Tragically American

Here is the concluding passage from the wonderful book I just finished reading, Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein.

What Richard Nixon left behind was the very terms of our national self-image: a notion that there are two kinds of Americans. On the one side, that “Silent Majority.” The “nonshouters.” The middle-class, middle American, suburban, exurban, and rural coalition who call themselves, now, “values voters,” people of faith,” “patriots,” or even, simply, “Republicans” — and who feel themselves condescended to by snobby opinion-making elites, and who rage about un-Americans, anti-Christians, amoralists, aliens. On the other side are the “liberals,” the “cosmopolitans,” the “intellectuals,” the “professionals” — “Democrats.” Who say they see shouting in opposition to injustice as a higher form of patriotism. Or say “live and let live.” Who believe that to have “values” has more to do with a willingness to extend aid to the downtrodden than where, or if, you happen to worship — but who look down on the first category as unwitting dupes of feckless elites who exploit sentimental pieties to aggrandize their wealth, start wars, ruin lives. Both populations — to speak in ideal types — are equally, essentially, tragically American.

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About elainemeyer
I'm a writer and editor. I work in communications at the Columbia School of Public Health, where I write about epidemiologic research. In the past I've worked as a reporter and studied journalism and history in school.

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