There’s talk of epochal change in the United States. Commentators in the media, historians, supporters, and even some critics have started to compare the potential of Joe Biden’s presidency to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. The Republican Party meanwhile faces an existential question of how to move forward without Donald Trump. Is American political life at an inflection point?

Jeet Heer, a columnist for The Nation, and the author of the new newsletter The Time of Monsters, believes it is: While it’s unclear if Trump made permanent changes to the American right’s approach to issues like trade, immigration, and foreign affairs, his presidency was already transformative—and may have accelerated political polarization in ways that drive the culture-war politics Republicans are embracing today. But as Heer sees it, Biden is emblematic of a deeply changed Democratic Party, even if Biden himself is a transitional figure. The key changes to watch, Heer says, are the Democrats’ focus on a new economic agenda and the Republican’s commitment to a cultural one; and the key question is which will be stronger than the other over the next four years and beyond.


Graham Vyse: So, what is happening?

Jeet Heer: There are several transformations happening. One can question whether Trump’s presidency achieved much, but it was transformative in that it took certain pre-existing trends and maybe sped them up. One trend is polarization along educational lines, where Republicans have really picked up support among non-college-educated voters, who aren’t necessarily poor voters. Republicans actually do much better with non-college-educated voters who are small-business people that have a little money. Democrats are really solidifying as the party of the college-educated.

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