Locking in Big Changes: the 2022 American Mid-terms

John Stoehr of the Editorial Board believes that the Dem will overthrow “the political order of the last 40 years” if they can hold the House of Representatives after all 2022 votes are counted. Of course, a big win for Biden and the Democrats has been unfolding and the consequences of the Dems expanding their Senate majority and possibly holding the House are significant. Because of the 2022 election, the U.S. will both be a more stable country and maintain its current global role as a stabilizing force in Western Europe, East Asia, and Ukraine. But the idea of “overthrowing the political order” implies consequences on a much larger scale than that and needs to be thought through.

That’s partly because there are several ideas of “political order” that may be in play.

The main question is what would be the political order of the last 40 years that’s being overthrown. Forty years refers to the Reagan Revolution and the election of 1980 where Ronald Reagan’s victory triggered the assertion of white conservatives as the dominant force in American politics and society and inaugurated several rounds of tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of business, decline of the labor movement, and growing income inequality between the rich and the middle class. During the Reagan years, white men were advantaged politically, culturally, and economically while the claims of racial minorities, sexual minorities, and women were met with increasing skepticism if not outright derision.

Call that the orthodox model of the “Reagan Political Order.”

*But there are other ways to look at the idea of political order. If I were a conservative Straussian, I might refer to the U.S. in terms of a “liberal political order” including the representative form of government established in the 1788 Constitution, universal ideas of freedom (“all men are created equal”), and both broad and expanding rights to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and own property. In relation to this idea of “liberal political order,” the Reagan Revolution and 2022 mid-terms would both be seen in terms of redistributions of power toward white conservatives and away from liberal/minority factions. However, nothing would be “overthrown” by the Democrats maintaining their slim institutional advantage of holding the presidency and the senate while Republicans dominate the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives. It would just be that the liberal/minority coalition holds some advantages within the “liberal political order” while white conservatives hold others.

It’s also possible to view the traditional American political order as a “white republic” or “white patriarchal republic” in which constitutional processes concern the distribution of office among factions of white men and white women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities are subject to exclusion, surveillance, and control. Thus, Reaganism can be seen as reasserting white and male dominance in the face of the Black civil rights movement, feminist advocacy against patriarchy, gay rights activism and the claims of immigrant and Native Americans. Far from overthrowing the white patriarchal republic, the Reagan Revolution is best seen as reinforcing white patriarchy as a long-standing socio-political order. But there was a big difference between Reaganism and the re-assertion of white patriarchal order after the end of Reconstruction in 1877. With the end of Reconstruction, the gains of reconstruction were much more thoroughly negated and black opponents of the white patriarchal republic were much more thoroughly marginalized than was the case with the Reagan Revolution. During the Reagan years, the opponents of white patriarchy were put on the defensive but civil rights activism, feminists, gay rights protests, and labor unions formed a more or less permanent internal opposition to the dominant white conservative faction. White patriarchy may have asserted its dominance, but opponents of white patriarchy were able both to preserve large parts of the gains made as a result of the Civil Rights Acts, Roe v Wade, and various Warren Court decisions and maintain effective defenses of that legacy. As a result, the Reagan political order was defined both by a reassertion of the white patriarchal order and opposition between ascendent white conservatives and their liberal, minority, and feminist opponents.

In other words, the liberal/minority coalition remained strong enough to be considered them part of the main dynamic of the Reagan political order.

There’s another consideration for the Reagan order. The big question hanging over Reaganism was whether white conservatives could maintain their domination of their domestic opponents. That’s because the stakes were bigger than the distribution of power between conservatives and their opponents. Ascendancy by the liberal/minority opposition would not just give “liberals” the upper hand, it would threaten the white patriarchal character of the American republic as it had been defined in the Revolutionary and Constitutional period. Hanging over the Reagan political order was the specter of the United States becoming a very different kind of country than it had been for the previous 200+ years, a country that did not revolve around white men.

To a certain extent, that’s what happened.

