The Atlantic: How America Fractured Into Four Parts

George Packer has a thought provoking new article in The Atlantic which is adapted from his new book, Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal. It is worth the time to read because Packer’s analysis nicely dovetails with topics and themes which we discuss all the time on this website.

The Atlantic:

“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. …

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 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. …

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. …

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 racismwhite supremacywhite privilegeanti-Blacknessmarginalized communitiesdecolonization, 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. …

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 TimesPoetry magazineGeorgetown 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. …”

Packer divides the country into four distinct social classes with four competing national narratives: Free America, Real America, Smart America and Just America. In my view, two of these groups are unlike the others and one in particular is distinct from the rest.

“Free America” is the small business bourgeoisie and represents White middle class conservatives and libertarians. As Baseball Crank would be the first to point out, these people have always been associated with the Republican Party since its origins in the mid-19th century and can be traced further back to the founding of the Republic through the Whigs and the Federalists. We’ve always had the enterprisers. In the 19th century, these people were dominant and the government was tiny and aside from tariffs the Victorian economy was almost completely unfettered. They suffered a tremendous blow to their worldview in the Great Depression, but gradually recovered in the late 20th century. The True Cons or enterprisers have always sought to overturn the New Deal and return the country to the Gilded Age which was their golden age. You could say their worldview is crude, vacuous, materialistic and atomizing and generates enormous and destabilizing levels of income inequality, but that has always been true.

“Real America” is the Heartland working class or the White working class or what Angelo M. Codevilla once called the Country Class. They are overwhelmingly White people without college degrees who live in rural areas, small towns and working class suburbs all over the country, but particularly in the South, Midwest and Far West. They tend to be patriotic workers who are evangelical Protestants or Catholics. It is the White people who aren’t small business owners or educated professionals who you encounter outside virtually all college towns and metropolitan areas. These people are also utterly American and can trace their roots back through the Democratic Party before Bill Clinton to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. They were FDR’s base and the backbone of the New Deal coalition. Donald Trump wasn’t a “fascist” and there is nothing foreign about populism or nationalism both of which are grounded in the Jeffersonian tradition. This country has experienced multiple waves of populism which always erupt whenever the ruling class is perceived as being arrogant and out of touch with the common people.

It is true that Real America has been hollowed out by the ideology and policy agenda of Free America which has dominated the Republican Party, but again this is nothing new. The same was true in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The Gilded Age ended in a populist backlash and insurgent movement which captured control of the Democratic Party which is remarkably similar to our own times. Virtually all of the things which have been said about Donald Trump were said of William Jennings Bryan.

“Smart America” are the Democrat Independent Liberal Elites (DILEs) or the professional bourgeoisie or the professional managerial class (PMCs) who live in large metropolitan areas and their wealthy suburbs. They are affluent White people with college degrees who have modernist and cosmopolitan values who were the base of progressive liberalism. These people can trace their lineage back to the Progressive movement of the early 20th century. They slowly gravitated to the Democratic Party of FDR from the origin in the Republican Party of his cousin Theodore Roosevelt. Since the JFK presidency, PMCs have been consolidating inside the Democratic Party. The courtship of PMCs by the Democrats has reached a fever pitch since the Clinton presidency and accelerated even further during the Trump presidency. While the PMC can trace their origins as a social class to the Progressive era, the marriage of the PMC with modernism occurred during the 1920s and with cosmopolitanism in the 1930s and 1940s and with antiracism in the 1940s and 1950s. The PMC have gradually become more powerful and influential since the 1920s. They were still a tiny share of the population when FDR was president, but have greatly expanded since World War II as more and more Whites have been funneled into higher education. The divide between “Smart America” and “Real America” and “Free America” originated with the Young Intellectuals around World War I and can be traced back to the 1920s when Sinclair Lewis published Babbitt in 1922 and when H.L. Mencken ridiculed William Jennings Bryan in his coverage of the Scopes Trial. This rift between cosmopolitans / modernists and traditionalists / conservatives, which didn’t really exist in the 19th century, has been steadily widening since the 1920s and has become the axis that now divides our politics. The country is now more deeply divided than it was in the Civil War.

