Decline and Fall

This past election season has felt truly surreal. Political commentators both left and right understood as early as late 2012 that the Democrats would be vulnerable in 2016, and a good Republican candidate, one who could maintain the party’s core demographics while simultaneously siphoning some black and Latino votes, had a nonzero shot at tipping the scales, someone bland and vaguely Hispanic like Marco Rubio — especially if the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton.

So what did the Republicans do? They nominated a candidate who most observers agree is the single worst candidate ever fielded by a major party in the United States of America. While, for a moment in July, Donald Trump seemed terrifyingly electable, it lasted about three days into the DNC. And then he went after Gold Star father Khizr Khan.

Ever since then, his campaign has been in a state of utter collapse. Trump, quite literally a textbook narcissist, has seen to it that he utterly dominates the news cycle. This is quite unfortunate for Republicans because this dominance is rooted in petty attacks, like that against Mr. Khan, with a heaping spoonful of scandal, like murky Russian ties, and controversy, like assaying Trump’s true net worth in the increasingly noticeable absence of his tax returns — all of this leading to pundits calling him a fascist while the Republicans’ moderate class run from him. In droves.

Against all odds, Hillary Clinton, a candidate that against a normal candidate should receive 50% ±1% of the popular vote, has opened up a commanding 8-point lead on Trump. Purely by staying away from the media. Against a campaigner as self-evidently incompetent as Trump, Clinton has an excellent chance — currently 26.8%* according to FiveThirtyEight — of winning by a landslide, a victory type that Americans haven’t seen since the 1980s and many pundits did not even think possible in the modern, hyperpartisan political climate.

But if you think this is the Republicans’ bottom — hah! They haven’t even found their bottom yet!

The Green Screen

American politics have been cyclic, coinciding remarkably well with the Kondratieff cycle. The main political parties — the Democrats and Republicans — tend to assemble into coalitions during the primary and midterm phases, while the general election decides which coalition governs and which one opposes. These, in turn, tend to be focused around driving narratives — ideologies that animate coalitions for generations at a time.

The largest governing majorities — supermajorities in any sense of the word — were the Republican governing coalition of the Progressive Era and the Democratic New Deal governing coalition that followed. The post-Teddy Roosevelt Republicans were themselves a policy iteration on a Republican coalition that had largely stayed in power since 1865, mainly due to the era’s North-South politics, while New Deal coalition continued to follow Progressive politics until the Civil Rights Act and Southern Strategy fractured it.

It is also noteworthy that major governing coalitions become focused around uniquely charismatic Presidents. One could therefore say that American politics are divided into the Jefferson period, which defined Jefferson’s Democrat-Republicans and their opponents (initially Federalists and then Whigs); the post-Lincoln period, defined by the loose ends Lincoln had left; the first and second Roosevelt periods, when the progressives were the governing coalitions’ leaders; and the Reagan period, which actually started when Nixon won the Presidency and may or may not have ended in the mid-2000s.

But charisma is a two-edged sword, and Trump is certainly charismatic. Like Teddy Roosevelt, Trump is giving voice to a marginal faction; unlike Roosevelt, who was essentially kicked upstairs into the vice-presidency, thereby allowing him to be in the right place at the right time to implement his agenda, Trump is trying to win the Presidency rather than inherit it.

Trump is far better at inheriting things than winning them.

Because the core of his support is the populist right (aka alt-right aka Neo-Nazis aka proto-fascists), and because — unlike any of his interchangeable dozen-or-so opponents, he actually got his base fired up — Trump is hugely popular among a group approximately the same relative size as UKIP’s (ex-?)base in Britain. But because he espouses this particular ideology to the exclusion of all others, for a whole host of reasons, he was electable (in the sense Nixon was electable in ’68) in the primaries, but is wholesale unelectable — because he does espouse an ideology that is so profoundly foreign — to the left.

Trump needed a good handler to become remotely electable in the general, but his narcissism demands sycophants. Manafort couldn’t handle him, and at this point his primary advisors are mediamen Steve Bannon (formerly of the execrable Breitbart News) and … Roger Ailes. The rest of his inner circle reads like a who’s-who of Republican washouts, and the party’s big-name operatives aren’t interested in his campaign.

Whither Now?