Because Barack Obama initially posed himself as a GOP-friendly Democrat AND aggressive reformer, his election in 2008 did not initially represent a sea change in American politics and society. But Obama was the first black president, the symbol of America, the nation’s most prominent celebrity, and someone on the news everyday. After the civil rights movement, white conservative tolerance for black people was always tethered to blacks only having a token presence in areas outside sports and music. With Obama and other prominent black people like Attorney General Eric Holder being so “present” in American life, the result was a racist backlash that could be seen during the 2008 general election campaign and gained steam throughout Obama’s first term as a result of the “birther movement,” conspiracy theories about Obama’s wife, the Henry Louis Gates incident, the murder of Trayvon Martin, and conservative stonewalling of Obama’s initiatives. The backlash ensured that 2012 would be a test of strength between a stronger liberal/minority coalition and white conservatives who wanted “their country back” to white patriarchy with a token black, Hispanic, woman, and LGBT presence. With Obama’s victory in 2012, much more favorable opinion on gay marriage, the Supreme Court decision overturning bans on gay marriage, and the Black Lives movement highlighting police violence against black men, it looked like American culture and politics was swinging to liberal/minority ascendancy over white conservatives and the threats that entailed to traditional white patriarchal order.

Of course, the 2016 election happened with the white conservative backlash gaining even more intensity under the MAGA label and Donald Trump winning election. The result was both a factional arms race and major cultural changes on both sides. Beginning with the gay marriage decision in 2015, the liberal/minority coalition continued to strengthen in response to Trump’s election and morphed into something more like a multicultural, socially liberal society. With the expanding presence of civil rights ideas, the adoption of diversity as corporate and popular culture ethics, and the normalizing of an LGBT, Hispanic, and Native presence, the lib/minority coalition became multicultural, socially liberal and predominate enough in politics, business, education, and government that the U.S. could be described as a multicultural, socially liberal “society.”

Simultaneously, white conservatives developed what’s best called a MAGA counter-culture revolving around Trump and involving an overlapping religious right, a quickly developing conspiracy world, and gun culture that superseded the business oriented, small government, and national defense conservatism of the Reagan era. Even with the acquiescence of traditional Republicans and the advantages of President Biden and other Democrats being off the campaign trail because of Covid, the multicultural, socially liberal constituencies were stronger than MAGA and Donald Trump lost his campaign for re-election in 2020. For white conservatives, the defeat of Donald Trump did not signify his or their weakness but served to further energize 2020 election conspiracy theories, rejection of Covid vaccines, another round of vote suppression legislation aimed at black voters, and a culture war aimed especially at trans people but also against other LGBT folks and their supporters in education, business, and government. In this way, MAGA morphed from a slogan for supporting Trump to support for the Jan. 6 insurrection, political violence to achieve their political goals, and non-stop culture war against multicultural constituencies connected with the Democrats.

In other words, MAGA became a cover term for a more generalized white conservative assault on American government and society that’s best seen as permanent insurrection. The Reagan Political Order has definitely overthrown but it was just as much overthrown by MAGA as it was by the morphing of the Reagan era liberal/minority coalition into a multicultural, socially liberal “society.” White conservatives are still a bulwark for the white patriarchal Republic of the past but their main orientation is toward culture war against the contemporary society rather than defense of “tradition.” Indeed, in contemporary culture and politics, “tradition” is being re-defined in civil rights, multicultural terms.

So what do Democratic gains in the 2022 elections mean? Well, current political order is one in which a multicultural, socially liberal society both remains ascendent and is continuing to weaken the reach and appeal of traditional white patriarchy in favor of values of civil rights values and orientations. But white conservatives still have formidable power bases in the Supreme Court, right-wing state governments, and MAGA popular culture and have more or less committed to overthrowing the American democratic system if they can’t win political power at the ballot box. The Reagan political order has been overturned but the dangers associated with white conservatism have increased dramatically as a result.

