(RAD) At a time when American society is going through a period of wrenching change and is deeply divided across a number of cleavages, the country is unusually vulnerable to external influence. Although weaker than the U.S. in conventional terms of military and economic power, Russia has sought to take advantage of domestic divisions in the U.S. to sow chaos and reap the benefits of a weakened Western alliance. Each week brings new revelations about what techniques Russia has employed against the U.S. and contacts between Trump campaign affiliates and a foreign power, but it remains unclear to what extent Russian actions had an impact on the thinking or behavior of American citizens.
American society is experiencing dramatic upheaval across a variety of dimensions. The overall population is increasingly diverse in terms of race, religion, sexual identification, and a host of other markers. Traditions are giving way to new norms, such as the rapid transition to the acceptance of same sex marriage by many Americans. Today, fewer Americans attend church than did so in the recent past, making America less distinct from other developed countries. Women now make up a majority of college students and are slowly making gains in the workplace, changing the nature of the way people work, even as automation and technology are changing the kinds of jobs available. Sexual assault is now a frequent topic of conversation, bringing to light behaviors that had recently been hidden. Rural areas are resentful of “coastal elitists” and Republicans are taking aim at universities, which they see as spreading liberal ideas and generally having a negative impact on society. Democratic activists are pushing progressive change to build on the trends washing across the country and the gains of the Obama administration, while traditionalists are mobilizing to return the country to what they claim are its roots—an era when these social forces were less visible. […]
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