Should-Read: Noah Smith: Thoughts on Will Wilkinson’s Post on Cities: “Will Wilkinson, one of the greatest essayists working today…

…a wonderful article… two competing visions…. Here are some great excerpts:

[Trump] connected with these voters by tracing their economic decline and their fading cultural cachet to the same cause: traitorous “coastal elites” who sold their jobs to the Chinese while allowing America’s cities to become dystopian Babels, rife with dark-skinned danger — Mexican rapists, Muslim terrorists, “inner cities” plagued by black violence. He intimated that the chaos would spread to their exurbs and hamlets if he wasn’t elected to stop it… 

To advance his administration’s agenda, with its protectionism and cultural nationalism, Trump needs to spread the notion that the polyglot metropolis is a dangerous failure… 

When Trump connects immigration to Mexican cartel crime, he’s putting a menacing foreign face on white anxiety about the country’s shifting demographic profile… 

Suppose you think the United States — maybe even all Western civilization — will fall if the U.S. population ever becomes as diverse as Denver’s. You are going to want to reduce the foreign-born population as quickly as possible, and by any means necessary. You’ll deport the deportable with brutal alacrity, squeeze legal immigration to a trickle, bar those with “incompatible” religions. 

But to prop up political demand for this sort of ethnic-cleansing program — what else can you call it? — it’s crucial to get enough of the public to believe that America’s diversity is a dangerous mistake. 

I think this is all pretty much true… but… I think he glosses over a few important things…. It’s not really cities that are doing well, but certain kinds of cities, suburbs, and towns… with high levels of human capital…. It’s not city vs. country, it’s innovation hubs vs. old-economy legacy towns. Also, Will depicts cities as diverse, tolerant places. That’s true in some ways…. But in some important ways the picture is wrong. Many American cities remain extremely segregated, especially between black residents and others. Chicago is a thriving, diverse, fun, relatively safe metropolis-unless you go to the poor black areas…. So I’d focus less on the urban-suburban-rural distinction, and more on the division between new economy and old. But anyway, I really like Will’s message at the end of his post:

Honduran cooks in Chicago, Iranian engineers in Seattle, Chinese cardiologists in Atlanta, their children and grandchildren, all of them, are bedrock members of the American community. There is no “us” that excludes them. There is no American national identity apart from the dynamic hybrid culture we have always been creating together. America’s big cities accept this and grow healthier and more productive by the day, while the rest of the country does not accept this, and struggles. 

In a multicultural country like ours, an inclusive national identity makes solidarity possible. An exclusive, nostalgic national identity acts like a cancer in the body politic, eating away at the bonds of affinity and cooperation that hold our interests together.

That’s exactly the message we need to be repeating. It’s the only thing that can hold this country together. Either America succeeds as a polyracial nation, or it doesn’t succeed at all.