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?