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What really divides America The Midterms aren't a battle between good and evil

Don't worry about MAGA maniacs (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Don't worry about MAGA maniacs (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)


October 3, 2022   5 mins

Reading the mainstream media, one would be forgiven for believing that the upcoming midterms are part of a Manichaean struggle for the soul of democracy, pitting righteous progressives against the authoritarian “ultra-MAGA” hordes. The truth is nothing of the sort. Even today, the vast majority of Americans are moderate and pragmatic, with fewer than 20% combined for those identifying as either “very conservative” or “very liberal”. The apocalyptic ideological struggle envisioned by the country’s elites has little to do with how most Americans actually live and think. For most people, it is not ideology but the powerful forces of class, race, and geography that determine their political allegiances — and how they will vote come November.

Of course, it is the business of both party elites — and their media allies — to make the country seem more divided than it is. To avoid talking about the lousy economy, Democrats have sought to make the election about abortion and the alleged “threat to democracy” posed by “extremist” Republicans. But recent polls suggest that voters are still more concerned with economic issues than abortion. The warnings about extremism, meanwhile, are tough to take seriously, given that Democrats spent some $53 million to boost far-Right candidates in Republican primaries.

Republicans are contributing to the problem in their own way, too. Rather than offering any substantive governing vision of their own, they assume that voters will be repelled by unpopular progressive policies such as defunding the police, encouraging nearly unlimited illegal immigration, and promoting sexual and gender “fluidity” to schoolchildren. They ignore, of course, the fact that their own embrace of fundamentalist morality on abortion is also widely rejected by the populace. And even Right-leaning voters may doubt the sanity of some of the GOP’s eccentric candidates this November.

In short, both major parties stoke polarisation, the primary beneficiaries of which are those parties’ own political machines. But most Americans broadly want the same things: safety, economic security, a post-pandemic return to normalcy, and an end to dependence on China. Their divisions are based not so much on ideology but on the real circumstances of their everyday life.

The most critical, yet least appreciated, of these circumstances is class. America has long been celebrated as the “land of opportunity”, yet for working and middle-class people in particular, opportunity is increasingly to come by. With inflation elevated and a recession seemingly on the horizon, pocketbook issues are likely to become even more important in the coming months. According to a NBC News poll, for instance, nearly two-thirds of Americans say their pay check is falling behind the cost of living, and the Republicans hold a 19-point advantage over the Democrats on the economy.

A downturn could also benefit the Left eventually. As the American Prospect points out, proletarianised members of the middle class are increasingly shopping at the dollar stores that formerly served working and welfare populations. Labour, a critical component of the Democratic coalition, could be on the verge of a generational surge, with unionisation spreading to fast food retailers, Amazon warehouses, and Starbucks.

To take advantage of a resurgent labour movement, however, Democrats will have to move away from what Democratic strategist James Carville scathingly calls  “faculty lounge politics”: namely, their obsession with gender, race, and especially climate. For instance, by demanding “net zero” emissions on a tight deadline, without developing the natural gas and nuclear production needed to meet the country’s energy needs, progressives run the risk of inadvertently undermining the American economy. Ill-advised green policies will be particularly devastating for the once heavily Democratic workers involved in material production sectors like energy, agriculture, manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics.

To win in the coming election and beyond, Democrats need to focus instead on basic economic concerns such as higher wages, affordable housing, and improved education. They also need to address the roughly half of all small businesses reporting that inflation could force them into bankruptcy. Some progressives believe that climate change will doom the Republicans, but this is wishful thinking. According to Gallup, barely 3% of voters name environmental issues as their top concern.

Racial divides are also important — though not in the way that media hysterics about “white supremacy” would lead you to believe. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s decision to fly undocumented immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard was undoubtedly a political stunt, and one arguably in poor taste. But it succeeded in its main goal: highlighting the enormous divide between the border states affected by illegal immigration and the bastions of white progressivism who tend to favour it.

Under Biden, the Democrats have essentially embraced “open borders” — illegal crossings are at record levels, and few of the migrants who make it across the border are ever required to leave. This policy reflects a deep-seated belief among elite Democrats that a more diverse, less white population works to their political favour. Whether they are right to think so, however, is far from clear. Black people still overwhelmingly back the Democrats, but Asians (the fastest-growing minority) and Latinos (the largest) are more evenly divided, and have been drifting toward the Republicans in recent years.

Here, too, class is a key factor. Many middle and upper-class minorities are on board with the Democrats’ anti-racist agenda. But many working-class Hispanics and Asians have more basic concerns. After all,  notes former Democratic Strategist Ruy Teixiera, these are the people most affected by inflation, rising crime, poor schools, and threats to their livelihoods posed by draconian green policies.

Culture too plays a role. Immigrants, according to one recent survey, are twice as conservative in their social views than the general public and much more so than second generation populations of their own ethnicity. Like most Americans, they largely reject the identity politics central to the current Democratic belief system. Immigrants and other minorities also tend to be both more religious than whites; new sex education standards have provoked opposition from the Latino, Asian, African American and Muslim communities.

The final dividing line is geography, always a critical factor in American politics. For decades, the country seemed to become dominated by the great metropolitan areas of the coasts, with their tech and finance-led economies. But even before the pandemic, the coastal centres were losing their demographic and economic momentum and seeing their political influence fade. In 1960, for example, New York boasted more electoral votes than Texas and Florida combined. Today, both have more electoral votes than the Empire State. Last year, New York, California, and Illinois lost more people to outmigration than any other states. The greatest gains were in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina. These states are high-growth, fertile, and lean toward the GOP.

