There are 4 Americas. Agree or Disagree?

It’s a long read, but worth it, as it makes you think. Packer’s thesis is that there are 4 distinct Americas.

“Free America” - They believe that society advances only by the unencumbered individual, and need to be free of regulation, too much taxes, and a social safety net…think of the Libertarian movement, Ron Paul, the Koch brothers. Their economic theory has been trounced in recent decades. Their peak was the Reagan era, and it’s been down ever since. Their “moment” arose out of the 70’s and stagflation. But since 2000, their economic views have been shown to be lacking.

“Smart America” - They are open to the world, want free trade, welcoming of diversity, like to travel, and believe the way to get ahead is by education, development of expertise, and meritocracy. Like Free America, they buy into free trade and capitalism as the main engine to get ahead. They are OK with a social safety net, and things like Affirmative Action, to help groups that have been behind. But they don’t understand patriotism and have a blind spot on cultural things that bother some of the other Americas. And their belief in Meritocracy hasn’t worked out like they want, as many people are locked out of higher education, due to cost. Think of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and the top 10%.

“Real America” - They are mostly small-town and rural, in flyover country. They have seen their towns’ industries hollowed out by outsourcing and trade agreements. They don’t like immigration and diversity. They don’t want government programs to help the shiftless underclass. They think that Free America has sold them out, and that Smart America looks down on them. They are often evangelical in religion, and mesh religion and politics. And Trump speaks their language. It doesn’t matter what he does. It doesn’t matter that he’s not a real Christian. It only matters that he hates the same people they hate, and that he doesn’t care what Smart America or Just America thinks. Think MAGA and White Nationalists.

“Just America” - This is driven by things like the Black Lives Matter Movement. They think that American society is systemically set up to keep people like them down, due to racism, homophobia, and hatred of brown people. It’s all been a bit White Supremacy thing from day one, and continues to this day. They also hate what big corporations have done. They want equity. Think BLM, Bernie Bros, etc.

Politically, there’s an alliance between Real and Free America, and another alliance between Smart and Just America. How does this end?

Do you agree with Packer’s thesis?

No. The United States is a huge and complex organism, perhaps more so than many countries because of the mix of cultures. Once you start to divide it, you might as well not stop until you have one America for each individual in it.

As for this particular attempt, I can find things I can agree with in at least three of those boxes. Which America do I go in? That’s why I find these attempts at dividing by category pretty much a non-starter.

Doesn’t match my personal experience, either. Everyone I know fits into one of two categories:

  • Some blend of Free/Smart/Just, with only minor variations in the weighting.
  • Trump supporters. And often enough not living in rural America.

I don’t see how there’s any genuine alliance between Free/Real. Trump is an authoritarian. Of course, many who call themselves libertarians are really nothing of the sort. But that just means you can’t trust their self-categorization.

I don’t know enough to judge the validity of OP’s premise but there have been at least two books with a similar idea:

The Nine Nations of North America

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

People have been doing this for decades. Joel Garreau’s The Nine Nations of North America appeared in 1981 and there have been dozens since.

Of course, everyone should have learned in high school that the U.S. has been divided into regions, types, attitudes, cultures, and any other criterion you want to push since before it was the U.S. Any article with even a modicum of sanity is valid. The only reason to read them is to see if they gave any insight to the divides that isn’t already obvious to everyone sentient.

I’ll probably get around to Packer’s eventually, since I read The Atlantic. But it will have to hook me really quick to make me read to the end.

ninjaed by dorvann

If so, they should also have simultaneously learned that those supposed dividing lines are always shifting through time both in what positions are ascribed to whom and geographically, and that there have always been large numbers of people who subscribe to a mix of ‘some but not all of category A through whatever, plus some but not all of each of those other 6’, and that there have always been few people who fit neatly, all of their lives, into any one of the categories.

Why would you label the group most detached from reality, “Real America”?

Because that’s how they think of themselves? Just like Just America thinks they’re working for justice, not merely for advantage for themselves.

A secondary reason is the other possible names for that crowd almost can’t help but be pejorative: “Left-behind America”? “Reactionary America”? “Pig-ignorant Propaganda-besotted RW Frothing Traitorous America”? Not nice names any of them. Perhaps “Rose-colored traditional (all white) America”?

Oh please, no.
You lot get twisted in way too many knots dividing the country into two blocs as it is.
That there exist 4 distinct Americas (or 9 or 11 or whatever) is asinine.

The OP seeks sanctification that they are one of the “Good Guys” TM, is identifiably wearing one of those big white hats and has God firmly in his corner.

Courtesy of Karim Douieb

The names of the groups are how they each see themselves. I think America is obviously in decline and that a managed dissolution is preferable to collapse which is where we are heading.

