators, and policy makers. Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman and an Ayn Rand fan, admitted that the crisis undermined his faith in the narrative of Free America. But those who suffered were lower down the class structure: middle-class Americans whose wealth was sunk in a house that lost half its value and a retirement fund that melted away, working-class Americans thrown into poverty by a pink slip. The banks received bailouts, and the bankers kept their jobs.

The conclusion was obvious: The system was rigged for insiders. The economic recovery took years; the recovery of trust never came.

by Anonymousreply 32Last Tuesday at 6:13 PM

18. Ever since the age of Reagan, the Republican Party has been a coalition of business interests and less affluent white people, many of them evangelical Christians. The persistence of the coalition required an immense amount of self-deception on both sides. As late as 2012, the Republican National Convention was still a celebration of Free America and unfettered capitalism. Mitt Romney told donors at the infamous fundraiser that the country was divided into makers and takers, and those 47 percent of Americans who took would never vote for him. In fact, the takers included plenty of Republicans, but the disorganization of life in the decaying countryside was barely noticed by politicians and journalists. Christians who didn’t attend church; workers without a regular schedule, let alone a union; renters who didn’t trust their neighbors; adults who got their information from chain emails and fringe websites; voters who believed both parties to be corrupt—what was the news story? Real America, the bedrock of popular democracy, had no way to participate in self-government. It turned out to be disposable. Its rage and despair needed a target and a voice.

When Trump ran for president, the party of Free America collapsed into its own hollowness. The mass of Republicans were not free-traders who wanted corporate taxes zeroed out. They wanted government to do things that benefited them—not the undeserving classes below and above them. Party elites were too remote from Trump’s supporters and lulled by their own stale rhetoric to grasp what was happening. Media elites were just as stupefied. They were entertained and appalled by Trump, whom they dismissed as a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, an authoritarian, and a vulgar, orange-haired celebrity. He was all of these. But he had a reptilian genius for intuiting the emotions of Real America—a foreign country to elites on the right and left. They were helpless to understand Trump and therefore to stop him.

Trump violated conservative orthodoxy on numerous issues, including taxes and entitlements. “I want to save the middle class,” he said. “The hedge-fund guys didn’t build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky.” But Trump’s main heresies were on trade, immigration, and war. He was the first American politician to succeed by running against globalization—a bipartisan policy that had served the interests of “globalists” for years while sacrificing Real Americans. He was also the first to succeed by talking about how shitty everything in America had become. “These are the forgotten men and women of our country, and they are forgotten,” he said at the 2016 Republican National Convention. “But they’re not going to be forgotten long.” The nationalist mantle was lying around, and Trump grabbed it. “I am your voice.”

Early in the campaign, I spent time with a group of white and Black steelworkers in a town near Canton, Ohio. They had been locked out by the company over a contract dispute and were picketing outside the mill. They faced months without a paycheck, possibly the loss of their jobs, and they talked about the end of the middle class. The only candidates who interested them were Trump and Bernie Sanders.

by Anonymousreply 33Last Tuesday at 6:13 PM

19. A steelworker named Jack Baum told me that he supported Trump. He liked Trump’s “patriotic” positions on trade and immigration, but he also found Trump’s insults refreshing, even exhilarating. The ugliness was a kind of revenge, Baum said: “It’s a mirror of the way they see us.” He didn’t specify who they and us were, but maybe he didn’t have to. Maybe he believed—he was too polite to say it—that people like me looked down on people like him. If educated professionals considered steelworkers like Baum to be ignorant, crass, and bigoted, then Trump was going to shove it in our smug faces. The lower his language and behavior sank, and the more the media vilified him, the more he was celebrated by his people. He was their leader, who could do no wrong.

Trump’s language was effective because it was attuned to American pop culture. It required no expert knowledge and had no code of hidden meanings. It gave rise almost spontaneously to memorable phrases: “Make America great again.” “Drain the swamp.” “Build the wall.” “Lock her up.” “Send her back.” It’s the way people talk when the inhibitors are off, and it’s available to anyone willing to join the mob. Trump didn’t try to shape his people ideologically with new words and concepts. He used the low language of talk radio, reality TV, social media, and sports bars, and to his listeners this language seemed far more honest and grounded in common sense than the mincing obscurities of “politically correct” experts. His populism brought Jersey Shore to national politics. The goal of his speeches was not to whip up mass hysteria but to get rid of shame. He leveled everyone down together.

Throughout his adult life, Trump has been hostile to Black people, contemptuous of women, vicious about immigrants from poor countries, and cruel toward the weak. He’s an equal-opportunity bigot. In his campaigns and in the White House, he aligned himself publicly with hard-core racists in a way that set him apart from every other president in memory, and the racists loved him for it. After the 2016 election, a great deal of journalism and social science was devoted to finding out whether Trump’s voters were mainly motivated by economic anxiety or racial resentment. There was evidence for both answers.

Progressives, shocked by the readiness of half the country to support this hateful man, seized on racism as the single cause and set out to disprove every alternative. But this answer was far too satisfying. Racism is such an irreducible evil that it gave progressives commanding moral heights and relieved them of the burden to understand the grievances of their compatriots down in the lowlands, let alone do something about them. It put Trump voters beyond the pale. But racism alone couldn’t explain why white men were much more likely to vote for Trump than white women, or why the same was true of Black and Latino men and women. Or why the most reliable predictor for who was a Trump voter wasn’t race but the combination of race and education. Among white people, 38 percent of college graduates voted for Trump, compared with 64 percent without college degrees. This margin—the great gap between Smart America and Real America—was the decisive one. It made 2016 different from previous elections, and the trend only intensified in 2020.

by Anonymousreply 34Last Tuesday at 6:14 PM

20. The issues Trump had campaigned on waxed and waned during his presidency. What remained was the dark energy he unleashed, binding him like a tribal leader to his people. Nothing was left of the optimistic pieties of Free America. Trump’s people still talked about freedom, but they meant blood and soil. Their nationalism was like the ethno-nationalisms on the rise in Europe and around the world. Trump abused every American institution—the FBI, the CIA, the armed forces, the courts, the press, the Constitution itself—and his people cheered. Nothing excited them like owning the libs. Nothing convinced them like Trump’s 30,000 lies.

More than anything, Trump was a demagogue—a thoroughly American type, familiar to us from novels like All the King’s Men and movies like Citizen Kane. “Trump is a creature native to our own style of government and therefore much more difficult to protect ourselves against,” the Yale political theorist Bryan Garsten wrote. “He is a demagogue, a popular leader who feeds on the hatred of elites that grows naturally in democratic soil.” A demagogue can become a tyrant, but the people put him there—the people who want to be fed fantasies and lies, the people who set themselves apart from and above their compatriots. So the question isn’t who Trump was, but who we are.

by Anonymousreply 35Last Tuesday at 6:14 PM

21. In 2014, American character changed.

A large and influential generation came of age in the shadow of accumulating failures by the ruling class—especially by business and foreign-policy elites. This new generation had little faith in ideas that previous ones were raised on: All men are created equal. Work hard and you can be anything. Knowledge is power. Democracy and capitalism are the best systems—the only systems. America is a nation of immigrants. America is the leader of the free world.