Kanye, the Mainstream, and “The People”

Joel Osteen, Youtube

After being dropped by Adidas, Kanye West (hereafter “Ye”) responded with a post on Parler:

“I lost 2 billion dollars in one day and I’m still alive. This is love speech. I still love you. God still loves you. The money is not who I am. The people is who I am.”

Like others in search of popular conservative religious/political leadership, Ye stresses his love for “the people” (“I still love you”) and God’s love for the people (“God still loves you”). Likewise, he makes the populist leader claim to identify with the people in a way that assumes that his identification means leadership over the people–“The people is who I am.” By identifying this way, Ye shapes his activism so that his will can claim to be seen as the will of the people. But Ye’s claim pales before Trump’s. Over the last seven years, Trump and his followers have shaped each other to the extent that Trump’s will can be seen as the will of the followers who he also calls “the people.” Ye’s not popular enough and his following is not committed enough to justify his claim that “the people is who I am.” Indeed, the following Ye seeks is already devoted to Trump and Ye is more of a mid-level player in the story of Trumpism than anything else.

I’m sure there’s reasons for Ye’s lack of a following, but I’m stuck on the question of what Ye means by “the people” and how we can think of “the people” in relation to the on-going struggle between the multicultural, socially liberal mainstream and right-wing white insurgency in the U.S. What Ye does NOT mean by “the people” is becoming more clear. Most obviously, Ye is like most Trump supporters in having a version of the people that most definitely does not include black people as he stresses that black people chose slavery, Harriet Tubman didn’t free any slaves, “white lives matter” instead of black, and white men are the world’s most disrespected group. Ye’s so anti-black I’m surprised he didn’t quote the Dred Scott decision on black people having “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Ye also went all out with his current war on Jews, saying that he was going “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” accusing Jews as “[owning] the Black voice” through Black people wearing a Ralph Lauren shirt, “being signed to a record label, or having a Jewish manager, or being signed to a Jewish basketball team, or doing a movie on a Jewish platform like Disney.” Like anti-Semitic bigots worldwide, Ye attributes the same all-encompassing power to Jews as the Nazis did and is apparently acting on his longstanding fascination with Hitler and the extent of Hitler’s power. One has to wonder about the extent to which Ye now approves of the Holocaust.

But what about the long list of constituencies Ye’s offended–black people, white liberals, Jews, women, Adidas, the record industry, the fashion world, the mainstream news media, and social media. For Ye, it’s the Trump right wing and especially the religious right and white men who are “the people” but is there any way to consider the broad and diverse coalition of Ye’s opponents as a “people?”

In the Western world, “the people” is a concept that’s at least as old as the Greek city states of antiquity and was long articulated in opposition to the nobility. What gave an organic quality to the idea of “the people” was the shared life of small-scale farming, the seasonal rhythms of agriculture, the work of the urban trades, and the festivities celebrating planting, the harvest, marriage, death, the seasons, the gods, and local patriotism. Because of the roots of the Trump coalition in agriculture, mining, and small town life, Trump supporters routinely see themselves as the “people.” But the rise of America’s urban belts and major interior cities has created a new dynamic in which urban life and service industries are the central dynamic and small towns and agriculture have become peripheral. Trump constituencies have been further marginalized by their addiction, depression, high rates of suicide and violence and general rejection of social norms, education, and science. In many ways, Trump constituencies are too alienated from society to form a people in the traditional sense. In this way, attachment to the “flag” isn’t so much a representation of their connection to the life of society as a substitute for that connection.

But there are also apparent problems in viewing the whole multicultural coalition as a “people.” If the idea of a “people” relies on a common life, then how can lib/left whites, black people, Hispanics, LGBT folks, Jews, American Muslims, Asian-Americans, and Native-Americans be seen as sharing a common life and thus being a people on that basis? But diversity is not as much an issue as hierarchy and class. People from different ethnic and racial groups do live a “common” life in cities in the sense that they share an urban economy, navigate a common transportation system, and work for a deluge of intersecting government agencies, corporations, mom and pop stores, and small businesses. What primarily diminishes the sense of shared life is the extreme disparities of wealth that make rent so expensive, create homelessness, and create opportunities for specialized consumption and concierge systems that for the elite of wealth.

