Apr 25·edited Apr 25Liked by Spike Gillespie

Similarly obsessed with this topic. Two great essays adjacent / on it in the Atlantic recently (if it paywalls you lmk and I can email? you the text. Fair use.



From Packer:

"The Four Americas," an essay in July / August 2021 issue of The Atlantic adapted from George Packer’s new book, Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal.

Posits that driven by the narrowing of opportunity for almost all Americans, the hollowing out of the middle class, the US has split into four different factions, each centered on a key American value, but withdrawn into a too-extreme, too-tribalized version of that value:

Free America

Real America

Smart America

Just America

Packer writes "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."

And "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."

In particular, with regard to Smart America and Just America, he writes "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."


"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."

p.s. Subscribed

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Mar 1Liked by Spike Gillespie

Love all of this!!!

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Love this! I was rabidly left in my earlier years too and am now solidly on the side of nuance. Can't stand the polarized thinking that has divided the country and left little room for reasoned debate.

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Hi, Spike. It's been a minute! Glad to find you here! I couldn't be more aligned with the general tone and perspectives of this post. Have been engaged in versions of this conversation, quietly and among fellow Gen X libs, for a bit now. I'm feeling we need to be more-emboldened to discuss and push-back against some of the hard-left pressure tactics you describe so well here. This was a needed read and I'm ready to jump into listening to the Witch Trials as early as today, so I appreciate the prompt. All a longer way of saying: thank you.

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Excellent piece!

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