My generation told our children’s generation a story of slow but steady progress. America had slavery (as well as genocide, internment, and other crimes) to answer for, original sin if there ever was such a thing—but it had answered, and with the civil-rights movement, the biggest barriers to equality were removed. If anyone doubted that the country was becoming a more perfect union, the election of a Black president who loved to use that phrase proved it. “Rosa sat so Martin could walk so Barack could run so we could all fly”—that was the story in a sentence, and it was so convincing to a lot of people in my generation, myself included, that we were slow to notice how little it meant to a lot of people under 35. Or we heard but didn’t understand and dismissed them. We told them they had no idea what the crime rate was like in 1994. Smart Americans pointed to affirmative action and children’s health insurance. Free Americans touted enterprise zones and school vouchers.

Of course the kids didn’t buy it. In their eyes “progress” looked like a thin upper layer of Black celebrities and professionals, who carried the weight of society’s expectations along with its prejudices, and below them, lousy schools, overflowing prisons, dying neighborhoods. The parents didn’t really buy it either, but we had learned to ignore injustice on this scale as adults ignore so much just to get through. If anyone could smell out the bad faith of parents, it was their children, stressed-out laborers in the multigenerational family business of success, bearing the psychological burdens of the meritocracy. Many of them entered the workforce, loaded with debt, just as the Great Recession closed off opportunities and the reality of planetary destruction bore down on them. No wonder their digital lives seemed more real to them than the world of their parents. No wonder they had less sex than previous generations. No wonder the bland promises of middle-aged liberals left them furious.

Then came one video after another of police killing or hurting unarmed Black people. Then came the election of an openly racist president. These were conditions for a generational revolt.

Call this narrative “Just America.” It’s another rebellion from below. As Real America breaks down the ossified libertarianism of Free America, Just America assails the complacent meritocracy of Smart America. It does the hard, essential thing that the other three narratives avoid, that white Americans have avoided throughout history. It forces us to see the straight line that runs from slavery and segregation to the second-class life so many Black Americans live today—the betrayal of equality that has always been the country’s great moral shame, the heart of its social problems.

by Anonymousreply 36Last Tuesday at 6:14 PM

22. But Just America has a dissonant sound, for in its narrative, justice and America never rhyme. A more accurate name would be Unjust America, in a spirit of attack rather than aspiration. For Just Americans, the country is less a project of self-government to be improved than a site of continuous wrong to be battled. In some versions of the narrative, the country has no positive value at all—it can never be made better.

In the same way that libertarian ideas had been lying around for Americans to pick up in the stagflated 1970s, young people coming of age in the disillusioned 2000s were handed powerful ideas about social justice to explain their world. The ideas came from different intellectual traditions: the Frankfurt School in 1920s Germany, French postmodernist thinkers of the 1960s and ’70s, radical feminism, Black studies. They converged and recombined in American university classrooms, where two generations of students were taught to think as critical theorists.

Critical theory upends the universal values of the Enlightenment: objectivity, rationality, science, equality, freedom of the individual. These liberal values are an ideology by which one dominant group subjugates another. All relations are power relations, everything is political, and claims of reason and truth are social constructs that maintain those in power. Unlike orthodox Marxism, critical theory is concerned with language and identity more than with material conditions. In place of objective reality, critical theorists place subjectivity at the center of analysis to show how supposedly universal terms exclude oppressed groups and help the powerful rule over them. Critical theorists argue that the Enlightenment, including the American founding, carried the seeds of modern racism and imperialism.

The term identity politics was born in 1977, when a group of Black lesbian feminists called the Combahee River Collective released a statement defining their work as self-liberation from the racism and sexism of “white male rule”: “The major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives … This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity.” The statement helped set in motion a way of thinking that places the struggle for justice within the self. This thinking appeals not to reason or universal values but to the authority of identity, the “lived experience” of the oppressed. The self is not a rational being that can persuade and be persuaded by other selves, because reason is another form of power.

by Anonymousreply 37Last Tuesday at 6:15 PM

23. The historical demand of the oppressed is inclusion as equal citizens in all the institutions of American life. With identity politics, the demand became different—not just to enlarge the institutions, but to change them profoundly. When Martin Luther King Jr., at the March on Washington, called on America to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ ” he was demanding equal rights within the framework of the Enlightenment. (In later years, his view of the American creed grew more complicated.) But in identity politics, equality refers to groups, not individuals, and demands action to redress disparate outcomes among groups—in other words, equity, which often amounts to new forms of discrimination. In practice, identity politics inverts the old hierarchy of power into a new one: bottom rail on top. The fixed lens of power makes true equality, based on common humanity, impossible.

And what is oppression? Not unjust laws—the most important ones were overturned by the civil-rights movement and its successors—or even unjust living conditions. The focus on subjectivity moves oppression from the world to the self and its pain—psychological trauma, harm from speech and texts, the sense of alienation that members of minority groups feel in their constant exposure to a dominant culture. A whole system of oppression can exist within a single word.

By the turn of the millennium, these ideas were nearly ubiquitous in humanities and social-science departments. Embracing them had become an important credential for admittance into sectors of the professorate. The ideas gave scholars an irresistible power, intellectual and moral, to criticize institutions in which they were comfortably embedded. In turn, these scholars formed the worldview of young Americans educated by elite universities to thrive in the meritocracy, students trained from early childhood to do what it takes to succeed professionally and socially. “It is a curious thing, but the ideas of one generation become the instincts of the next,” D. H. Lawrence wrote. The ideas of critical theorists became the instincts of Millennials. It wasn’t necessary to have read Foucault or studied under Judith Butler to become adept with terms like centered, marginalized, privilege, and harm; to believe that words can be a form of violence; to close down a general argument with a personal truth (“You wouldn’t understand,” or just “I’m offended”); to keep your mouth shut when identity disqualified you from speaking. Millions of young Americans were steeped in the assumptions of critical theory and identity politics without knowing the concepts. Everyone sensed their power. Not everyone resisted the temptation to abuse it.

Just America emerged as a national narrative in 2014. That summer, in Ferguson, Missouri, the police killing of a Black 18-year-old, whose body was left to lie in the street for hours, came in the context of numerous incidents, more and more of them caught on video, of Black people assaulted and killed by white police officers who faced no obvious threat. And those videos, widely distributed on social media and viewed millions of times, symbolized the wider injustices that still confronted Black Americans in prisons and neighborhoods and schools and workplaces—in the sixth year of the first Black presidency. The optimistic story of incremental progress and expanding opportunity in a multiracial society collapsed, seemingly overnight. The incident in Ferguson ignited a protest movement in cities and campuses around the country.

by Anonymousreply 38Last Tuesday at 6:15 PM

24. What is the narrative of Just America? It sees American society not as mixed and fluid, but as a fixed hierarchy, like a caste system. An outpouring of prizewinning books, essays, journalism, films, poetry, pop music, and scholarly work looks to the history of slavery and segregation in order to understand the present—as if to say, with Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The most famous of this work, The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, declared its ambition to retell the entire story of America as the story of slavery and its consequences, tracing contemporary phenomena to their historical antecedents in racism, sometimes in disregard of contradictory facts. Any talk of progress is false consciousness—even “hurtful.” Whatever the actions of this or that individual, whatever new laws and practices come along, the hierarchical position of “whiteness” over “Blackness” is eternal.

Here is the revolutionary power of the narrative: What had been considered, broadly speaking, American history (or literature, philosophy, classics, even math) is explicitly defined as white, and therefore supremacist. What was innocent by default suddenly finds itself on trial, every idea is cross-examined, and nothing else can get done until the case is heard.

