Speaking Truth to Both the Right and the Left

Emily Bazelon in the New York Times:

Like many public intellectuals who are worth reading, George Packer and Jonathan Rauch don’t toe a predictable line in American political and intellectual debate. They despise Donald Trump and the disinformation-heavy discord he has spawned. But they don’t share all the views of progressives, either, as they’ve come to be defined in many left-leaning spaces. Packer and Rauch are here to defend the liberalism of the Enlightenment — equality and scientific rationality in an unapologetically Western-tradition sense. They see this belief system as the country’s great and unifying strength, and they’re worried about its future.

Packer’s slim book, “Last Best Hope,” begins with patriotic despair. “The world’s pity has taken the place of admiration, hostility, awe, envy, fear, affection and repulsion,” he writes of the perception of the United States abroad. This might have rung true in the throes of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which may also be when it was written, but it now sounds overwrought. So does Packer’s claim that “a lot of Americans have explored their options for expatriation.” (The number of expatriates is rising but small, and the cause of the uptick is likely a change in tax law, according to The Wall Street Journal.)

Once Packer gets going, however, he is forceful.

More here.