May 2, 2017

"Americans of both political parties sense the unraveling of a broadly shared consensus of American identity..."

"... although they cite different reasons for feeling that way. About seven in 10 Republicans and Democrats fear that the United States is losing its national identity.... The two political parties may not share much, but each is increasingly aware that the other has embraced a radically different vision of America’s identity and future."

That's from "The Collapse of American Identity," a NYT op-ed by Robert P. Jones, "the chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, is the author of 'The End of White Christian America.'"

That jumped out at me because I was just talking about the overuse of the idea of "consensus" and, a bit earlier this morning, I was struck by Marine Pen's plying French voters with the idea that "France is... a set of values and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords."

37 comments:

MikeR said...

Actually, pretty good article. The comments illustrate the article very well, too.

gspencer said...

"About seven in 10 Republicans and Democrats fear that the United States is losing its national identity."

Un-ssimilated immigrants would be the greatest contributor.

Especially those immigrants who do not want to assimilate or who willfully refuse to assimilate, having in hand a ready-made societal model with its own legal structure.

Karen said...

From John Fonte's recent op ed at National Review-
" During the Cold War, conservative intellectuals, including Straussians and the brilliant Jesuit priest John Courtney Murray, advanced the concept of America as a “proposition nation” that was in conflict with a rival ideological nation, the Soviet Union. This conception of American identity based primarily on shared ideas took hold on the right. However, the translation of creedal doctrine from professors to politicians was often clumsily done and opened the door to utopian interpretations. Thus we have Paul Ryan, while arguing for “comprehensive immigration reform,” declaring: “America is more than just a country. It’s more than Chicago, or Wisconsin. It’s more than our borders. America is an idea. It’s a very precious idea.” While conservatives embraced the “nation based on ideas” paradigm, the progressives who control America’s universities and schools happily “appropriated” the concept (they never liked all that flag-waving stuff anyway) and filled in the educational content. First, the progressives noted that American “ideals,” like the nation itself, were constantly ”evolving.” Lawrence Levine in The Opening of the American Mind declared that America is “continually in process of happening”; it is a “dynamic becoming.” Michael Walzer wrote that “America is still a radically unfinished society.” Conservatives made a strategic mistake overemphasizing abstract ideological reasoning while downplaying the concrete cultural and emotional aspect of patriotism, while America is the fulfillment of the Enlightenment, “the point is not to celebrate some accomplished Enlightenment,” with its “Declaration of Independence” and “its Federalist Papers and Constitutional debates,” but to see the American project “as an aspiration, an invitation, a commitment to a process that seriously aims to bring about understandings that do not yet exist.” Whereas John Courtney Murray in We Hold These Truths declared that the “first truth” of the “American Proposition” is that we are a “nation under God,” the progressive thinker Richard Rorty called on Americans to embrace the utopian dreams of Walt Whitman and John Dewey. Whitman and Dewey “wanted that utopian America to replace God as narrative of American history as the unfolding of a left-oriented social justice. Conservatives made a strategic mistake overemphasizing abstract ideological reasoning while downplaying the concrete cultural and emotional aspect of patriotism. James Madison himself in Federalist No. 49 warned us that even the most “rational” regime is better off with the “prejudices of the community on its side.” (“Prejudices” in the 18th-century understanding did not have the negative connotation that it does today and was closer to the concept of “sentiments.”) If patriotism is defined only as the fulfillment of “shared” American ideals (even as the nation becomes more polarized), then it will be neutered and devoid of any emotional attachment to national symbols and national stories. I mean symbols and stories such as Washington crossing the Delaware; the building of the transcontinental railroad; the pioneers on the frontier; the entrepreneurs who created the greatest economy the world has ever known; Gettysburg; the moral force of the civil-rights movement; and the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. If this comes to pass, if patriotism is completely divorced from nationalism, then patriotism itself will be hollowed out, an empty shell.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447216/nationalism-patriotism-american-history-conservatives-progressives

n.n said...