The U.S. has only been a multicultural democracy since the 1965 Voting Rights Act overturned the legal/police apparatus for excluding black people in the South from voting. Likewise, my sense of the U.S. being a multicultural society and having a multicultural politics did not coalesce until Barack Obama’s second term and especially the 2015 legalization of gay marriage. In this sense, it’s too early as of yet for the various groups to fully coalesce into a “people.” But there are some things that have the effect of increasing the sense of shared commonality among the various groups. Among those are:

  1. Opposition to Trump: Millions of people across the multicultural spectrum participated in the opposition to President Trump and his immigration policies, deference to Putin, and attempted coup against the election of Joe Biden. The term “Resistance” faded but the common cause of “The Resistance” continued to be expressed and had an impact on the 2020 election. Despite Biden’s not engaging in public campaigning and Dems not doing public events and door knocking because of COVID, the Democrats still increased their vote by 16 million and much of that was due to the collective spirit of opposition that had been developing since Trump’s announcement in 2015.
  2. Intersectional ethics: The ethics of fully recognizing those in traditionally marginalized groups as citizens and valuing and embracing the differences among a multicultural population. This can especially be seen in the Democratic Party and their constituencies defending transsexual teens and their families against bigoted attacks from the religious right. It would have been politically advantageous for Democrats to retreat under the banner of “compromise” but multicultural constituencies would not have stood for it and Democratic politicians have assimilated enough of those ethics that they were little tempted anyway.
  3. Embracing Difference. I was 10 years old when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and remember other white people talk about “toleration” in the sense of enduring the presence of black people and others who were different (Jews, gay people, disabled folks, etc.) even though that presence was not particularly welcome. But the movement of multicultural and socially liberal people has been toward “embracing” difference and being welcoming to people of different races, ethnicities, immigrant, and disability status. The question of tolerance is directed more often at conservatives who are seen as not accepting the common morality
  4. Empathy. A key to a multicultural principle of empathy is that the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes extends to people across racial, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and regional lines. At the same time, the value of empathy extends to caring for people who are traumatized, damaged, or chronically ill. to give a couple of examples from lib/left and black twitter, people have been broadly sympathetic to my growing up in an abusive family and its attendant traumas and there are continuing outpourings of sympathy and compassion for recovering addicts, cancer patients, and people experiencing deaths in their families.

In a way, the United States is developing a situation where two segments of the population are articulating themselves as “the people” in a separate and mutually opposed manner. It’s part of what makes America such an unstable nation at present.

Terrell Owens, Karen, and Infinite Lying

While I was waiting out the last hours of my pre-colonoscopy fast on Friday, Twitter’s Chris Evans (not to be confused with the actor) posted a video of an incident between former NFL great Terrell Owens and a white woman who first harassed him and then called the police.

Much of the focus has been on the “white woman tears” from “Kate” that come out at 1:59 and continue to the end of that section of the video. The recent history of “Karen” incidents, the Emmet Till lynching in 1955, and the history of white racial violence testify to the destructiveness of “white woman tears” when deployed as an accusation against black men. And it hasn’t stopped either. In “White Fragility,” white author Robin DiAngelo devotes an entire chapter to the issue of “white woman tears” in her experience as a corporate diversity and anti-racism trainer. White woman tears has long been a leading weapon for everyday racist aggression.

But before “Kate” started crying, she unleashed a cascade of lies against Owens–accusing him first of “harassment (0:13), then driving in the middle of the road (O.22), and saying that he “almost hit me” (0:24). After “Kate” made a number of accusations against Owens (0:49) that would have required previous online research, she then lied and said “I don’t give a shit” (0.53) for which Owens called her out. And finally, “Kate” accused Owens of running a stop sign (1:09) that apparently wasn’t even there. In some ways, getting out such a long string of lies in such a short period of time was an impressive accomplishment and is a good indication of the power of “Kate’s” racism as a source of motivation.