When Bannon replaced Manafort, the Washington Post asked whether it was because (1) Trump was a fool, or (2) he was making a post-election play. Greg Sargent, the writer, thinks the answer is (1) — and perhaps to Trump and Bannon, it is — but Roger Ailes, now formerly of Fox News due to a harassment scandal, remember — is much savvier and much more opportunistic.

I would not be remotely surprised if Ailes was just the first one (or at least the first one in a position to act on it) to read the tea leaves: If Trump is only successful in attracting the regressive-populist alt-right, and literally toxic to anybody else, then simply by sticking to his message he can attract a following of (monetizable) zealous converts. The seed direct-mailing list is there, and Trump generates a not-insignificant amount of publicity — indeed, his own self-promotion is what is killing him this election — putting many of the ingredients in place. Lure in some known Trumpian TV and radio personalities, like Pat Buchanan and Sean Hannity, and — voilà!

But at this point the pattern starts to become clear. This “Trump News Network”, run by Bannon and Ailes, legitimizes the alt-right, in the process continuing to drive away social conservatives, libertarians, and the tattered last remnants of Northeasterner Republicans. The alt-right are American nationalists, but that in itself has the problem that nationalism is tied to ethnicity while American nationhood … isn’t. It is precisely because most Americans** agree, at some level, that openness to diversity is a fundamental defining feature of being American — an idea which no nationalist anywhere would ever be caught dead espousing — that Trump’s politics and agenda are so fundamentally foreign to Democrats and non-Trumpian Republicans alike.

A permanent Trump coalition effectively precludes the Republicans from retaking the White House in 2020, possibly ever. And Trump himself would continue to help the internal strife along. One side or the other*** will decide they’ve had enough and form their own third party, and that will be the end of the postwar Republican Party, the party of the Reagan governing coalition.

A New Start

It can’t happen soon enough! The Reagan coalition is dying. Literally. It has failed miserably at attracting young voters, or at producing black or Latino votes in an increasingly diverse American society, and its core voter is essentially an Angry White Pensioner. The 2012 Republican autopsy said as much. And Trump’s rise — and that of the alt-right in general — go backwards rather than forwards, firing up the core at the expense of alienating literally everyone else. Clearly, the Republicans — or their successors — will need a new base and a new charismatic politician to build a platform around.

It will take a while. Ike was a charismatic politician, but he didn’t do anything to rebuild the base; rather, after the 1932 election, the modern Republican governing majority did not get its charismatic leader for 48 years — 12 elections!

But the Republicans, once they’re severed from the toxic Trumpist wing, might be able to actually start attracting new voters. As a friend of mine puts it, the Reagan coalition is failing because it was made up of voters “on the wrong side of the animating question of postwar American history”, and the sooner it realizes this, the better. Because as long as they’re in denial (and the Trumpists are clearly in denial, to the tune of  a functionally nonexistent minority vote) …

… would be able to admit that yes, their last generation of governance was based around a coalition on the losing side of what is now a half-century-old issue, and that the so-called Party of Ideas needs some damned new ideas damned fast if they hope to remain relevant at all.

But they can’t do that until they finally succeed in cutting out the cancer at their core, which itself won’t happen until their activist base stops misidentifying what their party’s cancer actually is (hint: look in the mirror). Fortunately for all involved, Donald Trump has made it both obvious and damned easy. Republican leadership needs to take this chance, and recognize that it’s okay to lose the next three cycles or so if the party (or what remains of it) comes out stronger in the end.


* This number is derived by taking the average of the three forecast models’ chances for a Clinton landslide. Amazingly, the polls-only model, not the nowcast, shows Clinton furtherest in the lead.

** I.e. Americans who aren’t Trump supporters.

*** Most likely, either (a) because the Republicans get their shit together and find a candidate who can ensure the Trumpian nominee (probably Donald J. Trump) doesn’t get nominated in 2020, leading to The Donald making his own run and fragmenting the remnants of the Republican base, or (b) because the other Republicans finally have enough and defect en masse … possibly to the Libertarians?

On the new Mormon temple

On the new Mormon temple
philadelphia-pa-temple-exterior-day2016
Mormon temple, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Like the Catholic cathedral, it lies in Logan Square’s monumental precinct.

Sacred architecture has always been designed to instruct. Stained glass was developed as way to convert windows into mosaics that told stories from the Bible to what was then a mostly-illiterate audience. The Romanesque and Gothic modes were both meant to glorify God; the Romanesque, following the basilica template, implied God as lawgiver (at least before an understanding of the template was lost), while the Gothic mode emphasized the connection of God to light. The difference between the lighting of a Romanesque and a Gothic sanctuary would have been striking to a pre-electric-era audience.