My American identity is informed by the charter and organizational documents, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, respectively. An adoption of principles and purpose in service to two parties: the People and our Posterity (from conception).

Bay Area Guy said...

Ya gotta love the NYTimes -- actively doing its part to unravel the 'broadly shared consensus of American identity" and then passively writing about its unraveling.

Here's the broadly shared consensus that I was taught growing up in California in the 70s.

1. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
2. Men work, find a wife, have kids and raise them.
3. Speak english. If you don't know how, then learn.
4. Be nicer and more inclusive to minorities (blacks, mexicans, asians), who basically want the same thing.

The Left has made a few nice additions to "soften" the overly rigid aspects of American culture, but, of course, they've gone way too far. The Left's vision is - a bisexual, multicultural, atheist on a laptop, at Starbucks, drinking cappuccino, living in one of their divorced parent's basement, with a lot of college debt, trying to "save the earth" from Global Warming.

It's not working out too well for those folks who buy that vision.

BDNYC said...

Andrew Jackson will save us from another civil war.

Nonapod said...

I can understand why Republicans feel that the "United States is losing its national identity", but I'm confused as to why Democrats believe that. To me, the Democrats by and large don't seem to be interested in anything to do with the traditional American national identity. As the article points out, they seem to believe in cultural pluralism over any kind of National identity. I imagine the shifting demographics would greatly please them rather than make the feel that they're losing something.
. As far as I can tell, the demographic shift will switch

rhhardin said...

Tom Hank's character in Bridge of Spies points out that it's agreement on the rules that makes you American, the rules being the constitution.

If you're a Muslim or Democrat and somebody draws Mohammad, you'd say he can do that.

Which is what no longer happens.

Hence the fracture. Americans vs strangers in our midst.

Dave D said...

A demi-welfare state where approximately 50% of the citizens pay NO federal income tax and/or are on assistance or do not work would HAVE to have a ~50/50 split in national identity, no?

antiphone said...

Here's the broadly shared consensus that I was taught growing up in California in the 70s.

1. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
2. Men work, find a wife, have kids and raise them.
3. Speak english. If you don't know how, then learn.
4. Be nicer and more inclusive to minorities (blacks, mexicans, asians), who basically want the same thing.


You must have had a very sheltered life.

Bay Area Guy said...

Here's the liberal mindset:

1. Nationalism and homogeneous white male ethnicity is bad (see 1939, Nazi Germany; 1963, Mississippi, USA)

2. Therefore, multiculturalism is good.

3. Therefore, immigration from different countries, including illegal immigration is good.

4. Illegal immigration drives down wages of the working class Americans and increases government spending, but (2) and (3) are much more important, so ignore.

5. Muslims in the US who want to (a) gradually impose Sharia law and/or (b) commit acts of terror, well that's bad. But (2) and (3) are much more important, so ignore.

The Left doesn't believe in American values. They think the land the was stolen, the minorities oppressed, the capitalism rigged, which resulted in ill-gotten riches for rapacious white, Christian males, and their wives and offspring.

As with all effective lies, there are kernels of truth mixed in with these critiques. But, on the whole, these are false visions.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"The Left's vision is - a bisexual, multicultural, atheist on a laptop, at Starbucks, drinking cappuccino, living in one of their divorced parent's basement, with a lot of college debt, trying to "save the earth" from Global Warming."

And that American hipster is no different from his Italian or British or German counterpart, except for the college debt.

The left, while claiming to champion "diversity," is out to create the least diverse, dullest world ever, with all waving the rainbow flag and marching in lockstep conformity.

buwaya said...

Bay Area Guy is right.

And, if I may put in the foreigners two cents in, this is not actually the fault of the immigrants, or not most of them. Back when Bay Area Guy was drawing his points, that was indeed the consensus (there's that bad word again).