Indeed “Kate” seemed eager to lie about all of the reference points of her encounter with Owens. In ordinary conversation about lying, we usually measure lies against “the truth” rather than discuss lying as a system itself, an element of other systems, and the potentials of lying in various contexts. In fact, “Kate” could have made up an infinite number of lies about the details of her encounter with Terrell Owens and the only thing limiting her capacity for lying were petty empirical details like the cop’s attention span, other obligations in her life, and the need to sleep. Of course, “Kate” could have expanded the universe of her lying by also making up new reference points such as Owens having an AR-15, being a member of the Black Panthers, or in league with the police. But “Kate” could have continued lying until the end of time about the reference points she had before her. In my opinion, the determination of white people like “Kate” to engage in infinite lying about black people is at least as much a part of the white supremacist history as “white women’s tears” and is part of the mechanism through which the white population enforced the slavery and segregation systems.

But infinite lying about race requires a great deal of support. It requires white kinship networks, public opinion, police apparatus, and judicial systems that are both willing to believe anything a white person says about a black person and are eager to act violently on those lies. For infinite lying to thrive, the word of a white person needs to have so much support within the system that it carries a credible threat of instant death. Such support existed through the whole history of the U.S. as a “White Patriarchal Republic” from the drafting of the Constitution in 1787 to 1954 and “Brown v Board” and “Kate” was counting on a version of that support when she precipitated her confrontation with Owens. Her underlying expectation was the same as Central Park “Karen” Amy Cooper, that unflinching support from white opinion and the police would put Terrell Owens in mortal danger and that she would be protected from any adverse consequences.  

But since Brown v Board, the situation has changed to the disadvantage of Karens like “Kate” and the advantage of black men like Terrell Owens. The nearly seven decades between Brown v Board and the incident between “Kate” and Terrel Owens saw the rise of “Multicultural, Liberal Democracy” into a heavily contested but still pre-eminent position in American society. The Supreme Court decisions like Miranda v Arizona, the Civil Rights movement, and campaigns for feminism, gay rights, and immigrant rights have evolved into popular culture, corporate culture, Democratic Party politics, and the operation of government at all levels. In this context, Kate’s exercise in infinite lying was done from a position of disadvantage. Much of the reason “Kate” resorted to “white woman tears” is that her lies were discounted and ignored by the police officer, her husband didn’t support her, and a neighbor intervened to contradict her. Far from “Kate” being able to appeal to the public, it was Terrell Owens and his camera that were primed for public appeal. Infinite lying also requires a caste system in which the target has little recourse and is usually cowed by the threat of violence. But that wasn’t the case for “Kate” either. In fact, Terrell Owens is a famous man from his Hall of Fame NFL playing days who has enough wealth to own two houses. It was the loquacious Owens who had the status and his word seemed to have at least as much credibility with the police officer as Kate’s. Indeed, the incident was more a threat to “Kate’s” status than it was to Owens.

The White Patriarchal Republic is far from dead but white Karen’s like “Kate” are like conspiracy theorists, the religious right, urban cops, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in operating much less as agents of the dominant social order and much more in terms of counter-revolution and dissent. As conservatives often admit, they are agents of the “world they have lost” and that world remained lost in the dispute between “Kate” and Terrel Owens.

The Mainstream Cultural Revolution Of Our Time

Bret Stephens is typical for a conservative journalist—not much of a writing style, even less in the way of discernible ideas outside his distaste for Democrats, and no reason for his plum op-ed position at the New York Times other than the media’s white male affirmative action program and white conservative tokenism. Stephens couldn’t get fired at the New York Times any more than Jeffrey Toobin could get fired at CNN.