Similarly, modes of churchbuilding developed by Protestant dissidents used simplicity to instruct. A room whose only ornament is a cross will inherently be focused on it, and church then becomes instruction in the full scope of symbolic representation. Quaker meetings take this to its logical extreme, ditching even the cross in their pursuit of an internal understanding of God. The appearance of this mode was deliberate — a theological response to the Catholic and early Protestant use of ornate and complex architecture as a mirror of God’s glory.

Baptistry
Baptistry, Mormon temple, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The lessons of what any sect finds most important can be found in the way they construct their most sacred spaces. How do they use ornamentation, if any? Which stories do they choose to represent? Do they emphasize the concrete or the ethereal? The days are long gone (at least in the West) where god was simply an idol behind an altar.

This brings us to Mormon temples. After some seven years, the Philadelphia temple is complete, and is structurally unlike any other sacred space in the city. For, where the focal point of every sacred space constructed in the Abrahamic traditions for the past 1500 years or more is focused around the rite of assembly — the sanctuary, the most sacred part of a church, is always a place of assembly — the Mormon temple, their most sacred space, eschews this altogether. A blithe reading of a temple’s site plans would suggest it has everything except for the sanctuary in it.

Ordinance Room - A
“Garden” instruction room, Mormon temple, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This is why going on a tour of the temple is so important. (It’s also why the Mormons could stand to continue to run periodic tours of their temples even after dedication.) Mormon temples have no true focal point — instead, the way to read the temple is to walk the temple in the manner in which it is meant to be walked. The progression of the rooms reveals what they find truly important. To walk the temple is to be instructed.

The first thing you notice when you enter the temple is how unbelievably sumptuous the reception area is. The temple is replete with oil paintings (including an enormous naturalistic mural) and mirrors in lavish gold frames; the floors are in rich maple wood and marble and Chinese carpets; all throughout the interior is the most lavish plasterwork seen in this city in half a century. The Mormons clearly believe in complex, lavish style as a mirror unto God.

Celestial Room - 1C
Celestial room, Mormon temple, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This room lies directly underneath the Angel Moroni on the main steeple, and if it weren’t so damn ornate, Quakers could probably happily hold meeting here as well.

On the ground floor is the baptismal font they use to baptize dead ancestors into the faith, one of their more controversial practices. (This, they go to great lengths to stress, is a ‘gift’ that the dead can either accept or reject.) The next floor up is dedicated to changing and preparation rooms — Mormons only wear white once they pass this point.

On the third floor are the instruction rooms, perhaps the most masterful allusion to The Pilgrim’s Progress ever conceived. These are a pair of rooms, beginning with one dominated by a large mural of the land around the temple when untouched by human hands, and then leading into a second, somewhat more theatric room marked by the heavy use of gold trim. In front of both is what they call the “celestial room”, perhaps the closest thing to a traditional sanctuary a temple has — a room meant for reflection, and designed to symbolize heaven.

Sealing Room
Sealing rooms aren’t just where Mormons conduct marriages; they are physically the highest rooms in the temple and, by implication, the room reserved for the most sacred rite in it.

On the fourth floor are what they call “sealing rooms.” This is the highest most people will go in the temple, and these are the rooms where the Mormon marriage right is performed. Plush altars are found in these rooms — Mormons marry over the altar. For all intents and purposes, the sealing room is the temple’s climax.

In so doing, Mormons are telling us what they find most important. The temple symbolizes the process of growing up: baptism is, among other things, a representation of birth and rebirth; the instruction rooms (which culminate with the celestial room) the process of learning about the world about oneself and the role of God in that world; and the sealing rooms, placed at the very top, represent the rite that ends the growing-up phase and begins the one of rearing others, the single most important action in the Mormon world — marriage. (They believe that the rite is quite literally eternal, by the way — the closest parallel I am aware of is how Parvati is always incarnated as Vishnu’s wife whenever he descends to Earth in Hindu lore.)

solomon_temple
Mormon temples are ultimately patterned after King Solomon’s

Let us be clear here, too. Mormons believe that their temple (which is somewhat akin to a cathedral, in that there is only one for a large area) is a reflection of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. While it may be, it is but a reflection, and that, weakly so. Solomon’s Temple is an evolution on the Tabernacle, a structure whose design and materials are specified to an architectural plan’s level of detail in the Bible, and the structure was optimized to the worship rites of Hebrews 3000 years ago. But the functions of the Jewish Temple and a Mormon temple are wildly different — the former was mainly a place of sacrifice and exultation unto the Lord; the latter, one of indoctrination and of marriage. The reflection holds because, for both, the most sacred rites were performed at the temple — and that’s about it.