Just America isn’t concerned only with race. The most radical version of the narrative lashes together the oppression of all groups in an encompassing hell of white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, plutocracy, environmental destruction, and drones—America as a unitary malignant force beyond any other evil on Earth. The end of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, published in 2015 and hugely influential in establishing the narrative of Just America, interprets global warming as the planet’s cosmic revenge on white people for their greed and cruelty.

by Anonymousreply 39Last Tuesday at 6:15 PM

25. There are too many things that Just America can’t talk about for the narrative to get at the hardest problems. It can’t talk about the complex causes of poverty. Structural racism—ongoing disadvantages that Black people suffer as a result of policies and institutions over the centuries—is real. But so is individual agency, and in the Just America narrative, it doesn’t exist. The narrative can’t talk about the main source of violence in Black neighborhoods, which is young Black men, not police. The push to “defund the police” during the protests over George Floyd’s murder was resisted by many local Black citizens, who wanted better, not less, policing. Just America can’t deal with the stubborn divide between Black and white students in academic assessments. The mild phrase achievement gap has been banished, not only because it implies that Black parents and children have some responsibility, but also because, according to anti-racist ideology, any disparity is by definition racist. Get rid of assessments, and you’ll end the racism along with the gap.

I’m exaggerating the suddenness of this new narrative, but not by much. Things changed astonishingly quickly after 2014, when Just America escaped campuses and pervaded the wider culture. First, the “softer” professions gave way. Book publishers released a torrent of titles on race and identity, which year after year won the most prestigious prizes. Newspapers and magazines known for aspiring to reportorial objectivity shifted toward an activist model of journalism, adopting new values and assumptions along with a brand-new language: systemic racism, white supremacy, white privilege, anti-Blackness, marginalized communities, decolonization, toxic masculinity. Similar changes came to arts organizations, philanthropies, scientific institutions, technology monopolies, and finally corporate America and the Democratic Party. The incontestable principle of inclusion drove the changes, which smuggled in more threatening features that have come to characterize identity politics and social justice: monolithic group thought, hostility to open debate, and a taste for moral coercion.

Just America has dramatically changed the way Americans think, talk, and act, but not the conditions in which they live. It reflects the fracturing distrust that defines our culture: Something is deeply wrong; our society is unjust; our institutions are corrupt. If the narrative helps to create a more humane criminal-justice system and bring Black Americans into the conditions of full equality, it will live up to its promise. But the grand systemic analysis usually ends in small symbolic politics. In some ways, Just America resembles Real America and has entered the same dubious conflict from the other side. The disillusionment with liberal capitalism that gave rise to identity politics has also produced a new authoritarianism among many young white men. Just and Real America share a skepticism, from opposing points of view, about the universal ideas of the founding documents and the promise of America as a multi-everything democracy.

But another way to understand Just America is in terms of class. Why does so much of its work take place in human-resources departments, reading lists, and awards ceremonies? In the summer of 2020, the protesters in the American streets were disproportionately Millennials with advanced degrees making more than $100,000 a year. Just America is a narrative of the young and well educated, which is why it continually misreads or ignores the Black and Latino working classes. The fate of this generation of young professionals has been cursed by economic stagnation and technological upheaval. The jobs their parents took for granted have become much harder to get, which makes the meritocratic rat race even more crushing. Law, medicine, academia, media—the most desirable professions—have all contracted. The result is a large population of overeducated, underemployed young people living in metropolitan areas.

by Anonymousreply 40Last Tuesday at 6:16 PM

26. The historian Peter Turchin coined the phrase elite overproduction to describe this phenomenon. He found that a constant source of instability and violence in previous eras of history, such as the late Roman empire and the French Wars of Religion, was the frustration of social elites for whom there were not enough jobs. Turchin expects this country to undergo a similar breakdown in the coming decade. Just America attracts surplus elites and channels most of their anger at the narrative to which they’re closest—Smart America. The social-justice movement is a repudiation of meritocracy, a rebellion against the system handed down from parents to children. Students at elite universities no longer believe they deserve their coveted slots. Activists in New York want to abolish the tests that determine entry into the city’s most competitive high schools (where Asian American children now predominate). In some niche areas, such as literary magazines and graduate schools of education, the idea of merit as separate from identity no longer exists.

But most Just Americans still belong to the meritocracy and have no desire to give up its advantages. They can’t escape its status anxieties—they’ve only transferred them to the new narrative. They want to be the first to adopt its expert terminology. In the summer of 2020, people suddenly began saying “BIPOC” as if they’d been doing it all their lives. (Black, Indigenous, and people of color was a way to uncouple groups that had been aggregated under people of color and give them their rightful place in the moral order, with people from Bogotá and Karachi and Seoul bringing up the rear.) The whole atmosphere of Just America at its most constricted—the fear of failing to say the right thing, the urge to level withering fire on minor faults—is a variation on the fierce competitive spirit of Smart America. Only the terms of accreditation have changed. And because achievement is a fragile basis for moral identity, when meritocrats are accused of racism, they have no solid faith in their own worth to stand on.

The rules in Just America are different, and they have been quickly learned by older liberals following a long series of defenestrations at The New York Times, Poetry magazine, Georgetown University, the Guggenheim Museum, and other leading institutions. The parameters of acceptable expression are a lot narrower than they used to be. A written thought can be a form of violence. The loudest public voices in a controversy will prevail. Offending them can cost your career. Justice is power. These new rules are not based on liberal values; they are post-liberal.

Just America’s origins in theory, its intolerant dogma, and its coercive tactics remind me of 1930s left-wing ideology. Liberalism as white supremacy recalls the Communist Party’s attack on social democracy as “social fascism.” Just American aesthetics are the new socialist realism.

The dead end of Just America is a tragedy. This country has had great movements for justice in the past and badly needs one now. But in order to work, it has to throw its arms out wide. It has to tell a story in which most of us can see ourselves, and start on a path that most of us want to follow.

by Anonymousreply 41Last Tuesday at 6:16 PM

27. all four of the narratives I’ve described emerged from America’s failure to sustain and enlarge the middle-class democracy of the postwar years. They all respond to real problems. Each offers a value that the others need and lacks ones that the others have. Free America celebrates the energy of the unencumbered individual. Smart America respects intelligence and welcomes change. Real America commits itself to a place and has a sense of limits. Just America demands a confrontation with what the others want to avoid. They rise from a single society, and even in one as polarized as ours they continually shape, absorb, and morph into one another. But their tendency is also to divide us, pitting tribe against tribe. These divisions impoverish each narrative into a cramped and ever more extreme version of itself.

All four narratives are also driven by a competition for status that generates fierce anxiety and resentment. They all anoint winners and losers. In Free America, the winners are the makers, and the losers are the takers who want to drag the rest down in perpetual dependency on a smothering government. In Smart America, the winners are the credentialed meritocrats, and the losers are the poorly educated who want to resist inevitable progress. In Real America, the winners are the hardworking folk of the white Christian heartland, and the losers are treacherous elites and contaminating others who want to destroy the country. In Just America, the winners are the marginalized groups, and the losers are the dominant groups that want to go on dominating.

I don’t much want to live in the republic of any of them.

It’s common these days to hear people talk about sick America, dying America, the end of America. The same kinds of things were said in 1861, in 1893, in 1933, and in 1968. The sickness, the death, is always a moral condition. Maybe this comes from our Puritan heritage. If we are dying, it can’t be from natural causes. It must be a prolonged act of suicide, which is a form of murder.