Likewise, regional trends suggest that elections will be decided in lower density areas; suburbs alone are  home to at least 40% of all House seats. Some of these voters may be refugees from blue areas who still favour the Democrats. But lower-density areas, which also tend to have the highest fertility rates, tend to be dominated by family concerns like inflation, public education and safety, issues that for now favour Republicans.

Put the battle between Good and Evil to one side. It is these three factors — class, race, geography — that will shape the outcome of the midterms, whatever the media says. The endless kabuki theatre pitting Trump and his minions against Democrats may delight and enrage America’s elites — but for the American people, it is still material concerns that matter.


Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

At a surface level, it’s easy to say “most Americans want the same things”, but this masks core foundational disagreements. Societies with broad philosophical agreement don’t argue about the meaning of such fundamental terms as “man”, “woman”, “family”, or “baby”. Functional societies agree on these things because they’re so foundational to civilization that disagreement tends to make your society implode.
Our disagreements are metaphysical. I could ask you just a few questions about metaphysics and philosophy and likely predict 90% of your political positions:

  • 1) What is man? Is man purposefully and uniquely created, or is he an ape who just got smart?
  • 2) Does reality exist? Is what we perceive as “the real world” actually an objective thing, or does our language and description of it actually create it?
  • 3) What duty does man owe to his fellow citizen and to his fellow man in general?

These questions are at the base of what we call “culture.” Functional societies broadly agree on these things, which means they agree on “the common good”. (I don’t mean across societies — a Hungarian and an Iranian would disagree greatly about “the common good” but most would agree with their own countrymen.) Such societies are able to focus on the “means” to achieve those ends that everyone broadly agrees on. We used to have this in America; we lost it between 1900-1980.

Societies that do not agree on these questions are multi-cultural. We think of multi-culturalism as Spanish billboards and ethnic food, but it goes much deeper. You may be thrilled to have a Halal grocery store for Middle Eastern spices, but I doubt you would be thrilled if your city councilmen started implementing Islamic law. (Ask the French how this works.) Disagreements like this are about “what is the common good”, and they are really not solvable. Societies can survive intense disagreements about “means”, but disagreements about “ends” are often fatal. The last time we had a fundamental disagreement about the nature of man in America was in 1860.

It would be nice to believe that the culture wars are ginned up by elites and largely ignored by the masses. However, this just isn’t the case. I do agree with the author though that the Left’s recent culture warfare is really just the old class warfare in a new suit.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Maybe there never was such a thing as America, and so there could never be agreement about what it was. It was always an idea riven with tensions, floundering in reality. constantly recreating itself, getting more extreme with every recreation. Always referring back to the past as if there was nothing ahead. What exactly, if not now, was American culture? Looking back it seems to have been a free-for-all party, all high optimism and immediate gratification, anything was possible, and even if it wasn’t always like that at times it could be again. But it won’t be. Maybe as an idea it was just too broad and spread to thin to accomodate it’s aspirations. Or maybe it’s just a pumped up copy of other, smaller successes, always expanded by its own glorious idea of itself.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

“Maybe there never was such a thing as America, and so there could never be agreement about what it was.”
Maybe there was never a Constitution.
All sorts of fantasies are possible when you abandon objective reality.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

I understand the point you’re trying to make, but does that really define America? And if it did, then why the problems?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

This, completely. There never was a completely American culture, and that is partly why America worked at all. Europe was filled with ancient cultures that had been fighting over land and power since the fall of the Roman Empire. America had none of this, so a thrown together mishmash of nebulous ideas like freedom, equality, and progress, combined with the elevation of the founding fathers to near mythic status, could pass for an actual culture. The irony is that now America is actually getting older and something like a traditional culture is asserting itself. It is still not much of a culture by historic standards, but its resistance to further change proves its existence. This culture, centered in rural America, resists the tendency of America to reinvent itself every few decades based on political expediency, causing modern America to begin to resemble, politically anyway, a third world nation where governmental attempts to modernize are met with stark resistance and national governments exercise considerably less control over the population outside major population centers.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

“something like a traditional culture is asserting itself. It is still not much of a culture by historic standards, but its resistance to further change proves its existence. “

Thanks for contributing an interesting observation. Then it may not be an an exaggeration to say that America is involved in a revolution bigger than their first.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

It is not an exaggeration, nor is it limited to America. The struggle between local cultures and neoliberal globalism, with its profit driven need to unify the entire world in a single bland and unthreatening individualism is playing out in different ways all over the world. In Europe, it is barely noticed, because the dynamic of local cultures fighting against distant and detached ruling bodies is nothing new. In the Middle East, it generally takes the form of autocrats trying to suppress and/or ameliorate a public that is openly hostile to modernity. In other places, like Afghanistan, it looks like a failed state where the “legitimate” government has basically no authority beyond the major population centers. The Chinese approach, which is basically Nazism without Hitler, appears superficially successful because it unapologetically harnesses traditional (Han Chinese) culture and brutally suppresses others (Uyghurs, Tibet, etc.).

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Disagree. We had one, all you have to do is visit Williamsburg Va to see it, but alas now you have to sidestep the woke stuff.

