Economics isn’t the whole story, but What’s Red, Blue, and Broke All Over? America, by Joel Kotkin, is worth reading.
“America’s diverse regions are critical to its ability to out-compete virtually all advanced economies. Great presidents, and effective political parties, recognize this reality. Franklin Roosevelt did not conduct the New Deal just to help New York; he brought jobs, money, and electricity to vast parts of the heartland, the South, and Appalachia. Ronald Reagan’s policies may have shocked New York glitterati, but won over its voters, and helped spark a financial boom that transformed Gotham into one of the great comeback stories of our era. Bill Clinton may have wowed the coastal crowd, but he never forgot where he was from, and created policies that sustained economic growth across much of the country.”
The author thinks we need better political leadership to unite us. I think the bigger problem is that half the nation (or whatever it is that exists between Canada and Mexico) hates the other half. Crazy leftists have come to dominate the Democratic Party, entertainment, big business, and academia. These are committed to the destruction of everything I care about. It’s hard to see what greater good is going to unite them and me.
You can’t just make up a foundational narrative
What’s lacking is a foundational narrative that all of us share. People like David Brooks seem to think that we can discover and articulate a new foundational narrative for America that will resonate. Implicit is the idea that there are lots of foundational narratives; there are not; there is only one: God made us, the world we live in, and everything that exists, from nothing. We screwed it up. He sacrificed enormously to fix it. His son, before we killed him, established the church. There isn’t another foundational narrative, just various more-or-less-obviously-goofy fables, and trivial re-arrangements of deck chairs.
UPDATE 2 January 2018: Another take here, disputing Kotkin’s thesis. Extra points for mentioning the Byzantine Empire. Back then it was Blues against Greens.