I don’t think we are dying. We have no choice but to live together—we’re quarantined as fellow citizens. Knowing who we are lets us see what kinds of change are possible. Countries are not social-science experiments. They have organic qualities, some positive, some destructive, that can’t be wished away. Our passion for equality, the individualism it produces, the hustle for money, the love of novelty, the attachment to democracy, the distrust of authority and intellect—these won’t disappear. A way forward that tries to evade or crush them on the road to some free, smart, real, or just utopia will never arrive and instead will run into a strong reaction. But a way forward that tries to make us Equal Americans, all with the same rights and opportunities—the only basis for shared citizenship and self-government—is a road that connects our past and our future.

Meanwhile, we remain trapped in two countries. Each one is split by two narratives—Smart and Just on one side, Free and Real on the other. Neither separation nor conquest is a tenable future. The tensions within each country will persist even as the cold civil war between them rages on.


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by Anonymousreply 42Last Tuesday at 6:17 PM

Sorry the article is so long. I was halfway through reading it when I posted the thread. It might be the type of thing best read in chunks and then digested.

*I'm not sure group 1 and group 3 are the same. Ayn Rand type Libertarians (a lot of them very smart, rich, calculating and evil) aren't the same as the Evangelical Christians who hate everybody that isn't them and specifically hate abortions, gays and black/brown people who they tirelessly work against to keep down.

by Anonymousreply 43Last Tuesday at 6:22 PM

[quote] Sorry the article is so long.

Well, we thank you for bringing it to us.

by Anonymousreply 44Last Tuesday at 6:31 PM

Politically, they really are the same r43. Just seeing Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz in there and realizing they could fit just as easily into group 3, and Reagan too for that matter. There is something off about this article and it's hard to be clear about what it is, but that is part of it.

Maybe it's theory versus practice. In theory, crazed gun nuts and people who holler about their religion of love and kindness should disagree. In practice, they are the same people.

Same with Group 1 and Group 3. In practice, whatever artificial philosophical differences you want to find between them, in practice they go together politically without the slightest hesitation or worry.

by Anonymousreply 45Last Tuesday at 6:32 PM

This is ridiculously reductive. Where would Joe Biden fit? Jim Clyburn? Chuck Schumer? The author apparently was so impressed by his classifications that he didn’t bother to think about them critically.

by Anonymousreply 46Last Tuesday at 6:38 PM

Thanks OP... very valuable article (I subscribe to Atlantic and had read it). A labor of love to cut it up and post it here.

The four groups are certainly recognizable. Though like all simple generalizations there are certain groups that don't fit. Spanish language evangelicals who still vote majority Dem? Central city black, non-college educated? Old left labor, non U, who still think unions should call the shots? Etc.

But on thing that has resonance to me... an old white guy with three graduate degrees and a comfortable pension.... by all measures a "2", what is my part in the divisive forces? Recently I've started, in my meditations, visualizing MAGA folk, with their release from all suffering. Bodhicitta to heal the commonweal. Stupid old hippie new age pap, right? But trying to heal in my heart the wounds that the last four years revealed.

by Anonymousreply 47Last Tuesday at 6:42 PM

[quote] The author apparently was so impressed by his classifications that he didn’t bother to think about them critically.

I bet he thought about them more than Nikole Hannah-Jones thought about her stuff

by Anonymousreply 48Last Tuesday at 6:44 PM

honestly, these days, actual libertarians probably show up more in Group 2, specifically in Silicon Valley. That is where Ayn Rand types can really find a home.

by Anonymousreply 49Last Tuesday at 6:49 PM

R49 It's complicated, but really significant % of those you characterize as SV Ayn Rand types are very attuned to the "new, alt-Right" aesthetic and menu of policies. E.g. Peter Thiel backing the horrid J.D. Vance.

Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 50Last Tuesday at 6:55 PM

R47 - such modern and not surprisingly, such ancient thinking. I hope you can hear the sound of my one hand clapping. Namaste.

by Anonymousreply 51Last Tuesday at 8:13 PM

It was proven Russians were behind the effort to split California into different states, and Russia, China, and Iran have been caught trying to fan the flames of division even further.

The United States is one country, and any effort to partition it into politically/socially homogenous states will not result in life going on as usual. People act like the only thing that would change is that they'd feel more connected to their fellow countrymen. Ha. A lot of good that will do when you're in some dystopian nightmare, fighting every day for survival.

by Anonymousreply 52Last Tuesday at 8:25 PM

I’m simply [italic]bathed[/italic] in relief at this news.

I'm gonna go have some fibroid tumours removed. I'm going to fucking loop!

by Anonymousreply 53Last Tuesday at 8:36 PM

OP, that entire article is a complete load of bullshit.

by Anonymousreply 54Last Wednesday at 12:18 AM

[quote]This is ridiculously reductive. Where would Joe Biden fit? Jim Clyburn? Chuck Schumer? The author apparently was so impressed by his classifications that he didn’t bother to think about them critically.

Yes. The classifications leave so many people out, it's ludicrous. Someone actually got paid for this drivel?

by Anonymousreply 55Last Wednesday at 12:34 AM

[quote] OP, that entire article is a complete load of bullshit

Did you read any of it, R54?

It's too long for me.

by Anonymousreply 56Last Wednesday at 12:40 AM

I read the whole thing and I'm convinced it's just a way for the author to blame Trump on the Clintons.

There's a really condescending and confused class of academics who have never, even for a second, been part of the working class, yet act as experts on that demographic, and their explanation of the party selling them out always revolves around big-money donors or the Clintons, and hand-waves away the fact that the white working class was becoming disillusioned with the Democrats by the time of JFK and LBJ.

Packer is one of those academics. His parents both taught at Stanford, he went to Yale, and one grandfather and one uncle were Democratic Representatives for Alabama for decades, back in the days of Southern Democrats being progressive but only for whites. The uncle who served as a Representative voted consistently against Civil Rights laws.

That's important, because Packer's uncle was defeated by over 20 points in 1964, as Alabama voted out Democrats in droves because of anger over the Civil Rights Act. Packer tries to tell you in this essay that white working class voters were lost in 2000 because of Clinton, when he knows, [italic] because it happened to his own family, [/italic] that the white working class left the Democratic Party because of race decades before the Clintons were elected.

by Anonymousreply 57Last Wednesday at 1:06 AM

Imagine being literate

by Anonymousreply 58Last Wednesday at 1:14 AM

Imagine being literate enough to use punctuation R58.

by Anonymousreply 59Last Wednesday at 1:22 AM

Not just race per se, R57, but decisions handed down by an activist judiciary that impacted working class whites but not more affluent whites.

Forced busing is an easy example: the orders were from judges, not elected officials and impacted the white working class--everyone else either moved to the burbs or sent their kids to private school. And few things caused more disruption and were as unpopular.

But you do need to factor in the impact of the Clintons and Obama as their administations did not happen in a vacuum

by Anonymousreply 60Last Wednesday at 1:48 AM

I've never owned an Apple product.

by Anonymousreply 61Last Wednesday at 1:49 AM

Read the whole piece and agree with those of you who say it is reductive.

The Free American and Just America groups are, for the most part, limited to academics and media types, the former is dying off as Reaganite Republicans recoil from Trumpism, the latter because it's mostly a creation of Twitter.

