Now. Here and now. The present tense. That’s where you’re living at this moment.
But then we switch, mysteriously, to the past tense: “they meant.”
What happened? The explanatory little phrase “C. Wright Mills argued” seems to have thrown the editor off — jerked him or her from the present-tense track to the past-tense track.
Two choices here:
- When American talk, they mean… OR:
- When Americans talked, they meant…
But you can’t have it both ways. Except in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Which is brilliant, but definitely not a work by the brilliant Jill Lepore.)