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

It was a country built upon English common law and cultural tradition that added in different aspects of various European cultures as it grew, but the underlying base remained until recently.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

YES! DEFINITELY!

WA Shanklin
WA Shanklin
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

Absolute Truth

The First settlers, largely from White Christian Europe, had as their central unifying concept, the struggle against Canon Law (Church/Roman Law) and the Aristocrats, who pulled the strings behind the scenes.
In Britain at least, we took power off both the Vatican (Henry VIII) and of the Crown (Magna Carta 1215, & Charles I in 1648.)

The ENGLISH made the world in their own image, much to the chagrin of the European Royal Households, and the Vatican, who had their power systems weakened.

They in their turn used Judaism to undermine that unifying spirit, with banking being the mechanism. He who owns the gold makes the rules. The Bank of Amsterdam, which supported the Dutch and their expansion, was replicated after William of Orange became King Billy and created ( or encouraged) The Bank of England which funded the rise and global domination of the British Empire with its Navy, its Industry, discipline and rule of law.

Wherever Britain planted its flag, democracy and the rule of law followed behind it.

The US Constitution borrowed heavily from the English Bills of Rights of 1688/89 but the Rothschilds,(Bauer) who supplied coins to one of the Aristocrats, gained credence, and power through his banking prowess and fractional reserve lending.

They have been stealing people’s rights, piecemeal ever since. And Klaus Schwab, a Rothschild by blood, is merely the latest incarnation of the brood, who interbred with them.

The self isolation and discipline, coupled with the British tolerance, which was also exported will be their undoing. Mass migration, that has embraced Islam, will see those former tolerant and upright peoples replaced by what former PLO leader Yasser Arafat termed “The weapon of the womb”. They will simply outbreed the whites, whose women, emancipated as they are, want fewer and fewer children, while Muslims, at least in my experience must have 4, or in one case 7.
The 32 yr old man, with his 15 yr old son who will do likewise. By 2100, Christianity will be quite dead…Unless The Great Awakening includes those whose views are VERY different

Last edited 1 year ago by WA Shanklin
Mo Brown
Mo Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Is there such a thing as China, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Russia? How about Iraq, India, Indonesia, etc., etc. ??

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

Excellent comment.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

Interesting – but I think you’re over-egging it. Identity politics is really just what you get when middle class leftists get rich and no longer want to talk about money.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Thank you. They are designed to allow upper middle class people to pretend to be victims.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

Your three questions are an interesting test. The easiest for me is the first. We are an advanced ape with all the animal urges that suggests, barely contained by the “thin veneer of civilisation.”

The second one is more difficult. Of course there is objective reality. A rose is a rose by any other name. But the vast majority of what matters to us isn’t objective reality. Even something as basic as money is a collective fiction. The £20 note in my hand is intrinsically worthless. Its a piece of paper. It’s only worth £20 if all parties to a transaction believe it is. Expand that level of collective fiction to religion or basic ideas of morality and how do you get objective truth? You can’t, you can only get to what works.

The forms of ethics and morality, developed by the western world since the Reformation, have served humanity incredibly well, giving rise to a human condition blessed beyond anything ever achieved by the species. That’s why those who seek to destroy it are to be resisted, not necessarily because it is objective truth.

The last question follows from the second. As a tribal species we are interdependent and subject to biological drives towards altruism because they were needed for survival. Rules for living together, such as the Ten Commandments, are therefore essential. Again, these rules are being consciously undermined by the modern, narcissistic elevation of self expression to the only authentic “good.”

Underlying all this is technology. If money is conceptual, what on Earth is Bitcoin? There can only be a debate about what constitutes a man or woman once the technology exists to (at least superficially) change one to the other. Communication technology enables a level of narcissism hitherto almost impossible in a real interactive society.

I think the author is right. The culture wars are driven by those who’ve understood the foundational, technology driven, transformations that are happening, and are vying to be top dogs in a new order. The overwhelming bulk of the population aren’t interested and still largely apply the old ethics to their day to day lives. Those ethics will change over the next century or so as a result of the battles of the elites.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Bollis
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

There is some truth in the possibility that current polarization is the result of elite academic squabbles over ideology. But that’s no reason to trivialize the polarization. After all, many thousands of people–ordinary people–are paying the price. They lose their jobs after being mobbed or “canceled,” for instance, and don’t care if the mass hysteria that led to their misery was due to the intimidation, hatred and irrationality of a relatively few ideologues. Meanwhile, academic and other institutions are replacing the search for truth with the search for political respectability. How long will it take them to recover their intellectual and moral integrity?
Think of an earlier moral panic, the one over “Recovered Memory Syndrome.” It was led by a few fanatical ideologues, sure, but it was enacted by many more professionals and institutions: psychologists, social workers, social-service agencies, family-court judges, government bureaucrats and so on. It lasted a few years and then subsided. But how many families were destroyed in the meantime? How many laws were changed before most people returned to reason?