He mocks the elites for not understanding the working class, but the mocks the working class for having methed-out teeth.

He even throws this in "Trump’s people still talked about freedom, but they meant blood and soil."

For those of you not from "Smart America," that's a not very subtle reference to Hitler and Nazism--their slogan was "Blut und Boden" - blood and soil-- and the chant has showed up at White Nationalist events.

One piece he does get right is that "Smart America" is not the 1% but rather the 15% who increasingly lead very different lives than the lower 85%

As for the "Just America" crew, who he correctly notes are mostly the children of "Smart America" I suspect that they, like the radicals of the 1960s, will eventually reclaim their status as they get older and we'll see the modern equivalent of a "Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac"

by Anonymousreply 62Last Wednesday at 2:23 AM

Divide into separate countries. Easy.

The experiment failed, admit it and move on.

by Anonymousreply 63Last Wednesday at 2:40 AM

Summary: Free America and Real America are bad, Smart America is better but still bad. Just America is good with a few minor flaws.

It’s what is expected from The Atlantic.

by Anonymousreply 64Last Wednesday at 2:50 AM

Unfortunately, Just America seems to have a stranglehold on the Democratic party, as well as setting much non-governmental (academic) policy.

by Anonymousreply 65Last Wednesday at 2:53 AM

Divide et impera! If I were a North Korean or Iranian operative I would not invest in nukes but into CNN and the NY Times.

by Anonymousreply 66Last Wednesday at 2:54 AM

I’m sick of all this division. The Republicans have maligned half of the nation with their propaganda and journalism of lies.

by Anonymousreply 67Last Wednesday at 2:57 AM

[quote] The Republicans have maligned half of the nation

Didn't Hillary malign half of the nation by describing them as deplorable?

by Anonymousreply 68Last Wednesday at 3:19 AM

[quote] Summary: Free America and Real America are bad, Smart America is better but still bad. Just America is good with a few minor flaws.

Did not get that at all,

He seemed to mock Just American and dismiss it, implying it would soon become part of Smart America, e.g, the kids would turn into their parents

by Anonymousreply 69Last Wednesday at 3:19 AM

Mostly though, he seems to underestimate the potential impact of the pandemic and the period to come where we move past it and how that's going to vastly change the equation for all four groups,

by Anonymousreply 70Last Wednesday at 3:21 AM

R68, Hillary maligned half of Trump supporters, not Americans. She said he appealed to racists, xenophobes, sexists, etc. The fact that you see that as half of America is quite telling.

by Anonymousreply 71Last Wednesday at 3:22 AM

I will read this

by Anonymousreply 72Last Wednesday at 3:46 AM

Just the four, dear?

by Anonymousreply 73Last Wednesday at 3:48 AM


Why “unfortunately”?

Oh, you’re one of those people.

by Anonymousreply 74Last Wednesday at 3:52 AM

R57 Drag that bitch, girl. Miss Thang come in here with [italic]facts[/italic] like -

Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 75Last Wednesday at 4:07 AM

He writes like he’s from Stupid America.

by Anonymousreply 76Last Wednesday at 4:17 AM

[quote]back in the days of Southern Democrats being progressive but only for whites.

Do tell, when was that?

I suspect many of those responding to this article here didn't read it. Like most of discourse around policy and ideas in our country now, we skim something to pick something out to have a grievance about. Our side, their side, the right side, the wrong side. Some of the responses exemplify what the author was liming. Too reductive? Yes, of course. But it was merely a schema to use as a tool to explore the divisions that are more destructive by the month.

A more productive response might be to suggest other ways to understand our divisions.

by Anonymousreply 77Last Wednesday at 7:08 AM

[quote] I suspect many of those responding to this article here didn't read it.

I would give you 20:1 odds on that being correct.

by Anonymousreply 78Last Wednesday at 7:12 AM

R77: He did suggest another way to view the divisions. You just don't like it for whatever reason....

by Anonymousreply 79Last Wednesday at 7:24 AM

R79 He? My comment was about many, not one.

Have a blessed day, snookums.

by Anonymousreply 80Last Wednesday at 7:28 AM

R77/R80: Your comment was about the poster whom you quoted. Keep moving those goalposts, sugar tits.

by Anonymousreply 81Last Wednesday at 7:31 AM

I'm 2 and 4.

Being a part of a meritocracy does not mean you do not fight for justice.

In fact if you dont stand up for Justice you don't have much merit.

by Anonymousreply 82Last Wednesday at 7:32 AM

I do hope people read the article. It's a good starting point, but I still think he's fundamentally wrong to pretend that Group 1 and Group 3 are exactly the same group in practice. You could pluck up any Republican Senator and throw them into Group 1 or Group 3 and they'd fit fine. All are in the Trump Cult and there is no struggle for the soul of the Republican Party. There is no struggle. There is no soul.

And the real deepdown reason we are divided as a nation right now is that one of the two major political parties has gone absolutely batshit crazy and has lost all interest in anything other than shrieking and howling about its grievances and insane conspiracies while demanding the right to pretend to govern. That is the thing that polite Group 2 liberals don't want to admit for some reason. They should admit it.

by Anonymousreply 83Last Wednesday at 7:35 AM

R81 Ah, I see your confusion.

I made two different comments The first specifically about the idea that Southern Democrats were historically "progressive" (that single poster). The second is more generally about the 60 posts here criticizing the article.

Move the goal posts? Do you want to discuss or play the "gotcha" game? Most discussion now are the latter.

by Anonymousreply 84Last Wednesday at 7:46 AM

Even simpler R83:

Group 2 and Group 3 actually exist.

Group 1 is only a couple hundred ex-Bush administration officials, some Never Trump/Lincoln Project types and a another couple hundred people in think tanks who support them. So maybe a few thousand people overall.

Group 4 is only some Twitter trolls, many posting from multiple accounts so they seem more numerous, academics and college students. The latter will become Group 2 once they graduate and get jobs and start settling down. (Kind of like how their parents were hippies until they got jobs)

by Anonymousreply 85Last Wednesday at 7:48 AM

oops, meant "pretend that Group 1 and Group 3 are NOT exactly the same group" Always miss the key fucking word. hate that.

by Anonymousreply 86Last Wednesday at 7:52 AM

And just as an historical matter, yes, there were progressive Southern Democrats, but only for white people. They were a key part of the New Deal coalition, but demanded in every way possible that no benefits actually went to black people whenever possible. They were all for economic changes for poor white people as long as those never, ever affected the fundamental racial hierarchy in the South.

by Anonymousreply 87Last Wednesday at 7:54 AM

The New Deal coalition was made up of Communists, Socialist and LABOR UNIONS

by Anonymousreply 88Last Wednesday at 7:59 AM

Packers been packing his bowl too tight....over analyzed bluster in order to make himself seem smart and superior. He is so off the mark on quite a few things its not worth dissecting.

by Anonymousreply 89Last Wednesday at 8:03 AM

R89 = didn't read it.

by Anonymousreply 90Last Wednesday at 8:05 AM

R90 is the sugar tits R77 who is going to attack everyone who disagrees with the article as having not read it. And the bitch has the audacity to cry about "discussion"?

by Anonymousreply 91Last Wednesday at 8:14 AM

I can’t believe this is what politics and, more importantly, our government has been reduced to: a set of personality types and archetypes akin to enneagram and astrology classifications.

Of course, writers such as this one keep things going in that direction not only because it makes them feel so intelligent and superior, but because they get paid to do it.

