"Let's Make Unreasonable Rhetorical Demands Of The People Who We Want On Our Side"
(With a partial preview for free subscribers)
Skip to the big photo below if you don’t want to read the three housekeeping notes that follow:
1. I have been overdosing on Kyle Rittenhouse stuff over the last week. I think I got some attention from unlocking the two paywalled posts I wrote about the shootings in 2020, and I’m grateful for that. Here are those two posts, combined in one convenient location (or here and here if you’re a paid subscriber who hasn’t read them yet and who wants to potentially comment on them), here I am on Bari Weiss’s podcast, here I am making my debut in Persuasion, and here I am in a paywalled instant reaction podcast I did with Katie on Blocked and Reported (our next free episode, up Monday morning, also talks a bit about some of the reactions to the case).
2. I’ve gotten in the habit of sending out partial previews of paywalled posts to my free subscribers. When I do that, a handful of folks convert to paying subscribers, and a handful unsubscribe. That’s… fine? I think? While I like publishing free posts once in a while and am in the habit of unpaywalling older ones, my overall goal is to increase my ranks of paid subscribers, so I’ve prioritized paid content. It seems to be working: I’ve about tripled my paying subscribers over the last year, which I never, ever thought would happen. THANK YOU! That said, I’m mindful of not clogging the inboxes of free subscribers with stuff they don’t have full access to, so I’m going to start noting in the headline (if there’s room) or subheadline when a given email will only be partially viewable to free subscribers, as I did today. I’m open to feedback on this from free subscribers, of course.
And hey, subscribe please!
3. Paid subscribers: Remember that I send out weekly open threads for general discussion, but that you have to opt in to receive them. I’m getting the sense that not everyone is aware of this, so click here if you want more information. Here’s the most recent one.
Now, onto a blessedly Rittenhouse-free newsletter:
Two different things came across my radar this week that might seem separate, but which are related.
First, back at the beginning of this month, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released polling that it summarized online under the headline “Competing Visions of America: An Evolving Identity or a Culture Under Attack? Findings from the 2021 American Values Survey.
Here’s one finding:
About three in four Americans (74%) agree that America has always been a force for good in the world, including 19% who completely agree with this idea and a majority (55%) who mostly agree. One in four (24%) disagree, including 17% who mostly disagree and 7% who completely disagree. In 2013, slightly more Americans (79%) believed their country has always been a force for good in the world.
Republicans (92%) are more likely than independents (72%) and Democrats (67%) to agree with the idea that America has always been a force for good in the world. While there have not been significant changes among Republicans (90%) and independents (77%) since 2013, Democrats have become seven percentage points less likely to agree (67% today vs. 74% in 2013). Notably, nearly all Republicans who trust Fox News (94%) and far-right media outlets (96%) as their main sources of information agree with this idea.
Or, in snazzy chart form:
This suggests that Americans tend to be quite patriotic! The 25-point divide between Democrats and Republicans masks the fact that even Democrats are quite enthusiastic about the U.S. and A. The racial divides are also smaller than I would have thought. Black Protestants, who constitute the largest religious group of black Americans by far, and who vote quite Democratic, are only six percentage points less likely to report that “There has never been a time they were not proud to be an American” than white evangelical Protestants, an ardently Trump-supporting bloc.
Let’s take another question: Has American culture changed for better or for worse since the 1950s?
Americans are divided on whether American culture and way of life have mostly changed for the better or for the worse since the 1950s (47% vs. 52%). This is a notable shift from 2020, the final year of Donald Trump’s presidency and an election year, when a majority of Americans (55%) said that American culture and way of life had mostly changed for the better since the 1950s, compared to 44% who said it had changed for the worse.
Only 29% of Republicans today say that American culture and way of life have changed for the better since the 1950s, a substantial decrease from 46% in 2020 and a return to their opinion in 2016 (31%), prior to the election of former President Trump. Most Republicans (70%) say American culture and way of life have changed for the worse since the 1950s. By contrast, a majority of Democrats (63%) think that American culture and way of life have changed for the better, much the same as in 2020 (62%). Independents closely resemble the general population (48% better) and have also declined in this view since 2020 (57% better).
Or in graph form:
Really hard to make sense of what’s what here. If I had to contrive a story, I think it’s fair to say that some of the Democratic drop after 2016 had to do with Donald Trump being elected, and the dip among independents and Republicans after 2020 can be chalked up to some combination of coronavirus and Trump losing. But overall, it’s noteworthy how generally optimistic Democrats are: Since 2012, the lowest figure for Democrats has been 55 percent. Things stayed above that even during the Trump years.
Okay, keep all that in the back of your mind for a second while we move on to the second thing.