It’s commonplace to read article after article by someone on the left (construed broadly) who attempts to understand ‘real Americans’–the entire Heartland Whisperer genre comes to mind. Yet articles trying to explain Blue America to ‘real Americans’ seem to be very thin on the ground. And it’s a problem for Republicans, if not in the immediate moment (boldface mine):
But here’s the other side of the coin, which no one ever, ever, I mean ever talks about: Republicans are totally out of touch with blue America.
Here’s what I mean. When you first saw the Hatch comment [“I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.”], you probably thought he was talking, consciously or subconsciously, about black people. And maybe on some level he was. But I have an alternate theory. He was talking about some Utahans he knows….
Sasse’s book has page after page of anecdotes about the shiftless youth of Nebraska. In the set piece that frames the book, some students at a small college decorated only the bottom third of a Christmas tree because none of them thought to try to procure a ladder. This made him shudder at the thought that these people would someday be running the country.
At some point while reading the book it hit me: He’s not describing the world I live in at all. In the world I inhabit, young people are killing themselves to get into Ivy League schools. They’re volunteering with the elderly and learning Mandarin and entering Math Olympics contests and otherwise pressuring themselves to the extent that half of them need meds by the time they’re 15. If the young people I’m around couldn’t find a ladder, they’d design and build one.
And then it further struck me: While Sasse does wave at this opposite problem for a page or so, it’s clearly not really on his radar screen. And it’s not on Hatch’s either, apparently. And the reason it isn’t on their radar screens is that they don’t really know these people.
There’s a problem in rural Utah and Nebraska, but it’s not really one of shiftlessness. It’s one of structural economics. These are places that have been carpet-bombed by the global economy. …if young people today in these places have less initiative than the young people of 30 years ago did, maybe it’s because they see less opportunity for themselves…
Republicans don’t know [Blue] America. They don’t represent it, by and large. Oh, there are a few. Barbara Comstock in northern Virginia, say. Some snuck into those districts in 2010 and 2014, but they’ll mostly lose in 2018, and in presidential-election terms, these counties and districts go Democratic by 12 or 15 points or more…
So it’s actually the Republicans who are out of touch—with the most productive people and elements in this society. Of course, they’ll never pay any political price for it, because we’re a bunch of elitists, you see, not like those “real” Americans. Well, take us out of the economy and see how real we are. These blue Americans make the economy work, and we want a government that will make it work for everyone…
Leaving aside some of Tomasky’s snooty triumphalism, there is a real divide. They really don’t know coastal or urban areas very well (other than from Fox News propaganda). At some point, Republicans will no longer be able to tilt the playing field in their direction, and then this will come back to haunt them.