Daiva Brr
Daiva Brr
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

We are at the crossroads where the falling angel meets the rising ape. Something to this effect Terry Pratchett is said to have said 🙂

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago
Reply to  Daiva Brr

When you come to a crossroads, take it.
—- Yogi Berra

Daiva Brr
Daiva Brr
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

Come to think of it, 90% angel and the other half ape 😉

Bob Pugh
Bob Pugh
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

“I’m smarter than the av-er-age bear!” — Yogi Bear.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

“As a tribal species we are interdependent and subject to biological drives towards altruism because they were needed for survival.”
This is a common misconception. Cooperation is an advanced form of self-interest learned through hard lessons – it is in your best interest to cooperate with others. The notion of altruism is a fiction used to dupe people into doing things otherwise against their self interest. In point of fact it is impossible to do anything which is NO in your self interest, because self interest is defined by what you choose to do. “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Re fiat money and value. Yes, value is to some degree flexible. This is why for most of history we used metal coins for currency – both because the metals themselves would have value no matter what horrors happened to society (or how government tried to manipulate the currency), and because governments couldn’t counterfeit raw metals.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

Cooperation is an advanced form of self-interest learned through hard lessons
Straight out of Sociobiology, an excellent hence controversial theory and book by EO Wilson. Highly recommend it.
 â€œIf you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Because the game overs whether you play it or not.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You nailed his three questions. And I don’t think in the way he meant. Excellent reply

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Money is a measure of purchasing power, which is real.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago

Well said, Brian.
This seems more like a throw-away piece by Joel. I appreciate his work, but, understandably, writers committed to regular columns sometimes have a hard time coming up with something good on time to meet the deadline. So, they fall back on reheated material–in this case, data-free, assertion-heavy material.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago

Objectivism vs subjectivism. Liberty vs totalitarianism. A healthy mental outlook vs abusive family dysfunction enacted as law.
The metaphysics of all of this were all laid bare over hundreds of years of contributions from the world’s most brilliant minds. The result of their work was Classical Liberalism. The opposition is based almost entirely on the ravings of a syphilitic madman named Marx, rationalizing why “totalitarianism is best!”

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
1 year ago

I agree with your excellent point that our differences are metaphysical in nature, but I disagree with you about what those points are. On reflection, I think they are more likely to be:

  1. Is man perfectible? This is a fundamental fault line in how we conceive of human nature. The left believe that we are blank slates and that, with a perfect system, there will be no evil. Christian thinking, however, and the scientific body of evidence since the 1990s, gives weight to the idea that man is inherently flawed. Whether or not we are fundamentally flawed is crucial in determining to what extent we are trusted with power, a question which goes to the heart of governance.
  2. Do you believe that the nation state should be the fundamental means by which you define in and out-groups?
  3. Are people born with the same rights as each other? (This is axiomatic to most Westerners, but it is not so of all cultures – like in those where people are born into castes or inherited class).
  4. Where does individual liberty stop and where does obligation to the greater good begin? And what is the greater good?
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Hayden, sorry for such a late reply, but I believe you are 100% correct about the most important question I missed: “is man perfectible?” Your answer to that touches so many metaphysical assumptions and has so many political consequences.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago

”The Midterms aren’t a battle between good and evil”
But it 100% is the war between good and evil, you are wrong.

I work construction – know who does unskilled construction work – the uneducated Americans – then many of them get skills – but either way they get work, and so make money and have something to do other than drugs and anti-social things the unemployed youth do if broke and idle.

But Biden has handed their jobs to illegals. Same with lawn care, janitorial, agriculture. Way to destroy Americans there Biden – give their jobs to others.

Can’t Outsource labor fast enough? Them ‘Insource’ it you evil Dems – and so much more. They are spending us to depression, destroying education (”A Drag Qu* en in every school? History being all lies and agenda, and just generally weirdness – Universities captured by Post modernists and so inflated they are bankrupting the students, and on and on) Making Crime destroy society, just too much to list.

Basically destroying USA to hand it to the Globalists, and destroying the working and Middle and giving all their money to the ultra wealthy – Turning all the world into a very few global monopolies….ending the first amendment…turning the security agencies into the secret police with an agenda to destroy anyone not politically subservient to the Dems…..It is good and evil at the top levels…Destroying fair voting, destroying the family… on and on –

Kill the unborn, but end death penalty for the most heinous criminals (and then let them out eventually)

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Yes, on the local level, clearly immigrants are supplanting local builders, lawn maintenance, cleaners, etc, while indigenous young people are getting hooked on drugs. Immigrants undercut the wages of local U.S. citizens by taking money under the table and by not paying taxes. Moreover, immigrants will apply for all sorts of welfare benefits- housing, food, medicine. This is readily observed just about anywhere in the USA. Massive, uncontrolled immigration is putting lots of pressure on the system especially at the lower income & class levels. There’s a reason why Trump’s MAGA still has loads of traction. He’s the only one who has shown he can stem immigration and increase the wages of the lower classes. He did it in 2016 to 2020.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

You may have noticed this, as well, Aaron. In Tennessee, the abundance of cheap, undocumented laborers has effectively eliminated the native population from the trades. And when I say eliminated I mean, if you go on a building site the only non-hispanic carpenter, roofer, sheetrocker, hardwoord flooring man, tile man, or mason you’ll find is wearing a collared shirt. In other words, he’s the boss. The quality of work in all of those skilled trades is abysmal. Laughable. There are skilled crews that charge a premium, but they are rare. So, as a skilled tradesman – 25+ years as a carpenter – I’ve had to watch the trade I love disappear and become a sort of rote, entry-level manufacturing position. I don’t blame the guys doing the work. I’ve watched them, I’ve worked with them. They’re the hardest working people I’ve ever been around. If anyone ever bothered to teach them the skills required to be good at their trade, they’d be amazing.