Strip away the theology and the controversies, and it is an uplifting message. It may or may not be the message that appeals to you — it doesn’t really appeal to me (no matter how cute that one usher was) — but it is worth reflecting that it is a message, and it is a message cleverly told and taught in the very way the temple is designed.

The American-ness of Mr. Trump

Trump’s post-DNC meltdown has been spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, that in a week he collected about as many major gaffes as gaffe-prone politicians like Joe Biden can make in their entire careers.

It’s also telling, though. Trump gaffes aren’t like Biden gaffes. Biden gaffes are relatively harmless and occasionally funny, and he has been able to turn them into their own sort of political capital in the past. No, Trump gaffes are dark insights into a man whose worldview is fundamentally un-American.

And it is because they are rooted in this mindset that is utterly at odds of American self-conception that the vast majority of people have no choice but to react with abject shock. It is not as if politicians haven’t previously made successful Presidential runs based on little to no political experience (see, for example, Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama).

But even then, these politicians have collectively made a social contract — bought into our shared values. Trump clearly has not and is unlikely to ever do so, and so outside the relatively small regressive-populist base he appeals to has next to zero wider appeal.

Understanding the American metanation

Most nations are ethnic. Indeed, the typical definition of nationDictionary.com gives it as “a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a governmentpeculiarly its own” — can be distilled to landed ethnicityThis is fundamental to understanding European issues: Greeks, Italians, Slovenes, Spaniards, Dutch, Germans, French- and Englishmen, and so forth all consider themselves distinct and unique nations. Indeed, the modern Western notion of “nationhood” arose in large part to explain what made these places different.

Americans have historically not subscribed to this notion. We are, we are reminded in school, a nation of immigrants. And the history of American nationhood is one of assimilation as different waves of migration from different places work hard and enter the middle class (often despite fierce resistance). Irish-Americans, Jewish Americans, Italian-Americans, and Slavic Americans have all fully assimilated; Asian-Americans are relatively late in the assimilation process (with Indian-Americans lagging about a generation behind East Asian-Americans); Latin-Americans in the middle; and West Indians and African immigrants in the first stage. And from there, they subdivide into the dozen or so American nations.

This is why we can talk about the peoples of the United States being united by a metanation,* which here I am defining as “a grouping of nations united by a sense of shared ethnicity”. While the idea is relatively new — Google “metanation” and the top hit is this book — one can fairly argue that post-Roman Europe is its own metanation, and Chinese identity can be thought of as essentially metanational rather than national. There is also evidence that the largest-scale long-term trend in the world today is the reorganization of economy and polity from something associated with antropological nations to metanational blocs.

The metanational ties that bind us are deep and developed in two primary phases, both marked by war: a high sense of personal liberty, a pervasive distrust of political authority, commitments to freedoms of speech and religion and a deep desire for equality of opportunity … and a fundamental sense of un-landedness. That is, while individual American nations are be clearly landed — Northerners and Southerners are clearly quite different — there is a deep sense that the American metanation has no such ties.

ft_16-07-11_eu-usdiversity_overallMy friend puts it as: American identity is creedal rather than ethnic in origin. And because it is a fundamentally creedal conception, Americans believe  — deeply — that a diversity of peoples, values, and opinions is a good thing, because out of that diversity grows a richness of experience of the shared creed.

That is why this chart exists: no matter where in Europe one is, immigrants are in some other entrenched nation whose national identity comes first and foremost. Not so in the US: because we are all the descendants of immigrants, the vast majority of us believe in a metanational identity that welcomes new ones.

“Ethnic American”

malone-enten-gopcrackup-22Even so, there is an interesting trend — one that has spontaneously developed in a few places (mostly rural) but is strongly associated with the Appalachian nation — and that is of people who claim an “American” ethnicity. Recall here that the Appalachia is a classic nation, a landed ethicity that first developed** in the heart of the Appalachians and subsequently spread across the Tennessee Valley and into the Ozark and Ouachita mountains.