Responding to a New York Times assignment for a column about something he was wrong about, Stephens chose “Trump Voters” and began his argument by quoting that famous anti-elitist Peggy Noonan (sarcasm voice) on the distinction between people like Stephens himself (“The Protected”) and Trump voters (“The Unprotected”). Sticking close to the stereotypes, Stephens ignored the fact that the average 2016 Trump primary voter made $71k and Trump’s strongest 2020 constituency was the $100k and over category.

For what it’s worth, I grew up in rural and declining Upstate NY and have lived for the last 32 years in Bible Belt Eastern Kentucky where the poverty is industrial strength, regional economies have yet to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, and the best and brightest migrate to urban centers as soon as they’re out of high school or college. What I saw and what was confirmed in the searching articles on Trump voters was that working/middle class white men no longer inherited or maintained their inheritance in farms, factory jobs, small businesses or teaching positions but were unwilling to compete with women, black people, or immigrants. Pile that resentment on top of the racist explosion following the election of the first black president and traditional anti-abortion, pro-gun, and small government conservatism and that got Trump to a +60 margin in my Congressional district (KY-5).

But my focus is on the comments Stephens made on the Great American Cultural Revolution of our times.

Oh, and then came the great American cultural revolution of the 2010s, in which traditional practices and beliefs — regarding same-sex marriage, sex-segregated bathrooms, personal pronouns, meritocratic ideals, race-blind rules, reverence for patriotic symbols, the rules of romance, the presumption of innocence and the distinction between equality of opportunity and outcome — became, more and more, not just passé, but taboo.

Stephens is so intellectually lazy he can just list a bunch of stuff and call it a “cultural revolution.” But mainstream America has in fact gone through a cultural sea change which coalesced during the Obama years. IMHO, the outcome of the transformation was a multicultural, socially liberal culture which both became dominant during the Obama years and developed an orientation toward progressive economic reform since then. The relevant events were the election and defense of Obama as the first black president, the legalization of gay marriage, the campaigns against rape, and climate activism. In the course of these developments and others, a cultural consensus developed around “diversity” as a core common value and diversity became a guiding orientation in education, corporate advertising, pop culture, and internet discourse. The history of civil rights became the dominant sense of a common American history and intersectionality with its stress on identity politics gained ground on neo-neoliberalism as a pre-eminent intellectual framework. The political implication was that the U.S. was shedding its past as a patriarchal white Republic and making a transition to multiracial democracy.

Putting the Stephens list in context, a sense of disgust did develop for much that had been accepted in the post-feminist, post-civil rights conservatism of the 80’s and 90’s. As I moved around during the late 1970’s and 1980’s, there was a sense that racism, homophobia, woman-hating, and other bigotries were “sort of okay” if they weren’t “too egregious.” When I started teaching at Morehead State during the early 1990’s, students in my government classes brought in new forms of such “soft bigotry” every semester. By 2015 or so, such expressions were under a severe bigotry taboo and using these expressions was presumptive evidence that people did not “share the values” needed for many areas of corporate employment, education, and government. “Color-blind ideology” became “color-blind racism;” date rape became rape, and wife-beating became criminal abuse. Contrary to Stephens’ thought on “meritocratic ideals,” the meritocracy was strengthened by diversity but as more corporate and government positions were now being filled by women, black people, Hispanics, and immigrants, the achievements of white men like Stephens were met with a more skeptical eye.

The coalescing of a multicultural, socially liberal mainstream culture is one of the most promising developments in the United States since the Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s, but has gone unnoticed as well as uncelebrated in cultural and political commentary. Such has not been the case for the revanchist right-wing counter-culture that’s developed simultaneously and could be seen early in Obama’s impolitic but wholly accurate statements about rural voters: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Given that the New York Times leads the nation in obsessive coverage of Trump and Trump voters, little can be expected from the “Gray Lady.” But somebody in the media needs to take up the cause of understanding the mainstream cultural revolution of our times as well as its recent history.

