Robert Putnam, author of the unfalsifiable big-think text Bowling Alone, told Maclean’s last week that “America is moving toward a caste society.” His next book is called Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, which sounds pretty exciting if you, like me, are obsessed with the question of whether life in America is easier or harder than it was 30 years ago. In this case, “easier” means “more fair.” I think we can agree that in the ideal America, the decisions an individual makes would be more important to the course of her life than the circumstances of her birth. Getting born to two married, upper-class parents is difficult to pull off, and we should probably offer a second chance to the kids who blow this crucial first choice.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the Tea Party is its members’ claims about who they are. Tea Party groups continue to identify as grassroots, non-partisan coalitions of citizens from every walk of life, when we all know that they’re white racist Republicans or, sometimes, white racist libertarians. By “know,” here, I mean “assume in a way that makes us feel guilty about our own closemindedness.” There is no quantitative proof that Tea Partiers are more bigoted, GOP-affiliated and prone to sunburn than the average American, after all. For that you’d need some kind of comprehensive, long-term survey, and such a thing would be too good to—oh, you shouldn’t have, David Campbell and Robert Putnam of Notre Dame. And just in time for my birthday, too.