Anyway, the Democrats have the most to gain by making sure the immigration crisis is never solved. They play with the lives of middle-class and poor people for nebulous political gains. Maybe that’s not evil. But it’s sort of evil-ish.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sisyphus Jones
Craig Swenson
Craig Swenson
1 year ago
Reply to  Sisyphus Jones

I am a retired licensed, mechanical engineer. I have stated the same about degradation of the engineering profession so reliance on software or “apps” that have gotten away from the fundamentals of engineering science that is paramount to applying materials to designed useful products. Many manufacturing employers looking to hire an engineer are really needing a technician. They don’t know the difference. As an engineer, I needed good, focused, on-task technicians as much as I could support and help them complete the engineered project. Convincing each other sometimes was required first, but usually worked out. When I worked as an engineer in the industrial construction industry, the skilled trades were super. The certification or beneficial use approvals usually required approvals of engineers certified in the specific area where there is personnel safety. Bottomline – everyone needs to help each as a team get the job done without any rock throwing.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Sisyphus Jones

As I was reading comments, I had hopes that unskilled day laborers would not really be working on real building sites. Sorry to discover that it seems they are where you are. I do hope that you are just temporarily jobless.

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Hispanic construction workers in much of the American southeast are effectively every worker on every building site in all but the mechanical trades. Plumbers, HVAC, and most electricians are non-Hispanic.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  Sisyphus Jones

This is true in NJ also. The native skilled workmen are gone, replaced by semi-skilled laborers whose work is deficient.

Lynda Regan
Lynda Regan
1 year ago

I’m from the UK and you could write this piece for us just by subsituting Labour and Conservative for Democrat and Republican. It makes you wonder whether there really is a grand global plan to destroy us all.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  Lynda Regan

Like you, I am also from the UK & couldn’t agree with you more!

burke schmollinger
burke schmollinger
1 year ago

This piece absolutely hits the nail on the head.

The GOP has done its best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Where is the National message such as in 1994? Instead of hammering with a focused message on the Democrats anti-Energy, anti-Growth, Pro-Inflationary policies, they’ve been dithering on about social issues. I find social issues very important, from abortion on down, but when gas prices are still at record highs while the President has drained the strategic petroleum reserve while approving 97% less oil and gas leases than Trump this needs to be mentioned every single day. Oh, and OPEC+ is about to announce a major production cut


Yes, I get it. San Fransicko has several neighborhoods overrun with junkies living in their own filth. Crime is an extremely important issue and the Democrats should be held to account. There is no such thing as a man who became a woman.

But everyone who cares enough to vote on these issues is going to vote GOP anyways. What needs to be hammered in is that there is no excuse -none- for Americans to be paying the cost of energy and food that we have under this President, and that if these policies continue unchecked it will cost us far more in the long run. The risks of blackouts and grocery store shortages will not be temporary— This will be the new normal.

The President has been bribing voters by draining the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It’s down 50% since Biden was elected and at the lowest in 40 years, while the President blocks domestic oil and gas production at record numbers. But where is the focused, nationwide message attacking this?

Last edited 1 year ago by burke schmollinger
Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

In 1960, for example, New York boasted more electoral votes than Texas and Florida combined. Today, both have more electoral votes than the Empire State. Last year, New York, California, and Illinois lost more people to outmigration than any other states. The greatest gains were in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina. These states are high-growth, fertile, and lean toward the GOP.
Note that people are moving because the blue states are very poorly run and the red states are much better, particularly at leaving people alone, also called liberty. Unfortunately when the libs move they take their awful ideas with them and turn good states into sh$t holes. Colorado is well on that path, so is Georgia.

Heather Erickson
Heather Erickson
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

As a Coloradan, I can tell you the one saving grace is that our Dems tend to be more like Libertarians than they want to admit. Yes, we have a lot of woke-minded people, but ultimately we still have that old school cowboy of mentality of “don’t tell me how to live my life.” So our laws tend to always favor more freedom, hence why we were the first state to legalize weed and one of the few states guaranteeing the access to abortion. We might not have conservative ideals, but ultimately it’s just live how you want. Our cost of living has gone up, but I really think that’s an issue of supply and demand. Our TABOR law tends to keep taxes in check. There are many pro-gun people here and I can tell you even most liberals tend to not want to restrict gun access, even though we’ve had some of the biggest school shootings in history. So while, yes, you’ll see these woke hippy kids literally everywhere, they may be making political strides with loose moral freedoms, but they’re not going to be successful in enacting socialism or gun-control. They have tried, but those things tend to not fly here. Even the covid lockdowns ended relatively early here. not as early as some red states, but we certainly didn’t drag it out like California or NY did.

Last edited 1 year ago by Heather Erickson
James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago

Give it another 10-20 years and you may find your “libertarian” Dems show their true colors.

Heather Erickson
Heather Erickson
1 year ago
Reply to  James Stangl

Yeah, it’s funny…. the more conservative the parents, the moral liberal the kids. People do a horrible job of instilling their values in their children. If they could Colorado might have a chance, but the Conservatives are being replaced by their own woke offspring.