Grand Canyon America

The Ultimate Grand Canyon Travel Guide | Outside Online
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A few remarks on the deeper divide in American life.  The conventional wisdom is that the denizens of Trump World view themselves as real Americans and white liberals, Black people, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, Asian-Americans, LGBT folks, and disabled people as the “others” of not really real America. Certainly, Rep. Jim Jordan (Trump-OH) provided an example of that yesterday when he tweeted that “Real America is done with #COVID19. God Bless” after seeing last weekends packed football stadiums.

But the conventional wisdom on Trumpism doesn’t cover much of the complexity over who is or is not a “Real American.” I think an underlying question for both Trumpers and the multi-racial socially liberal constituencies associated with mainstream American culture is whether white conservatives are still “really” a part of American society themselves and there’s a big “NO” coalescing on both sides of the divide. The Reagan conservatism of small government, social conservatism, and national defense is barely serving as a polite mask for the Republican Party as the GOP core re-orients around a culture of conspiracy theorizing, the religious right, and gun culture.

For Missouri Republican Josh Hawley conservatives are already separate and opposed to the larger society. Hawley claimed in the New York Post that “for some time, conservatives, recognizing that we’re now the counterculture, indulged in the delusion that we could opt out of all this.” And Hawley is right. Conservatives have not been an integral part of mainstream American culture “for some time” and began to array themselves against the dominant culture as the mainstream became more multicultural and socially liberal. Birtherism was perhaps the first big example of right-wing counter-cultural opposition followed up by Trump’s 2016 campaign, anti-trans activism and the growth of an internet conspiracy network. All this built on the existing conservative culture of Fox News, evangelical churches, and anti-abortion activism to transform conservative “counter-culture” into oppositional activism and insurrection against the dominant American culture.

Mainstream American culture has also been changing dramatically. With Black Lives Matter, Me- Too, and anti-Trump activism built up from popular culture, public educational institutions, and the sciences, mainstream American culture has internalized civil rights tradition, normalized climate activism, and brought much more black, LGBT, Native, and immigrant influence into the workings of the Democratic Party, mainstream media, and popular culture. While white supremacy is far from finished in mainstream culture, the dominant idea of American citizenship is now identified with a rejection of racism, woman-hating, nativism, Christian conservatism, and the other strands of culture and politics identified with conservatism. Likewise, Trump’s election focused mainstream America to focus much more on partisan warfare with conservatives and the Trump administration, and that partisan warfare has continued into the current conflicts over conservative vaccine refusal, police murders, and everyday bigotry involving conservatives.

Real questions about whether conservatives are part of society and thus citizens in the full sense of the word, have popped up on twitter. For Prof. Elizabeth Cohen of Princeton writing on twitter under “Dr. Elizabeth Sacha Baroness Cohen,” conservative vaccine refusal calls into question their commitment both as human beings who “can’t be bothered to keep their own neighbors out of the ICU” and their status as people who don’t think of themselves as “part of a society.” Cohen portrays vaccine refusal in terms of a rejection of any society, but it is white conservatives who refuse to be part of their own society or concern themselves with their own children, parents, and extended family as well as teachers, the children at public schools, etc. One question that comes up here is the extent to which conservatives are willing to sacrifice their own loved ones to support their principled rejection of “American society” and the cultural mainstream.

Mainstream Americans also raise questions concerning the societal status of conservatives in relation to social bigotry. For “Michael Mc,” this is the key issue in relation to a video of “Jill’s” bigoted behavior toward Mexican restaurant workers at a Mexican restaurant in Parksburg, West Virginia.

After showing the video of Jill’s behavior, Michael Mc slowly intones that “we have no place for you in our society.” In pronouncing this anathema on “Jill” of Parksburg, Michael Mc is asserting that the U.S. is a multiracial, socially liberal society in which the bigotry of Jill has no place. My own politics are much the same as Michael Mc’s but it would now be best to see the United States in larger terms as a society that encompasses a mile-wide division between a dominant multiracial, socially liberal majority and a white conservative minority which has dramatically different institutions, principles, and values, and opposes the larger society at every point—i.e. “Grand Canyon America”