What changed is that a long succession of WHITE cultural and intellectual leaders insisted that assimilation was a bad thing, and taught a great number of people to be actively tribal. This is what you get all over the place. What was once uniting is now splitting, and this was the doing of a specific white society and subculture.

David said...

We have forgotten our password. We all know what a pain in the ass that is to fix.

Bay Area Guy said...

"You must have had a very sheltered life."

Very sheltered. It was a Monk-like existence. Thanks for noticing.

hombre said...

The leftists controlling the American education system have been eradicating the American identity for decades. An intelligent 21-year-old friend, who is an excellent student at a nearby university couldn't tell me who Andrew Jackson was and knew nothing about the war of 1812. Without the history, you can't have the identity. She grew up in lefty dominated Washington state.

A huge blow was dealt to our American identity when we elected Barack Obama, who didnt have one and acted accordingly - irrespective of his birthplace.

Sebastian said...

Prog politics has aimed to unravel for decades now, partly for reasons of principle (down with the white patriarchal backward nation), partly for reasons of power (polarize to mobilize a growing demographic). Trump stems the quartering of the body politic, but only partially and temporarily, since he also fuels preexisting prog hatred and mobilization.

What's to be done? It's not clear. Example: for both emotional-patrotic and creedal nationalism, adhering to "the Constitution" has been an article of faith. But such adherence now means nothing: progs will make the Constitution come alive until they get their way and declare it dead, and clever jurists will make it mean anything they damn well want, for example by proclaiming a national right to same-sex marriage as a form of "substantive due process" derived from a nineteenth-century amendment.

I Callahan said...

but each is increasingly aware that the other has embraced a radically different vision of America’s identity and future.

Interesting article, and interesting sentence above. Do they mean radically different visions of America's identity and future from each side? Or different vision from how it once was? Because if it's the latter, Trump voters are just trying to get us back to the values we once had.

Bay Area Guy said...

Let's say in the next 7 to 10 years I get me a few grandkids (keeping fingers crossed).

When they're ready, I'll teach them about:

1. The Revolutionary War
2. The Dec of Independence
3. The Federalist Papers
4. The Anti-Federalist Papers
5. The Constitution
6. The Bill of Rights (contained in the Constitution)
7. The Civil War

And, then a lot of baseball........

I Callahan said...

You must have had a very sheltered life.

This was the norm where I grew up, in Detroit and suburban Detroit. It was also the norm among many people I know or have met from other parts of the country as well.

That said - is it your contention that this was NOT the norm? Or that you didn't live that norm yourself? That said - do you think that's a good or bad thing?

Virgil Hilts said...

May all time favorite video statement of American Identity. I send this to my children every 4th of July (NSFW if you have speakers turned up at work):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7R5A0pg4oN8

Krumhorn said...

I don't think that there are many Republicans who look around and are alarmed that either (i)America is no longer majority white, or (ii) America is less Christian.

I leave that kind of thinking to Democrats who demonstrate every day that tribal behaviors and thinking...identity politics.....is what they are all about on a full-time basis.

Speaking for myself,I look that those who insist that I respect and accept their culture and ask (sotto voce, of course) "if your culture is so wonderful, why is where you came from such a freakin' mess??"

There is nothing that more perfectly illustrates the problems that we currently see than our ballots available in a multitude of languages. Vota Aquí!

Our common culture is rooted in our common language. It is the very characteristic of language that is essential to cultural identity. Ya' feel me, yo?

- Krumhorn

antiphone said...

1. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
2. Men work, find a wife, have kids and raise them.
3. Speak english. If you don't know how, then learn.
4. Be nicer and more inclusive to minorities (blacks, mexicans, asians), who basically want the same thing.

...is it your contention that this was NOT the norm? Or that you didn't live that norm yourself? That said - do you think that's a good or bad thing?


Yes, yes and no. I don't think it's an accurate description of the US in the 70's or even the 50's. It sounds more like a reflection of personal rather than national identity. Going on about how much better the world was when we were young is just an unfortunate part of human nature not proof of a leftist conspiracy.