Bitch, please. Write about something substantive instead of playing fucking name games.

by Anonymousreply 92Last Wednesday at 8:38 AM

There needs to be more and more highlighting of the fact that blue states have most of the populations and pay for the god damned country.

Republicans -particularly in shit red states with no money- have the nerve to be angry and act as though someone is taking something from them. I'm pretty sure the non-white immigrant driving a cab in NYC is paying way more in everything incl. taxes than Jim Bob in KY. And some of those taxes go to Jim Bob, not the other way around.

It's Democrats whose states make up most of the population and most of the money to keep the lights on who should be angry. You have red state senators representing states with no money and populations smaller than a NYC neighborhood, having way more power than they should...and their fucking state legislatures have the nerve to try and make it even HARDER to vote? They already have minority rule. They already get to control money of which they contributed NOTHING.

by Anonymousreply 93Last Wednesday at 8:52 AM

[quote] There needs to be more and more highlighting of the fact that blue states have most of the populations and pay for the god damned country.

This is definitely a substantive issue.

by Anonymousreply 94Last Wednesday at 8:58 AM

The categories are too simplistic. I fit somewhat in #2 except I do intermingle with the rest of the country as well as people different from myself in the cosmopolitan and diverse area where I live.

I do not agree that 1. and 4. are the same, having a host of nieces and nephews in their 20s. They fit in the fourth category and have no respect for the likes of Reagan, Gingrich, or Cruz. They very much follow the rules of what they deem moral behavior, meaning seeing everyone as individual deserving respect and equality regardless of race, sexual orientation, etc, and they are extremely concerned about how humans disrespect our planet, environment, and critters. They are also educated and pursuing meaningful careers.

by Anonymousreply 95Last Wednesday at 9:07 AM

It's Groups 1 and 3 that are the same, not Group 4.

by Anonymousreply 96Last Wednesday at 9:45 AM

4 is the reason America is in shambles

by Anonymousreply 97Last Wednesday at 9:51 AM

4 doesn't have that kind of influence, outside twitter and some universities. It's the complete control of the Republican Party by insane assholes that is causing actual problems in this country.

by Anonymousreply 98Last Wednesday at 9:54 AM


You’re delusional conservative scum.

by Anonymousreply 99Last Wednesday at 10:01 AM

The author is wrong in his summary so won't bother to read the rest. Trump pandered to the religious right but he wasn't their chosen candidate and can't be defined as such. Trump rose due to a growing populist movement that are in direct opposition to both libertarianism, who are very much pro immigration. His #2 is bullshit. They overlap with #4 and use identity politics to their advantage, playing the race or gender card when necessary to eliminate their competition. #2 don't believe in meritocracy. They care only about assuming public policy positions that will make them look good while absolving them of any responsibility. I see some overlap with 1,3, and 4. "It's a private company so they can do whatever they want" has become a leftist talking point.

by Anonymousreply 100Last Wednesday at 10:06 AM

^This article does explain why Never Trumpers feel so at home with modern day Democrats. When it comes to immigration, corporate regulation, and foreign policy, they are on the same page. They probably regard those issues as most important because they may regard social issues as already being lost.

by Anonymousreply 101Last Wednesday at 10:13 AM

R97 is that poster’s first and ONLY post on this entire forum. Right wing troll created a new account.

by Anonymousreply 102Last Wednesday at 10:14 AM

I've been sentient in the U.S. for 60 years and this jibes with my impressions and experiences. It's too bad the educated elites feel sorry for themselves because they aren't MORE wealthy and look down on the laboring classes who suffer in all kinds of ways we don't. I'm a poor, but since I'm in possession of multiple degrees and a lot of experience, I'm able to at least make a living without busting my body up. Did anyone here ever try construction work, homecare or factory jobs? Good God, you're lucky to make it to SS without dying or going nuts in those kinds of work. The educated elites need to get there actual asses out there helping poor people--tutoring, donating, delivering meals, what-the-f-ever. I don't want a dictatorship, and so it's up to us to try to unite people.

by Anonymousreply 103Last Wednesday at 10:20 AM

Define elites r103. If you mean liberal east coast college professors, you are buying into Reaganite framing. If you mean the assholes on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, you are getting closer to the actual elites that run this country.

by Anonymousreply 104Last Wednesday at 10:59 AM

Anyone who think #4 is a bad thing either spent Jan 6 trying to kill people or defended it.

by Anonymousreply 105Last Wednesday at 10:59 AM

It's not so much a bad thing R105 as an illusory thing.

It's a very small subset of Group 2, consisting of a small number of their college and grad-school age children and a small number of academics and journalists from Group 2 as well.

At some point, the student portion of that cohort will start working real jobs and undergo the same transformation their hippie parents and grandparents did when they became yuppies back in the 80s.

OTOH, they are no more or less illusory than Group 1, who more or less consist of the 10 thousand or so people on The Lincoln Project's mailing list.

by Anonymousreply 106Last Wednesday at 11:07 AM

OP You lost me a 3.

by Anonymousreply 107Last Wednesday at 11:18 AM

Are you saying you don't believe #3 exists, R107?

by Anonymousreply 108Last Wednesday at 11:27 AM

R106, not necessarily. It's why Republicans are attempting to enact so many laws to suppress voting and they gerrymander districts to look like crazy straws. They see that demographics are against them. They haven't won the popular vote in what is it now, 8 of 9 elections? Left-leaning politicians represent a greater number of people than the right.

The Senate is not a microcosm of the country. It is a reflection of minority rule. Dems represent millions more than Reps do, so the idea that younger, educated people will suddenly embrace conservatism in old age (as conservatism is defined today - ignorance, uneducated, anti-science, anti-environmental regulations, bigoted, racist) may not happen, particularly because so many of those young, educated people are exposed to a world beyond their provincial towns.

Republicans have white, working class ignoramuses who think all of their problems can be solved by giving the wealthiest tax cuts and the perception that they are viewed as "superior" to the non-whites of every class. Conservatives cannot win on the issues anymore and they know it.

by Anonymousreply 109Last Wednesday at 11:35 AM

None of that is incorrect R109, it just doesn't prove the existence of a sizable Group 4 as distinct from Group 2.

At least not the way Packer describes it which is sort of Wokestan.

Smart America is to the left of Trump America (Real America?) but as Packer notes, we can't continue to assume that a working class Black family has the same concerns and politics as a white Oberlin Gender Studies major from the Main Line of Philadelphia.

by Anonymousreply 110Last Wednesday at 12:19 PM

R109 That is all political theater. There are only two sides that matter. The ruling class and the rest.

[quote] Dems represent millions more than Reps do, so the idea that younger, educated people will suddenly embrace conservatism in old age (as conservatism is defined today - ignorance, uneducated, anti-science, anti-environmental regulations, bigoted, racist) may not happen, particularly because so many of those young, educated people are exposed to a world beyond their provincial towns.

Our educational institutions have become completely corrupted and as we've seen how politicized the Covid reaction was, people are less inclined to believe the science than to believe whatever makes their side looks better. As a whole, conservatives have become more tolerant of LGBT compared to previous generations. This whole talking point that half the country have become aligned with Nazis overnight is just a convenient lie. I still haven't read the article, but I'm willing to bet that the author is less interested in social sciences as he is dictating his own narrative.

by Anonymousreply 111Last Wednesday at 12:30 PM

The fact is the Democrats nominated Joe Biden, and not Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. So much analysis seems to be based on the assumption it didn't. And the truth is I would have voted for Warren and wound up voting for Bernie, but it was better that Biden got the nomination. The Democrats are still a pretty centrist party.