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago

If young people would get married and start having offspring they would become more conservative but even conservative parents have discouraged their children against marriage at the optimal time they should be doing this and now we have eternal adolescents with very poor judgment.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago

Rather than offering any [GOP] substantive governing vision of their own,
Trump’s vision worked splendidly for four years. Going back to that is substantive governing vision.
It is not necessary to recast goals for every election. As it is now, the radical gap between what conservatives want and what the left is doing to the country are causing whip lash every time power changes hands. Business cannot function when what is expected of them changes radically every four years.
It used to be that exchange of power in Washington manifested mainly in a swap of talking points. Now it is more like leaps back and forth between East Germany and West Germany.
The resolution of such opposite aims can come only from one side, as in the case of Japan at the end of WWII, completely subjugating the other, concretizing the culture. It looks like either WWIII as an outside motivator or Civil War II as an internal struggle will suffice to unite the country again.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

”Business cannot function when what is expected of them changes radically every four years.”

But it is the Huge multinational businesses funding all this. This is Corporatism Oligarchy. They pay all the Lobbyists, the voting machinery like Zuckerberg paying $400,000,000 to beat Trump in 2020, they own the Politicians.

To be a Uniparty (republican, Tory, Labour, Democrat) politico you have to take the Lobbyists shilling, sell your soul to him, do as he says. Then the party machine will let you in – and here is the Trick – – when you are finished they make you very wealthy indeed by insider trading. Why do Bush, Obama, Clintons, Blaire, Millibands, Pelosi – all of them, have net worth of many $Millions? Because that is their pay for selling out their Nation. That is why the slimy Boris became PM and then destroyed UK – because he will become very wealthy now – you watch, he will have at least $50,000,000 – he will become a rider on private jets to the resorts of the elite – he will get his reward. That is Politics unless it is:
Grass Roots, like Trump and MAGA

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

Bingo! Getting government OUT of our lives IS a vision – the most successful one in history.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
1 year ago

Wow – the bias in this article reaches new lows.
“…with fewer than 20% combined for those identifying as either “very conservative” or “very liberal”.
Except this is a nonsensical statistic. Nobody THINKS of themselves as “radical” or “extreme.” However, when you evaluate peoples actual positions based on OBJECTIVE criteria, you find that the AVERAGE Democrat is indeed very extreme – and greatly removed from the principles of our Constitution.
Re Republicans: “Rather than offering any substantive governing vision of their own,…”
This is the Progressive Big Lie, and to say that it is a mountain of manure is too kind. Republicans do not feel we NEED to be “governed.” Government’s role is to protect our individual rights – a role at which Progressive intentionally fail. THAT agenda is the most substantive governing vision in the history of mankind, and has resulted in creating the greatest nation on earth which Democrats are doing their best to destroy.
“To win in the coming election and beyond, Democrats need to focus instead on basic economic concerns such as higher wages, affordable housing, and improved education.”
In other words, to win based on their POLICIES Democrats must adopt the policies of Republicans. Never gonna happen. Totalitarians are fundamentally opposed to a free society in which people make their own decisions.
“Put the battle between Good and Evil to one side.”
Never, and you would be utterly foolish to do so. This is the FUNDAMENTAL DIVIDE. Republicans favors Liberty, best described by the philosophy of Classical Liberalism. Democrats have polarized around totalitarianism, fundamentally rejecting every premise of Liberty / individual rights.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

Well said. Unfortunately, if you believe that a man cannot be a woman, that the constitution was put into place to protect its citizens from government overreach, and the only real purpose of government is to protect the rights and property of its citizens, then you are considered to be a radical these days.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Johnathan Galt

Good take. The forever push-pull of Jefferson and Hamilton is always active. Today the attention getters are nuts that are concerned about sexual identity. It was a good separator for the idle hands that may soon find themselves needing to actually work to prosper.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

I like Joel Kotkin and his writing. But this is essentially a long-winded way of saying that American politics is still the ‘endless war between Wall Street and Main Street’. All that has changed is that the bankers have traded in the Republican Party and replaced them with the Democrats as the instrument of their policies.

Tyler Keller
Tyler Keller
1 year ago

Anti-White liberals and respectable conservatives that support massive third-world immigration and FORCED assimilation for EVERY White country and ONLY White countries say that they are anti-racist, but their policies will lead to a world with no White people. That is White Genocide.
Anti-racist is just a code word for anti-White.

Gandydancer x
Gandydancer x
1 year ago

“As the American Prospect points out, proletarianised members of the middle class are increasingly shopping at the dollar stores that formerly served working and welfare populations.”

“[p]roletarianised” with an “s”? Chapman is in the US, I believe, but this guy is spelling like a Brit. And categorizing like one, too. Here in the US we don’t imagine that “middle class” and “working class” are disjunct groups. Middle class is achieved by getting paid enough to have a “middle class” lifestyle…. by working at it.

And if Democrats aren’t evil, they’re doing a pretty good job at fooling me. If the choice isn’t between good and evil it’s only because the kind of (R)s Trump defeated for his nomination are still in the saddle (not least because Trump wasn’t much of a step up, despite running as one), and they — the GOP political class — are a miserable excuse for “good”. The Brits have the same problem with the Tories. But there’s nothing in this guy’s formulation that recognizes that THAT is the problem that needs to be fixed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Gandydancer x
Sergeant Castle
Sergeant Castle
1 year ago

Sadly, its the progressives and Democrats that are hyper authoritarian right now. Things like a forced vaxx mandate, colluding with Bigtech to censor free speech, a Department of Misinformation are clearly illiberal and should be unacceptable in a free society. You combine this with new calls for gun confiscation, IRS monitoring to include every bank transaction and forcing women to register for Selective Service and its starting to look like a dark dystopian future out of a bad sci fi movie.
Dont even get me started about how a Democrat led Congress expanded upon the mass surveillance and warrantless wiretaps programs in the new Freedom Act. Didnt we just spend the last decade trying to get rid of this as a nation?