Angel-Dyne said...

The really interesting thing is that this is not just an American thing; it is pan-Western. It's astonishing to observe exactly the same "diversity", "mulitculturalism", and yes, "nation of immigrants" propaganda now being foisted on European nations of entirely different historical circumstance. It's cartoonish and false even for our own national experience, but if it were found only in the U.S. its sheer cultish creepiness, and destructive aims, would perhaps not be so obvious.

Obvious to some of us, anyway. I can see nothing but zombie-fication, sheer insanity, in the thinkers, politicians, and brain-washed students who mouth nonsense like "France has no culture beyond a set of ideas", or "There's no such thing as 'being English', England has always been a nation of immigrants", or who invoke "European values" to demand that Europeans give up their own patrimonies for a mess of multi-culti pottage.

But apparently a lot of voters across the West aren't much bothered by politicians who stand up and say, "Your nation does not exist, vote for me to lead our non-existent nation, as we go twirling, twirling, twirling into who we are (which has absolutely nothing to do with - the entirely evil and worthless - who were were)!

Crazy times everywhere.

Owen said...

I think Dems are starting to mope about the identity issue --or more accurately they are starting to act as if they might kinda sorta care-- not because it has gotten bad enough that even they notice for reals. I think it is about the votes they aren't getting any more.

Their political concept was that demographics would carry them into power and keep them there without effort. All they had to do was support identity politics and flatter each tribe that it was the real deal. Well, it seems that some tribes aren't buying that BS fast enough, and other tribes are misbehaving badly and costing the Dems votes in blocs like Flyover Blue Collar country that the Dems can't yet afford to lose. So they are working on a new hybridized pitch. Tom Perez and Keith Ellison are scouting the sandlots looking for talent and testing different messages.

Expect a lot more of thIs. Believe it at your peril.

Bob Loblaw said...

The leftists controlling the American education system have been eradicating the American identity for decades. An intelligent 21-year-old friend, who is an excellent student at a nearby university couldn't tell me who Andrew Jackson was and knew nothing about the war of 1812. Without the history, you can't have the identity.

I have noticed this as well. It's like they threw away all the old textbooks and decided to teach from Zinn's A People's History of the United States. My nieces don't know facts, they don't know dates, they don't know names, but they're pretty sure, in a fuzzy sort of way, the US is and always was the Worst Country in the World.

Bay Area Guy said...

Here's a uniquely American experience, I recently had:

I am a moderately, flawed Catholic, attend Church maybe 1 or 2 times/month. Over Easter break, I was on a trip back east to Wash DC.

For Easter, I learned there was a Sunrise service at the Lincoln Memorial, so at dawn, I gathered up the familial troops and went.

What a great experience! This protestant church does it every year, attracts about 6,000. Not a huge crazy crowd, but a nice showing.

Easter with Abe Lincoln -- that's America's "broadly shared consensus" for you.

furious_a said...

I don't think that there are many Republicans who look around and are alarmed that either (i)America is no longer majority white, or (ii) America is less Christian.

The French gave us the Statue of Liberty, and then we built Ellis Island less than a mile away. Then we added the Emma Lazarus poem later as a fundraising gimmick, and left off the last line: "Give me your tired, your poor...but first, some questions."

We're going to need the fresh blood, and certainly lots of little future taxpayers to pay for all the skilled nursing for the Boomers. As long as newcomers and their kids arrive in an orderly fashion, learn the language, assimilate (speak whatever they want at home or market, celebrate whatever New Year's festivals for which they can secure permits) and quit hogging all the Spelling Bee trophies, who cares what they look like or where they worship?

Angel-Dyne said...