The Republicans on the other hand are absolutely batshit crazy dominated by cunts and morons and assholes and any analysis that doesn't start with that is missing the big picture.

by Anonymousreply 112Last Wednesday at 12:58 PM

I read a book a while back that said much the same, but divided people in two groups, the “2” group in the Atlantic, and everyone else. Ultimatelyc we won’t be divided by race but by brains. Smart successful people off all colors will continue to congregate and offer no example to the rest as to how to live (stable family, out off gratification, don’t have kids you can’t afford), even though doing so would be extremely helpful But, this group won’t tell anyone else how to live; they don’t wish to offend anyone. So, the division will continue to grow.

by Anonymousreply 113Last Wednesday at 12:58 PM

Oh good lord, not the rich are there to set an example for the poor with their amazingly stable lives of trophy wives and constant bullshit. People need money, not role models.

by Anonymousreply 114Last Wednesday at 1:20 PM

This is 1 of the dumbest articles that I've read.

Ronnie, Newt & Ted aren't libertarians in any manner. The Libertarians Party Of America would never endorse any of them for any office. Game over there.

The McCain/ Palin ticket wasn't rejected to the degree this idiot thinks.

The 2008 election was heading in their direction until the 9-29-08 crash happened. McCain was shamed for his "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" statement by the dems, press & talk show hosts. He could never recover from that. Obama's little government experience at the top of a national ticket helped pave the way for Trump doing the same thing 8 years later. Trump (who thought he was entitled to be Bush 1's VP choice over Dan Quayle) could never get picked for the top 2 US positions because of his lack of political experience. The popularity of others in his situation like Perot & Obama helped get him to the WH.

by Anonymousreply 115Last Wednesday at 2:03 PM

^ The final 36 days of the 2008 election swung to the dems who were helped by the market crash & McCain's economic statements.

by Anonymousreply 116Last Wednesday at 2:07 PM

McCain's economic statements were idiotic, but Bush of course had shown that Republican policies suck, that constantly giving money to the rich doesn't actually accomplish anything of any use, and people decided to try something else.

by Anonymousreply 117Last Wednesday at 2:10 PM

R114 Money isn’t enough. People need to be responsible for their lives (part of which is the ability to mange money).

This isn’t about following the rich; it’s about following the brainy. There is a difference. “Rich” could mean some dopey Eric Trump asshole who simply inherited money.

“Brainy” means intelligent people if all backgrounds who are self-made. Sure, some come from money, but no means all. Many will be first gen immigrants.

Brainpower will be the most important commodity.

by Anonymousreply 118Last Wednesday at 2:21 PM

No question that I would fall into Smart America. (East coast, former upper civil service, grad degree from an Ivy). Comfortable, not in the 1% but probably 7%.

I thought his take on Just America's beefs with Smart America were spot on. Constant attacks on people and groups of people who fundamentally agree with them. And these are our children.

As to the comment on former southern Democrats as progressives except for race, I would judge that to be mostly true. Huge support for Roosevelt and the New Deal in the south. Huge support for massive government programs like TVA, the WPA, etc.

by Anonymousreply 119Last Wednesday at 2:22 PM

R114 Young people absolutely do need role models, especially if none exist within their families.

by Anonymousreply 120Last Wednesday at 2:23 PM

R119, do you see a parallel between the complaints the college kids of the 60s had and the complaints of Just America?

Bearing in mind that most of those 1960s hippies turned into yuppies 10 years later.

by Anonymousreply 121Last Wednesday at 2:25 PM

No, only two. White straight Evangelical supremacist racists and the rest of us.

by Anonymousreply 122Last Wednesday at 2:31 PM

R102 and R105 = simpletons

by Anonymousreply 123Last Wednesday at 2:31 PM

I think like others in this thread his typologies are oversimplified and just plain wrong. I remember reading an article once by a historian (Peter Stearns maybe: it’s been years) who made the case for a Cosmopolitan population: educated, urbane, embraces and values diversity, less religion, are international in scope, and more science oriented, favor technology and I think a quiet sense of Patriotism. I think this more aptly defines us. The “other Americans” are less educated, local emphasis, often work poorly paid jobs, are fearful of diversity, and have a far more religious (rather than science) outlook.

by Anonymousreply 124Last Wednesday at 2:46 PM

Good point, R104. I do mean college professors because no one really needs to make $150,000/yr. to teach geology. It's obscene. Being a college prof used to be a respected VOCATION, meaning you did it because you were called to serve. And no college prez needs to make $400,000/yr. like at Cal State Chico, for god's sake, a lousy school in a backwater. But the stock brokers are in an entire different class--the uber-obscene who do absolutely nothing of any worth and make millions. My nephew said "a monkey could do it" and he's a top broker in Paris/London. Betting against your own nation has exactly the result one could expect: everybody loses, i.e. we get someone like Trump. When my partner passes away, which he will do long before me, just because of the age difference, I'm taking a Greyhound to the southern border to volunteer to work with kids. Life is more than accumulating crap.

by Anonymousreply 125Last Wednesday at 2:52 PM

The sectionalism is pretty close to as bad as right before the Civil War. Race is still the critical issue or rather are we going to be a color blind, accepting society or one that condemns, excludes and abuses.

Violence preceded the Civil War. In 1856, Senator Sumner (Abolitionist) criticized South Carolina’s senior senator Butler, Preston Brooks (cousin of Butler) beat with a cane Sumner on the Senate floor. Mobs in Northern cities refused to hand over escaped slaves and beat slave catchers on numerous occasions. Finally, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry Arsenal was a plot to violently end slavery. Brown and his sons had slain a number of pro-slavery men in Kansas back in 1856.

Now here we are with Red state Trumpist crazies not accepting a valid election because they don’t like the results. We have a sullen, ignorant and greedy ex-President who is still scheming to overthrow a legally conducted election. The Republican party besides Mitt Romney and a few others will not stand up to do what is right: instead care only about keeping their jobs in politics. Some of the insurrectionists are starting to say they do not regret their treason. Even worse the racist homophobic far Right is spoiling for a war and are armed to the teeth: all they need is the word from Cheeto Fuhrer and death cometh. I’m seriously thinking of starting to explore some other areas to escape to in case of a “March on Rome.” Yes, I think it is that bad.

by Anonymousreply 126Last Wednesday at 3:00 PM

Talky but very shallow. And he seems to think America is made up only of white people. Weird.

by Anonymousreply 127Last Wednesday at 3:00 PM

I have said this many times before: we have very likely dodged a bullet because Trump is so old and will likely be senile or dead before he can do much damage.

If he was in his 40s or 50s, we'd be truly screwed.

(He is a Cult of Personality type leader and history shows us that those movements fall apart when the leader dies.)

by Anonymousreply 128Last Wednesday at 3:08 PM

He does mention Black and Latino people R127

But only in the context of noting that they don't always vote the way White People expect them to.

by Anonymousreply 129Last Wednesday at 3:09 PM

R125 College Professors have doctoral degrees (BA, MA, Ph.D) ,and many have high student loan debt to pay back. $125k is not that much money if you live in a larger urban area. Moreover besides teaching, they serve in various other campus activities that help to keep the institution certified and lively academically. A college president’s job is 24/7: I wouldn’t want it for $400k.

