The national elite press does not, on the whole, welcome the decline of blue model America and, like academics and others whose interests, self-image and power in the world are adversely affected by the reshaping of American society, it naturally and almost inevitably interprets many of the changes taking place through the conceptual model of the Grim Slide from the time of Ronald Reagan to the present day. The changes in American society look like the systemic erosion of the social achievements and protections of the progressive era, and the economic misfortunes, falling wages and declining job security of many old media journalists reinforce their dark forebodings about what the transformations mean.

The elite press was once the custodian of a cultural consensus about the way America should work. There was always disagreement, and many people were angry about the role of the press but in the blue model’s heyday those dissenting voices were confined to the margins both by the structure of the American media system and by the strong social consensus in favor of the blue status quo. These days, the elite press is less custodian of a consensus than embattled defender of a controversial vision. Opposing voices are louder and more effective, and the underlying assumptions of the elite’s worldview are more openly and widely contested.