The Collapse of American Identity
by ROBERT P. JONES
May 2, 2017
After the British writer G. K. Chesterton visited the United States for the first time, he remarked that America was “a nation with the soul of a church.”
Mr. Chesterton wasn’t referring to the nation’s religiosity but to its formation around a set of core political beliefs enshrined in founding “sacred texts,” like the Declaration of Independence. He noted that the United States, unlike European countries, did not rely on ethnic kinship, cultural character or a “national type” for a shared identity.
The profoundness of the American experiment, he argued, was that it aspired to create “a home out of vagabonds and a nation out of exiles” united by voluntary assent to commonly held political beliefs.
But recent survey data provides troubling evidence that a shared sense of national identity is unraveling, with two mutually exclusive narratives emerging along party lines. At the heart of this divide are opposing reactions to changing demographics and culture. The shock waves from these transformations — harnessed effectively by Donald Trump’s campaign — are reorienting the political parties from the more familiar liberal-versus-conservative alignment to new poles of cultural pluralism and monism.
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