American identity has not collapsed. The GOP has abandoned it.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

In an editorial piece at The New York Times titled “The Collapse of American Identity, Robert P. Jones writes:

Like Americans overall, large majorities of Democrats believe minority groups such as African-Americans, immigrants, Muslims and gay and transgender people face a lot of discrimination in the country. Only about one in five Democrats say that majority groups such as Christians or whites face a lot of discrimination.

Republicans, on the other hand, are much less likely than Democrats to believe any minority group faces a lot of discrimination, and they believe Christians and whites face roughly as much discrimination as immigrants, Muslims and gay and transgender people. Moreover, only 27 percent of Republicans say blacks experience a lot of discrimination, while 43 percent say whites do and 48 percent say the same of Christians.

Taken as a whole, these partisan portraits highlight contrasting responses to the country’s changing demographics and culture, especially over the past decade as the country has ceased to be a majority white Christian nation — from 54 percent in 2008 to 43 percent today. Democrats — only 29 percent of whom are white and Christian — are embracing these changes as central to their vision of an evolving American identity that is strengthened and renewed by diversity. By contrast, Republicans — nearly three-quarters of whom identify as white and Christian — see these changes eroding a core white Christian American identity and perceive themselves to be under siege as the country changes around them.

I find it troubling that Jones and the Times characterize these changes as a "collapse of American identity."

There are two aspects to the polling data trends described in the column:

  1. The shift of American identity from "white, male, and Christian" to a diverse array of colors, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and beliefs;
  2. The ongoing refusal of white Christians (and therefore the Republican Party) to accept that shift.

Jones starts out his column with a G.K. Chesterton quote about how "the United States, unlike European countries, did not rely on ethnic kinship, cultural character or a ‘national type’ for a shared identity." Given that, it would seem that the phenomenon he is actually describing is the fact that one party is sticking to what we have always claimed to be the founding principles of this country, while the other is finally being called out for not really caring about those principles.

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