The Fifth Narrative

George Packer in The Atlantic:

In the past few weeks, the Biden administration’s domestic agenda has come into sharp focus: a bipartisan Senate bill for physical and environmental infrastructure projects nearing passage; new statistics showing that COVID-19 relief has dramatically reduced poverty across demographic groups; an executive order aimed at concentrated market power, promoting competition and worker power; a $3.5 trillion budget proposal with large outlays in social spending, paid for by taxes on the rich and corporations; presidential speeches on behalf of better jobs for Americans at the bottom and middle of the economy. The sum of these and other policies is more ambitious, and more ideologically pointed, than the Biden campaign slogan “Build Back Better.” President Biden is using the resources of the federal government to reverse nearly half a century of growing monopoly, plutocracy, and inequality. Regardless of whether this agenda goes far enough, or whether Congress allows it to go anywhere at all, the administration is pointing the country in a fundamentally new direction.

Biden hasn’t given this new direction a name. His mind goes to the particular, not the general. He speaks in sayings, anecdotes, and exhortations. He provides reassurance, not inspiration. But successful presidents from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan understood that the people need a vision. If Biden won’t give his a name, I’ll try.

In “The Four Americas,” an article adapted from my book Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal, I described the four dominant narratives in this country over the past half century: Free America, Smart America, Real America, and Just America.

More here.