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In his opening presidential campaign speech, Donald Trump declared, “The American Dream is dead,” thus launching his campaign theme: Make America Great Again. This belief in the American Dream’s death was the “defining characteristic” of Trump’s enthusiastic Republican primary support, journalist and conservative commentator Timothy Carney soon realized, as he described in a recent interview with the American Communities Project.
In 2016, Carney set out to understand why the American Dream seemed dead to so many. He knew the widely discussed explanations: factory closures, more equal rights for women and minorities, old white men angry about losing their privilege.
Carney’s new book, full of personal stories and studies, is the product of his search for answers. Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse reveals how an invigorated community is the backbone of the American Dream. In his journey through America, Carney uncovered that “places collapse if they are not planted with institutions of civil society that connect people together and provide a sense of purpose. The places that thrive have those institutions, and in America, for the middle class, those institutions are mostly church,” as he put it in our interview.
Read on for more highlights of Carney’s research, his viewpoint shifts, and his ideas for rebuilding civil society. (Click on the anchor links below to jump to specific points of our interview.) Listen to the full, 34-minute interview.