Two Americas

Nicco Mele
4 min readDec 7, 2020

It’s a bright, cold Sunday morning with snow on the ground. The kids have evacuated the house at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the snow before it melts. With any luck, none of them will break any bones. I started to do some holiday shopping — online, of course — and got stuck. There is no other company or brand that elicits such complicated, contradictory feelings for me as Amazon. In so many ways, it is an essential utility for our life — and in so many ways, what’s wrong with the country.

Is the more powerful force in American politics greed? The pandemic has exacerbated these long running issues of income inequality: if Jeff Bezos gave each of his 876,000 employees a $105,000 bonus, he’d be left with as much money as he had at the beginning of the pandemic. And yet it will be a struggle for me to avoid Amazon this week for purchasing everything from winter boots to holiday gifts to the ingredients for my homemade mincemeat pies.

In one form or another, greed has undermined most of our institutions, from higher ed to journalism to the U.S. Senate. Right now, the Federal Reserve is pumping money into Wall Street — a strategy guaranteed to make the rich richer — while the Congress (or specifically, the Senate) won’t pass a relief package for everyone else. From dentists to port-a-potties, monopolization is at an all time high, further concentrating wealth in the hands of a ludicrously small number of Americans. (On that topic, this column by Matt Stoller should be required reading.)

It is easy to sit in judgement and see the problem of greed as the problem of the Republican Party. After all, Trump is about the purest embodiment of greed the culture has ever produced. If only it were so easy. Greed permeates American culture, infecting both political parties. You can see it in Biden’s narrow victory, and it is foundational to my Rule 1: It Will Get Crazier.

In Wisconsin, there are 536 communities that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016. This past November nearly all — 509 — voted for Trump again. Why? It’s the economy, stupid. The Washington Post writes:

The parts of America that have seen strong job, population and economic growth in the past four years voted for Joe Biden, economic researchers found. In contrast, President Trump garnered his highest vote shares in counties that had some of the most sluggish job, population and economic growth during his term.

Trump fared well among voters who said the economy

Nicco Mele

formerly of @LATimes & @Kennedy_School - author of The End of Big - lots more at — Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.