It’s how the groups see themselves. That’s how he’s labeling them. I didn’t come up with the label, and Packer is describing the way these groups see themselves. He then rips each one of them a new one, in one way or another.

As I said, I think it’s worth the read. I don’t agree with every single thing he’s saying. But it made me think about where I land in this.

I’ll read the article later, but I’m of the opinion that there are basically 2 americas.

One side believes in concepts like egalitarianism and places little value on most forms of social identity (race, religion, nationality). They generally score low in social dominance orientation and authoritarianism. Generally believe in concepts like democracy, rule of law, feminism, etc. Tend to be more urban. Generally just want a working society and don’t care about identity politics.

Other side believes in social hierarchies. One race, religion, nationality, gender, etc over the other. Tend to be more rural. Higher in authoritarianism, threat assessment and social dominance. Value identity politics most of all. Feel that their sense of identity based on their race, religion, gender, nationality, philosophy, etc confers legitimacy and privileges that other groups do not have.

In a lot of ways whats happening in the US seems to mimic whats happening in a lot of muslim nations. On one hand you have the reformists and moderates who want democracy, feminism, rule of law, a functioning technological society. On the other side you have groups who want purity based on religion, race and nationality. They generally reject democracy as a tool that leads to defilement.

This division between urban and rural types is happening all over the world too. I think Le Pen won the rural parts of France and lost the urban parts. In the UK, the urban parts voted against brexit and the rural parts voted for it. Same happens with the support of populist right wing leaders in Poland, Hungary, Turkey, etc.

Not quite as simplistic as that, but the overarching point (that similar potential fractures have opened up in the UK, are different from what we previously thought of as the sociopolitical fundamentals, and seem to be deeper and stronger) is quite right. It seems to be a particularly English issue (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own divides, of course, which may yet break up the UK - and leave the English still grappling with this).

I think only Just-America and Real-America are as clear-cut and simple as Packer says. I don’t think Free-America or Smart-America really exist as much; they are far blurrier groups.

It’s not a terrible classification as these things go. Of course it is an oversimplification but the question is whether it generates any insight and I think it does.

One way of thinking about is that Just and Real are more grassroots categories and Free and Smart are more elite categories. The Republican party used to be a coalition of Free and Real but today the Real has become dominant and many of the Free have become Never-Trumpers. The result is the paranoid,authoritarian rabble that you see today.

In the Democratic party, the Smart still remain in control but are on the defensive against the rising Just who often push the party in foolish directions like “defund the police” and reparations.

(emphasis added) I dunno about that – I’d say it places forms of social identity on a different value axis – not that they “do not care” for them.

Which is part of the issue in all these taxonomies: there is not one discrete set of coordinates that contain them, but the general feeling is that “two” is not sufficient to account for what’s out there.

It’s tough to tell the difference between “real” and “free”. Too many of both are just Racist America: They sometimes couch their arguments as “People should be free to own slaves”, and sometimes couch them as “I want all black people to be gone, just like it used to be”, but the underlying cause is the same. Often, it’s even the same individuals using different arguments in different circumstances.

And the ones who aren’t racist, it’s often because instead of splitting people up into the categories of “whites” and “blacks”, they instead use the categories of “me” and “everyone else”.

I too read the article, but my same takeaways have already been posted by others in this thread. I have lived in the reddest of redneck Southwest, and in the bluest part of the Pacific Northwest. The dry-country Westerners proved true to form: they wouldn’t trust you a stranger further than they could throw him; but once they got to know you, you’re accepted all the way. Last year: one false move and they would have shot you on sight; this year you’re amazed at how they see their own best interests as one and the same as yours. Sadly, you also have to share their bigotries to be admitted. The rainy Northwesterners were the opposite: Firm convictions against giving or taking offense, and embracing your right to be different, even quirky. But friendships only went so far. Your problems are never going to be seen as anything effecting them beyond superficial well-wishing, or that they would go out for their way to ameliorate. In fact, if you lose you job or have troubles in the home, they back away like you’re contagious. Note: in each group there were individuals who had the best traits and none of the worst. Those were the rare saints.

I’ve lived in the Southeast my entire life, and consider myself to have been raised in an environment that was a mix of Smart and Real. My family pushed me to believe in meritocracy, get an education, establish skills, and thereby reap the rewards of a good career, don’t worry about anything else other than taking care of my own house, etc. They also raised me with some of the same cultural outlook as most of the South. My politics evolved from this as a Republican, with an orientation toward what Smart America values. But I’ve come to see that Real America doesn’t represent where I’m at anymore. I’m probably a mix of Smart and Just at this point, although I think they both have their issues and failings. This now puts me in the Democratic camp.