It doesn’t look all that mysterious to me.
The most bitter divide is within White America. It is cultural, not economic. It is a rural vs. urban geographic division. The rift also opened up and has been steadily widening since the 1920s. It is rooted in the rise of the professional managerial class and their embrace of modernist values.
“A big deal, indeed. But also a puzzle: If this is a 21st century version of 19th century disunion, shouldn’t it be more obvious what the war, at bottom, is all about? …
The more the vitriol has risen the less consensus there is about the origins of anger. To the contrary, there is something closer to an establishment consensus that the search for root cause is folly — the Trump phenomenon defies explanation, and the threat posed by his demagoguery makes speculation about its origins an irrelevant distraction.
Are you starting 2022 in an optimistic mood? You might take solace in the argument that it’s hard to have a real civil war without a real cause — a great question that will be resolved by the outcome. …”
A century ago, the PMC as an emerging social class was small. The number of White Americans who were college educated urbanites with modernist values was a tiny fraction of what they are today. You could say one of the most important stories of the last century was the growth of this class, their dominance of the mass media and American culture and their concentration inside the Democratic Party.
The so-called “mainstream” as it exists today did not exist until the 1920s. Its values were pioneered by the old cultural rebels against Victorianism like H.L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis. The term itself didn’t really gain traction until the 1950s which is when this class of people became dominant with the spread of television. American culture wasn’t always dominated by a handful of metropolitan elites based in New York, Los Angeles and DC. PMCs also haven’t always dominated both political parties which was true of the Democrats and GOP in the late 20th century until Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election.
The real issue here is that PMCs as our dominant social class have been faltering for a long time. Their highwater mark passed decades ago in the 1960s and early 1970s when they pushed Nixon out as president. Distrust of these people and cultural division has been steadily rising since the 1970s. Trust in institutions which are dominated by PMCs has utterly collapsed. The “mainstream media” no longer has any buy in from the American Right which is incapable of enforcing “mainstream” norms.
The best way to think about it is taking a long view of American cultural history. We had the Victorian era which only became obvious in retrospect and which lasted from the early 19th century until around World War I. America went through a turbulent cultural revolution in the 1920s when modernist values arrived from Western Europe and became the new “mainstream.” Modernist values hit a tipping point in the 1960s and have become more pervasive since then leading to our current social cleavages.
So, if you think about it, the “mainstream” is really quite old. It is past its expiration date like Joe Biden. Just like the Victorians before them in the wake of World War I, the current political and cultural establishment has become as sanctimonious and repressive as Woodrow Wilson. Think of it as a wave that roared out of New York City in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s across the country and which is just as rapidly receding in the 2010s and 2020s. No one here gives a shit anymore about what New York media elites think in 2022. In fact, Florida is a larger state than New York now. New York City is a declining dump and no one should be in the least bit surprised that its cultural grip on the country is going the way of Boston’s before it.
It is “1/6” in the Acela Corridor. The faithful who live there are watching Joe Biden, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, etc. in their shriveling media bubble. It is just another day in January here in the Deep South.