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago

Sadly? Right now? Scratch under the surface of the Dem party pretty much since Woodrow Wilson and you’ll find a deep authoritarian strain.

TERRY JESSOP
TERRY JESSOP
1 year ago

assume that voters will be repelled by unpopular progressive policies such as defunding the police, encouraging nearly unlimited illegal immigration, and promoting sexual and gender “fluidity” to schoolchildren”:
Is there any sane voter who thinks that any of these policies are a good idea. Or who thinks that all stops were not pulled out at the last Presidential election to tilt the vote away from Trump, including some tactics of marginal probity.
You don’t have to believe that the election actually was “stolen” from Trump to be uneasy at Democrat irregularities, or that FBI and CIA authorities as well as Main Stream Media were too eager to bury suggestions that the Hunter Biden Lap-Top affair deserved a proper investigation, and promote the idea that it was all Russian dis-information. Or to think that the demonstrations that took place at the Capital, which have been portrayed as a violent political insurrection, were not in fact much different to the sort of high-spirited anti-war demos that we became yawningly used to during the Vietnam War and on countless other occasions, and whether for or against many other causes be they “Ban the Bomb”, “Protect the Planet” or “#Me Too”, and that rather than being a serious attempt to overthrow the Government they did not need to be taken too seriously.

Capitalist Roader
Capitalist Roader
1 year ago

The endless kabuki theatre pitting Trump and his minions against Democrats…

Joe Biden certainly doesn’t inspire minions. He tries to, like recently with his semi-fascist slur, but having creative speech writers doesn’t result in gaining reliable minions.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago

He’s gotta be careful, though. Semi-fascist might have turned out as half-fascist.

Don Rua
Don Rua
1 year ago

Reading the comments of an Unherd article such as this one provides more thoughtfulness and insight than 90% of the articles published on major media sites on a daily basis.

Last edited 1 year ago by Don Rua
Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
1 year ago

A workmanlike, if unoriginal overview summary that should surprise no reader here. But,
“…yet for working and middle-class people in particular, opportunity is increasingly to come by.” (?)
And,
Immigrants… are twice as conservative in their social views than the general public…” (?)
Dosn’t nobody botherd to profraed anemore? Unherd’s otherwise professional-quality articles are routinely disfigured by these admittedly minor but puzzlingly careless gaffes.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago

It is simple to the point of maybe being simplistic, but I really think that what most people want is a revival of the New Deal, a New Deal 2.0. That is almost 90 years ago and most people do not even know what it was, but it is what we need as a response to hard times created in part by poor governing policies leading to severe, unintended consequences.
NOT the Great Society, with which it is often conflated but which was quite different–and infinitely worse from any perspective, even libertarian.
But people would respond to a party embodying the spirit behind regulating basic essential functions to avoid the worst abuses or at least inform a knowledgeable public about them; managing the economy for the “general welfare” (to use the Constitution’s term) rather than “special interests” out to rape the public, as both parties now do; provide work or, if need be, MODEST financial support to people who THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN cannot provide for themselves and their families, i.e. a “safety net,” not a way of life; support and elevate “The common man,” as opposed to the oligarchs or the criminal classes (both white collar and street crime).
Basically, without denigrating minorities, treat the spiritual (and I do not mean a religious test) majority as worthy of respect and support, and open to all who want to work for it.
I doubt if either Party as now constituted could do this–Trump came closest of any current figure, but while his policies were not bad his marketing was terrible to be a uniter–and he never organized an Administration committed to a broad program as opposed to narrow issues. The Old Guard GOP and the Democrats are now totally beholden to big money and big institutional donors, the types who hated FDR as a “traitor to his class.” Esp. after Sanders was neutered in 2020.
Still, if something like this is to happen it will come from a fusion of Right (Trump/DeSantis) and Left (Sanders) populists, and NOT teh faculty lounge or Wall Street/ilicon Valley. And enormous forces are committed to ensuring that those groups cannot see what they have in common, because were they to unite and find an institutional base, it would have the potential to improve things for most people. So I am not optimistic.
But, still…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ybxA1SPsIc

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Johnson
E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

But we do not want “a New Deal” along the lines of the FDR version. Although Woodrow Wilson started the rot, FDR was another authoritarian terribly damaging to the American way. We may want a new deal — but not provided through the State. We don’t want government to set itself up in loco parentis. We want government to get out of the way, and let us get back to work.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