It’s also important to remember here that Appalachia functions as a buffer between the broader North and South, that there is no American nation less urban and more rural, and finally that — historically — the region was the most persistently underdeveloped part of the country. (That “honor” has shifted south into the Mississippi lowlands.) In short, unlike most other parts of the country, Appalachia received relatively few immigrants, and so, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, began to develop a skepticism that immigration really was a good thing.

Every American nation is marked by deviations from the metanation. It is not at all a coincidence that what fires up Trump’s base and disgusts everybody else is the deviations which mark the Appalachian nation, namely an atavistic stringently role-based culture, from which Appalachians’ increased comfort with authoritarianism derives, and the development of an independent ethnic identity. The mainstream does not see itself as at all “ethnically American” — such a thing feels deeply and fundamentally alien to us.

To call oneself “ethnically American” implies there is a “real America”, i.e. an American nation in the anthropological sense, which in its turn implies that people who aren’t part of that nation are not and cannot ever be “real Americans”.*** But this is utterly contradictory with the creedal sense of identity that binds the rest of the American metanation! People with this worldview, which in the US are largely limited to Appalachians, share sensibilities with European nationalists, not their cousins elsewhere in the United States.

The Rise of Trump

A trend towards political populism and charismatic politicians (or at least politicians that were charismatic in their time) marks Appalachia. And, while the region was part of the Democrats’ Solid South until the civil rights movement brought about the collapse of the Progressive coalition, the Appalachian trend towards populism deeply fragmented the region even as the Southern Strategy recaptured Tidewater and the Deep South for Republicans. Bill Clinton, for example, made a career out of being charismatic during this fractured era — for a time, we could speak of Appalachians as being either progressive populist or regressive populist, depending on whether they hued left or right.

The development of the Big Tent, Mr. Clinton’s most lasting contribution to American politics, was arguably the progressive-populists’ high-water mark. Obama used it as the foundation of his governing coalition, and the Big Tent remains Hillary’s base.

However, even as it developed a strong national presence, the progressive-populist movement rapidly aged and died, replaced by an increasingly-solid regressive-populist Appalachia. Remember the execrable “real America” from above? Throughout this era, that phrase was used time and again — a dog whistle, as it turns out, meant to appeal to self-styled “ethnic American” Appalachians, but a phrase that the rest of us didn’t have the mental equipment to handle — if we are all immigrants’ descendants, then what the hell is a “real America”?

The post-Reagan Republican governing (or opposition when the Big Tent governed) coalition became fundamentally Southern and often focused on Texas.++ But this coalition was assembled in the late 1970s, right as Baby Boomers first came of age, and proved unable to recruit Gen X’ers in the ’90s or early 2000s or Millennials today. Because it was a direct outgrowth of racially tinged politics, the post-Reaganites were also unable to attract minority votes+++ and this lack of growth vectors in the formative period has led to the post-Reaganites steadily losing power as their poor white Southern^ base grew older and became increasingly important voices in the party, even as the Big Tent quite literally gobbled up all of the growth vectors.

Suddenly we see the Tea Party in a new light. It was a Republican watershed — the collapse of the post-Reaganite coalition as an internal rebellion, led by regressive populists and subsequently the charismatic politicians they put into power, scoured the coalition’s more moderate branches (the last remnants of the small-government Northeasterners that once formed the party’s core). There is enormous irony here: The post-Reagan coalition, like the Solid South before them, used the South as a votes engine to power the North’s opposition party into a position of dominance.

And so, as the Reaganites evolved into the post-Reaganites — that is, as the coalition’s center moved from the Northern opposition party to Texas politics — the party began to slowly strip away the Northern elements. The Tea Party was the point when the Republican Party transformed from a coalition itself governed by Northern or North-allied interests into a truly Southern party. Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat is part and parcel of this, as a Southern regional party is effectively toothless at the national level.

But the party has become fundamentally ideologically opposed to what they have to do to be relevant (i.e. redefine its values and principles). This is because the party’s post-Reaganite losses are also of those whose politics it needs most desperately to attract to become relevant once again — that is, libertarians (especially as it becomes increasingly clear that libertarianism vs. progressivism is the dominant Millennial ideological conflict), antimachine urban Northerners, and minorities — and neither their leadership nor their base has any appetite for developing an agenda that can appeal on a national level. Libertarian views conflict with social conservatives’ in culture wars and those same culture wars soured Northerners on the Republicans, and of course the whitewash is peeling and the racism (dressed up, once again, as nationalism) is quite visible.