Sebastian: What's to be done? It's not clear. Example: for both emotional-patrotic and creedal nationalism, adhering to "the Constitution" has been an article of faith. But such adherence now means nothing: progs will make the Constitution come alive until they get their way and declare it dead, and clever jurists will make it mean anything they damn well want, for example by proclaiming a national right to same-sex marriage as a form of "substantive due process" derived from a nineteenth-century amendment.

That's why there is really no such thing as a "proposition nation", that is, a set of abstract rules with no grounding in a real, live, historical, inherited culture with its myriad unspoken understandings and implicit assumptions about what's what.

That doesn't mean a closed culture which newcomers can't join, and in turn pass on those adopted cultural understandings themselves. But it does mean that there has to be a dominant and confident culture to which newcomers can assimilate. That's why our rhhardin (see above @11:50) is wrong in his oft-stated dictum "that it's agreement on the rules that makes you American, the rules being the constitution". That's second-order. There's a deeper layer here. One has to agree upon what "agreeing upon the rules" means.

I'm not being glib here. What appear to be abstract rules are profoundly culturally bound. Rules abstracted into a document require that the rule-followers possess a shared understanding of what the words in those rules mean. We obviously no longer have a shared cultural understanding of a lot of things - equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. There is always some disagreement within even a shared cultural space about the limits of such concepts. But while the boundaries are undefined and elastic, they are not infinitely elastic, and there has to be some shared, implicit understanding of "nope, don't even think about, we don't do that here". Beyond that the abstractions lose meaning and just become tools to be manipulated by the people who happen to be in power at the moment.

furious_a said...

an excellent student at a nearby university couldn't tell me who Andrew Jackson was and knew nothing about the war of 1812.

We had to learn the words to "The Battle of New Orleans" in 2nd or 3rd grade. I remember Johnny Horton performing it on an old PBS show called "What's New?"

Not many people get the inside joke of Andrew Jackson appearing on the $20 Federal Reserve Note.

Angel-Dyne said...

furious_a: Not many people get the inside joke of Andrew Jackson appearing on the $20 Federal Reserve Note.

Ha. Indeed.

furious_a said...

But it does mean that there has to be a dominant and confident culture to which newcomers can assimilate.

That pre-supposes political and thought leaders, cultural trend-setters, artists, etc who unafraid to defend the culture at which pinnacle they sit. What we have now instead are mau-mau'd university presidents and craven corporate boards cowering before pearl-clutching mobs flogging this week's particular trigger event. Standing up to that nonsense is too cis-normative and however many "-ists" they can cram into their pre-printed placards.

tcrosse said...

Short version: the wrong guy won the election, so the whole shebang is going to hell.

Krumhorn said...

But while the boundaries are undefined and elastic, they are not infinitely elastic, and there has to be some shared, implicit understanding of "nope, don't even think about, we don't do that here". Beyond that the abstractions lose meaning and just become tools to be manipulated by the people who happen to be in power at the moment.

You mean like using the IRS to pound your political opponents?

- Krumhorn

Char Char Binks said...

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, etc. was just a Chevy commercial. Besides, basketball and football were already more popular than baseball by the time the commercials ran, so it was more about nostalgia than actual American preferences. Anyway, baseball sucks IMHO, hot dogs are disgusting (FACT!), and Chevrolets are good cars, but no better than Fords, Buicks, or Volkswagens.

True American values are about the balance of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, freedom, fairness, and brotherhood, to put in American terms what the French later called liberté, égalité, fraternité . Yes, they got that from us, and not the other way around; last time I looked in the dictionary, 1776 came before 1789.

I like apple pie.

Paco Wové said...

"Short version: the wrong guy won the election, so the whole shebang is going to hell."

That may be true for this exact instance of expression, but the idea that the left and right have ever-more-irreconcilable ideas of how this country should be ordered and run has been around for a while (it occurred to me about 5 or 6 years ago, for example).

mockturtle said...

Not many people get the inside joke of Andrew Jackson appearing on the $20 Federal Reserve Note.

He probably turned in his grave when it was first issued.