Second, when Colleges and Universities began to professionalize demanding terminal degrees and scholarly activity (circa 1880s) salaries went up to reflect that you are hiring from the most highly educated 3% of the population. Before that, faculty were often self-taught (read the Law like Lincoln) or had a religious background. Moreover, there were often perks for professors like being provided housing/cleaning/dining.

by Anonymousreply 130Last Wednesday at 3:12 PM

[quote]And he seems to think America is made up only of white people. Weird.

Politicians seem to think the same way, incl. Biden. When they refer to the "working class" being ignored, they actually mean white people - as if other groups don't work.

by Anonymousreply 131Last Wednesday at 3:13 PM

Op, I really enjoyed the writing and found it compelling. I’ll look forward to finding other works by the author.

Thanks for sharing.

by Anonymousreply 132Last Wednesday at 3:32 PM

There is definitely that r121. I think at least part of this is reliving the angst and annoyance of the late 1960s, the Left coming to grips with the New Left. The New Left were certainly annoying as all hell, but some of what they said was true. And some of their impatience was certainly justified. The Old Left, for instance, would never have done shit about gay rights, ever. It wasn't anything they gave a shit about .

by Anonymousreply 133Last Wednesday at 4:04 PM

Here is the US that Reagan took advantage of...

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by Anonymousreply 134Last Wednesday at 4:15 PM

the "Free" americans

by Anonymousreply 135Last Wednesday at 4:26 PM


by Anonymousreply 136Last Wednesday at 6:37 PM

[quote]"It's a private company so they can do whatever they want" has become a leftist talking point.

no, it hasn't, but you're a troll, so who cares

by Anonymousreply 137Last Wednesday at 6:39 PM

I believe the troll was referring to Twitter R137 which provides a curious example where what id traditionally a RIGHT wing talking point, used in reference to say, not having to bake cakes for gay weddings, suddenly becomes an issue when one's Orange Fuhrer is banned and suddenly private companies SHOULD NOT be allowed to ban Orange Fuhrers.

by Anonymousreply 138Last Thursday at 1:50 AM

[quote]The first specifically about the idea that Southern Democrats were historically "progressive" (that single poster).

That's not entirely what I said, R84. You already quoted what I said, then later only half quoted it to remove context. If you really want to know when Southern Democrats were for progressive policies as long as they helped whites, I suggest you start with the Wikipedia article on Southern Democrats, the 1933-1980 section in particular. My guess is that you were just saying random junk so you could respond with "snookums" to people, though.

by Anonymousreply 139Last Thursday at 2:16 AM

A thought provoking article

by Anonymousreply 140Last Thursday at 4:17 AM

Fascinating article.

by Anonymousreply 141Last Thursday at 5:30 AM

the author also wrote this interesting article on american civics and its study

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by Anonymousreply 142Last Thursday at 5:48 AM

All of this seems a long winded way of saying social mobility is broken, which has led to the winners and losers of the new order living in a different reality. Meanwhile identity politics has gifted the young elites a neat thought process that allows them to shout about this without actually giving up any of their privileges.

by Anonymousreply 143Last Thursday at 6:22 AM

pretty much

by Anonymousreply 144Last Thursday at 6:34 AM

Excellent summary R143

by Anonymousreply 145Last Thursday at 7:42 AM

[quote] I believe the troll was referring to Twitter [R137] which provides a curious example where what id traditionally a RIGHT wing talking point, used in reference to say, not having to bake cakes for gay weddings, suddenly becomes an issue when one's Orange Fuhrer is banned and suddenly private companies SHOULD NOT be allowed to ban Orange Fuhrers.

Trump supporters are not libertarians. That's one of the things that caused the Republican party to fracture. It had nothing to do with "racism". Trump wanted fair trade, libertarians want us to compete with China by becoming more like them.

by Anonymousreply 146Last Thursday at 7:56 AM

Great article, R142. Thanks for posting it.

by Anonymousreply 147Last Thursday at 8:36 AM

I love The Atlantic.

by Anonymousreply 148Last Thursday at 8:57 AM

me too

by Anonymousreply 149Last Thursday at 10:00 AM

My Ike was a President for all the people, even colored people who knew their place.

by Anonymousreply 150Last Thursday at 11:35 AM

What about people that don't fall into any of those categories? Middle income earners who attended regular schools, not highly competitive ones, who have everyday mundane careers such as nurses, teachers, accountants, or own small businesses, and live in or close to larger cities and vote Democrat? They're not rich nor are they poor and disenfranchised. Which category do they fall into?

by Anonymousreply 151Last Thursday at 1:25 PM

R151 Nobody cares about them.

by Anonymousreply 152Last Thursday at 1:44 PM

What is People The Author Isn't Aware Exist Because They Are Not On Twitter, R153

by Anonymousreply 153Last Thursday at 2:56 PM

[quote] [R151] Nobody cares about them.

True, no party cares for people who are going to vote for that party no matter what.

by Anonymousreply 154Last Thursday at 3:08 PM

Republicans have poisoned political waters. They are 100% to blame. Seeing some of the trolls who extol the continuing the divide is frustrating. It’s mind numbing the cognitive dissonance these ‘conservatives’ have.

by Anonymousreply 155Last Thursday at 3:11 PM

R155 I can think of several times when Trump offered to meet the Democrats in the middle such as on Police Reform, DACA (remember the talking point, "He's using immigrants as pawns?), background checks, infrastructure, and so on. The Democrats refused to compromise and networks gave huge amounts of airtime to the fringiest of the fringe. Yet somehow only Republicans are to blame? Democrats continue to blame guns for the historic rise in crime which occured during a pandemic when people were locked down. They refuse to condemn all the woke garbage and always resort to the race or gender card when they have no logical argument.

The author of this article has no idea of people outside of his bubble live or think. He's just an opportunist who likes to spin a fantasy narrative that he knows people who similarly lack any common sense will buy wholesale.

[quote] What about people that don't fall into any of those categories? Middle income earners who attended regular schools, not highly competitive ones, who have everyday mundane careers such as nurses, teachers, accountants, or own small businesses, and live in or close to larger cities and vote Democrat? They're not rich nor are they poor and disenfranchised. Which category do they fall into?

Everyone I know who falls into this category used to vote Democrat and voted for Trump in 2020. I've been saying that the middle class is the glue that holds society together, but the Democratic party are only interested in increasing the number of dependents who will vote for them just because.

by Anonymousreply 156Last Thursday at 3:44 PM

Wait which infrastructure week was it where Trump offered to meet the Democrats in the middle? Was it bullshit week number 72 or 143? Can never remember.

Trump didn't give a shit about shit except when it might give him more money personally or somehow enhance the brand and get him through another long lonely day of Daddy never gonna love him.

But hey, thanks for the fairy tale at the end of all the lifelong democrats that were just forced to vote for Trump in the end cause he cares, man, he cares!

by Anonymousreply 157Last Thursday at 3:51 PM

And yes, only Republicans are to blame. Republicans gave up on everything except giving money to rich assholes in the 1980s and they've never looked back.

by Anonymousreply 158Last Thursday at 3:52 PM

Thanks for saying that and you're welcome R132.

by Anonymousreply 159Last Thursday at 4:01 PM

R156, you’re a dumb cunt

by Anonymousreply 160Last Thursday at 5:58 PM
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