A party rapidly losing clout while suffering internecine squabbles leading to a vacuum of leadership? For the first time, perhaps ever, in American history, an opportunity has arisen for a fascist politician — a charismatic playing on regressive-populism nationalism — to take the reins. Enter Trump, a man whose supporters (largely confined to Appalachia) revere for being a “brash outsider” and who literally everybody else sees as a dangerous, toxic windbag.

It’s also important to note that the Republicans’ leadership have consistently, and subtly, distanced themselves from Trump. They were even doing it at the RNC, the moment when the party is ostensibly supposed to unify behind a candidate. Major donors, such as the Koch brothers, have refused to fund Trump, instead focusing on downticket races. And then Trump gets involved …

But this is fundamentally the problem of the Republican Party. Trump is the voice of their base. Up to now, they had been able to find somebody bland enough to run nationally. Trump isn’t. Indeed, his immediate post-DNC meltdown shows a candidate disastrously unfit to be President. Americans will go to the polls in November and tell Trump “Fuck No” and he will implode in a Cheeto-colored financial apocalypse and it will be glorious.^^ But, in thirty years of wondering why they weren’t attracting new voters while stripping away every position new voters would be attracted to, the Republicans have also laid bare a path for other Trumps clear through to their base.

Because it is now clear what their base truly wants. It is ugly, it is authoritarian, it is nationalist, it is fascist, it is dark, and it is deeply and fundamentally the antithesis of what being an American means. And people are reacting exactly the way one would think they would to someone who is existentially opposed to what they believe, in their hearts, to be true.


* Some “grammarian” is inevitably going to whine about the concatenation of Greek and Latin roots. To which I respond: you do realize that “palfrey” comes from a Latin concatenation of Greek and Celtic roots, right? No? Go away, then.

** Generally out of Celtic ancestry. While Pentecostalism’s heartland is associated with the Appalachian nation, their ancestors mainly came from Scottish Presbyterian stock. For example, in the formative stage of the Appalachian nation, Presbyterian frontiersmen in Pennsylvania clashed with the established Quakers in the state’s historic core; the former are now part of the Appalachian nation.

*** This is, by the way, the root of Europe’s problems with Muslim immigrants. Les maghrebbiens cannot ever be French; Turkish immigrants cannot ever be German; their sensibilities are fundamentally alien to those of the — landed, recall; not creedal — French and German identities.

Similar lines showed in Brexit, which essentially amounted to Englishmen wanting to assert control over British identity, something the Scots and Northern Irish balked at so strongly that a full Brexit is all but guaranteed to include Scottish independence and lead to a coin flip over Northern Ireland’s fate.

The modern European metanation is still developing; unlike the American metanation, where the individual American nations develop out of different ideas of which metavalues are most important in different places (realized as local value systems), the modern European metanation must be fundamentally syncretic, a task made increasingly difficult by a new blossoming of European nationalism (some of which is known to be funded by Russians looking to destabilize their western neighbor).+

+ Incidentally, Russians don’t see themselves as “European” at all. Instead, they call themselves northern Eurasians, a region whose outline looks suspiciously similar to old USSR’s.

++ Texas is also a nation with its own unique ethnic identity. Texans (or at least the ones writing the tourist literature) understand this, however, and celebrate themselves for their apartness. (“Texas: It’s Like A Whole ‘Nother Country!”) This ability to celebrate one’s differences while still belonging is also a metanationally American trait, by the way; the reason why Appalachians get into trouble is because claiming an “American ethnicity” presumptively claims the right to speak for all of us when in reality they only speak for their own nation, Appalachia, and not the American metanation as a whole.

+++ Except for the Cubans, which largely defected to the Republicans when Mr. Clinton proposed easing relations with Castro’s Cuba (remember, they were and still are refugees from the Castro regime).

^ Something I don’t really draw attention to in this post is that the American metanation is actually a second-order metanation. (So is the modern European metanation.) Americans have long recognized the North-South split — those are first-order metanations. One can perhaps argue that Appalachia — a Southern nation — is so obsessed with claiming an American ethnic identity because it is also the furtherest removed nation from American metanational norm (related to the region spending 150 years — and counting! — as a buffer rather than a core), i.e. that Appalachia is now the least American American nation in terms of adherence to broader metanational norms.

^^ Hopefully.