“Just America” isn’t a distinct social class. This group isn’t like the other three groups. It doesn’t have deep roots in American history like “Free America” or “Real America.” Instead, it is a generational divide between “Smart America” or PMCs or the professional bourgeoisie and their spoiled brat, college educated Millennial children some of whom have succeeded while many others are downwardly mobile and live in bohemian neighborhoods in big metro areas like Portland. Michael Lind has nicknamed them the Hub City Riot Ninjas. They are defined by their rejection of liberalism and their embrace of woke supremacy which as George Packer explains is rooted in foreign ideologies like critical theory and postmodernism. Whereas the so-called “far right” or the populist Right is a force that is deeply American and is reasserting very old beliefs about race, culture and gender and the limits of liberty which only became unfashionable due to the rise of the PMC in the late 20th century, the “far left” or woke people is deeply anti-American.

The “far right” venerates and defends monuments of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson because it is drawn from “Real America” and is ultimately rooted in the republican tradition and the most settled and deeply rooted swath of the population. America’s traditional identity – White (in race), Anglo-Saxon (in culture, Christian (in religion), and liberal republican (in ideology) is rejected by “Smart America” and even more so by the brats who are their woke spawn. As the PMC emerged as a distinct social class and grew in power and influence in the post-World War II era, their first move was to reject race as a pillar of American identity. By the late 20th century, they had rejected Christianity and English culture in favor of multiculturalism, which left only liberalism as a source of national unity. The logical next step for their children or “Just America” was to reject liberalism too on the grounds of antiracism.

What does “Just America” believe in? It believes in the fashionable new version of antiracism which is grounded in critical theory and postmodernism. It still believes in modernism which is why it hates and seeks to destroy everything traditional like historic monuments which glorify the evil past. It believes in cosmopolitanism and instinctively favors foreigners and aliens over natives. It definitely does not believe in liberalism. There is nothing that anchors these people either to the past or their fellow citizens. It was completely abolished by all the garbage which they were taught in the public schools and universities.

Where does this leave the country? Bitterly polarized with a hopelessly dysfunctional government and burdened with illegitimate institutions in the earliest stages of a confrontation with Wokeism. It is worth noting that one of the major players in this coming showdown which is everyone who doesn’t really fall into one of these categories was omitted like an afterthought.

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  1. “How America Fractured Into Four Parts”

    The whole premise is wrong, because we were never ‘one part’, not even when the country, 3 centuries ago, was mostly Anglo.

    No, the notion that we were ever ‘one’ was just an illusion the Mainstream Media tried to create in the early decades of television.

  2. “Smart America”

    What a name. They hijacked richest and most powerful Empire in the history and run it to the ground in barely 20 years. This is not “Smart America” but “Dumbest Country in the Entire History”

    • You beat me to it.

      Yes, I too am sick of seeing these god damned race traitor bastards described (usually self-described) as the “cognitive elite” just because they’ve got expensive toilet paper diplomas from brainwashing mills “proving” their “brilliance”. Many only got in as “legacy” admissions; shit, even nigger retards are allowed to graduate from (((Ivy League))) skools now.

      The proof of the pudding is in the eating – and the pudding these fools have made of what was once America is a sickening, rotten gob of filth.

    • What other country in history spent decades building up its greatest adversary? The Chinese must be shaking their heads at us.

    • Smart America would relish Idiocracy- because at least it’s multiculti and equitable…..

      Equitably STUPID.

  3. The “Party Swyp” already happened with Bill Clinton, though and the “Democratic Leadership Council”. Also, all the crazy ideas of the woketards already circulated within Academia as early as the 1980s.

  4. Within “Real America” we can also distinguish between the instinctual majority and the conscious edge. What makes us “radical” is that we are aware that our identity is White Anglo-Saxon Christian from the old colonial stock. And we actively embrace this. That would have made us normal in an older age. Today, it makes us the radical Right. Most of our fellow countrymen are less conscious of this identity but pick up on it instinctually. Our cosmopolitan and non-White enemies are aware of our identity just as well as we are but they actively oppose it.

  5. @ John brown, thee spiritual godfather of ” wokeism”, and his Republican party, thee catalyst of this Satanic doctrine then, as thee marxist democratic party is now and we all know what followed mr.brown, therefore , we may assume , what lies before thee people of this day and age, I myself am under no illusion of whats coming.

  6. What about the blacks? They are another whole different thing using the second two classes to fulfill their needs. Then all the foreigners? They don’t fit in either?

  7. Neocons have nothing to offer, so they must pretend that woke mobs in university cities are a huge threat to blue collar flyover workers.

  8. Fascism is looking pretty good to me. I’m in the heartland working class category.

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