In the United States, we have a population that is no longer recognizable as American in the same way that previous generations were still arguably American. Foreigners have always seen the United States as a place with a weak innate culture, even long before the waves of European and later international immigration began impacting its character.
Probably the largest change is the decline in strong Christian belief, even among those who profess to Christianity. Many of the core teachings of the Bible, especially those around gender, have been either downplayed or are actively denigrated. The same goes for the established churches, which have tended to follow along with the Protestants in innovating religious doctrine and general practice.
Furthermore, there is wide agreement, apart from in some parts of the conservative tradition, that the American founders were evil people and that their ideas were flawed, if not actively wicked. Whether or not the founders were good or bad, right or wrong, is less relevant than the general abandonment of the personality cults that characterized the American character. The maintenance of those history cults is now decidedly a niche pursuit — a lucrative niche, but not a defining one.
From this comes the search for new ‘identities’ to use to define the inchoate masses of American citizens. They can be categorized by colors, beliefs, or affinities for different kinds of popular culture, but it is hard to speak of a single tribal category to which they all belong. They are people with citizen papers, but they are not citizens of anything resembling a coherent nation. To the extent that a minority of people engages within the political process, it’s rarely out of a sense that that political process embodies anything sacrosanct — the branches of government are political utilities, rather than inviolable structures of a legal order.
Even most plumb-line New Deal supporters, like your grandparents probably were, would not recognize the youngest generation as American in the sense that they saw the term, without even considering matters of race. Apart from a small number of fast urban women from the 1920s, or members of the bottom-lower-class, it would be hard for them to recognize the life patterns of today’s youth as anything that would be acceptable to civilized opinion at the time.
Even for the baby boomers, the generation currently enjoying political authority, understanding how greatly the heirs to their revolution differ in their own ways of life, especially in the area of hang-ups around ‘relationships,’ is tough for them, because they at least experienced the tail end of the old order, to give them something tangible to react against.
Given that there is such a sharp disconnect in life patterns between these generations, we should expect that the political form of the state should change as sharply as the personal forms of life have, as it has already done over the last few decades.
Is it possible, given a people so profoundly disconnected from one another, even at the family level, to continue to run a coherent state?