What the author is saying, in a nutshell, is that the polarization is more perceived than real, and he is correct, but that hardly matters. American polarization has little to do with reason, logic, or even self-interest but still partisanship is growing and growing more important to people’s everyday lives. Most Americans would rather their children marry someone of a different race or religion than from the opposite political party. It may not be objective, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Our minds and our collective behavior make it real and there are real consequences for ignoring it. The irony is that the political elites have brought this down upon themselves and sooner or later, they’ll be destroyed by it. When I was young, the joke was that the parties were largely interchangeable and no one much cared about elections. They voted how their union did, or how their parents had, or whatever other silly reason. The culture wars began as an attempt by politicians to use unimportant emotional wedge issues to gain votes. Now, they’ve succeeded in dividing the political parties and are reaping the consequences. The country is approaching the point of being ungovernable at a national level. That said, the author correctly points out that no ideological or cultural divide is currently as large as the disparity between intellectual and political elites and ordinary folks. Trump was, among other things, a warning. The only thing Americans largely dislike more than the other party is both of them collectively, i.e. they do not approve of anything the intellectual, economic, or political leaders are doing. Establishment is a dirty word here. The political elites have created an environment where there is a distinct possibility of a single, charismatic leader, pointing out these points of agreement and uniting ‘the people’ against the elites and attempting to solve the problems we have by simply taking the power and wealth of the elites and giving it to others. In other words, though I am no prophet, I see a revolution as one of our most likely possible futures.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

You might be correct about a revolution, but I think this disparity has been amplified many fold due to the abuse of social media, where the oligarchs of tech have sold our society down the river by applying malignant algorithms in order to lure an inordinate amount of wandering eyeballs. We can no longer civilly discuss major topics due to each of us acquiring our own version of the truth.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

True, social media has contributed to the current situation, but traditional media like newspapers and television are not exactly innocent bystanders. All media has surrendered objectivity in the name of profit, but even if this problem were somehow corrected (and I can’t imagine how that might be accomplished), it wouldn’t change the damage that has already been done. Americans have, with good reason, lost trust in all media. Trust is notoriously hard to build and easy to lose. What the media built in the decades following WWII has been carelessly frittered away in less than twenty years for the sake of profit. The liberal and conservative ‘truths’ no longer even vaguely resemble one another. Even science is politicized, sometimes by the scientists themselves. Our only reasonable choices as Americans are to either disbelieve everything or pick a side. These choices obviously suck, so anybody offering something else, anything else, has the potential to change the game by metaphorically flipping the table.

Heather Erickson
Heather Erickson
1 year ago

As American reading this, I’m just confused because you keep talking about a Labour movement…. what is that? We have no such a thing in the US.

Chris Proudfoot
Chris Proudfoot
1 year ago

Thanx for this article. Thoughtful and I would wager pretty close to the truth. In the end, the vast majority of Americans are more alike than they are different. It is only when given choices that the differences seem to matter. If we were voting for President this Nov, I think we would see a change. While folks want to believe in a Utopian world (Liberals) most of us use a much more pragmatic way to view the world (Conservatives). This is the true nature of the ‘rift’ in the country. Confronted with Inflation or social Justice, only one can win out…If the economy were in a good place, I think some of these left views would be accepted, but with the economy where it is at, the 80% of us are going to vote with our pocket books. Very thoughtful piece.

Craig Swenson
Craig Swenson
1 year ago

These concepts are interesting and thought provoking. I detect that the text is British, but the author resides at Chapman University in Orange, California. No problem. Since the Ukraine kerfuffle I have read some of the articles and viewed presentations by Univ of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer regarding foreign policy. He makes a case that 3 major aspects – nationalism, realism, and liberal hegemony are the tree-top elements. There seems to be a parallel with domestic aspects in this article. I won’t try to explain Mearsheimer’s concepts except that the embedded unity of a people and the struggle to focus on real problems to everyday life seem to be paramount. The social engineering of liberals to run people’s lives and force the American “ideal” according to their perceptions seems to be similar to the culturalism projects promoted by the Leftist activist media. I feel that most people in America want to be left alone to live their lives, work in reasonable employment for a fair wage, raise families in safe places, participate in diverse communities, and buy property and goods with their efforts. There is more, but basically it takes activists to stir people up to create an appearance of division that progresses even more. Lawlessness and people taking advantage of other people needs attention as always. List is huge.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Thanks for your report. We shall see, in November, what plays out.

Vince B
Vince B
1 year ago

Most Americans are not highly ideological, but we are becoming more and more partisan.

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago

We used to be a cohesive society with immigrant communities of similar cultures, however that is no longer the case. In the past groups paid their dues and assimilated which ultimately wasn’t that difficult considering their similarities. It’s hard to see how we ever come together again.

JonboinAR jonboinAR
JonboinAR jonboinAR
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

The idea of assimilation began to be disparaged on the left as “racism” because it promoted one culture, the white european, as superior to those of the various newcomers. Those belonging to that culture allowed themselves to feel guilty, bad, “racist”, if they promoted it, while those who denigrated that culture pressed on with increasing rhetorical aggression. They have succeeded in creating a nation of several competing cultures, at least somewhat violently opposed to each other, at least rhetorically, so far. I don’t know if that was their intention, or what their endgame is, but here we are.

Gary Hemminger
Gary Hemminger
1 year ago

The main problem with America was started in the 90’s. Everyone was supposed to get involved with politics. It was pushed constantly that we all had to get involved. This was the first problem, as every useless American that are easily propagandized are propagandized and living their life accordingly. If as Joel says, 20% of the people are on the far left or far right, then why do so many people believe it is such a problem? Answer: because they are useless idiots that can be propagandized at the drop of a hat.
Here is the test of a fully propagandized person:
Do you believe that those in opposition to your political views are evil? If so you are a useless idiot that is fully propagandized and you are what is at fault in America.
Democrats aren’t the problem, Republicans aren’t the problem. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.