At Least Try To Understand Biden Voters

An American voter that you can actually say the DC media ignores.

David Brooks is at it again.

The New York Times columnist, who I think is well-meaning, had another column that he wrote with the intention of getting repeatedly dunked on. It sometimes feels like he is trolling, but he really does seem sincere in this piece.

A Brooks piece can take some interesting turns. One of his general themes seems to be that Democrats/people on the left are the root of all that is bad in the nation. On occasion, he writes things criticizing elitist lefties for being out of touch but instead inadvertently makes himself appear out of touch. For example, the passage in this column:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

Not everyone may know what capicollo or soppressata is, but that is likely because they are either not Italian-American or do not live around Italian-Americans, and not because they are working-class people. While I kind of believe this “friend with only a high school degree” is a fabrication, the way he writes this is condescending. Plus, if you are an Italian-American with “only a high school degree” and you know what capicollo is because your mom bought it at the neighborhood Italian grocer growing up, and that makes you an elitist that is ruining America?

Anyway, back to the current Brooks-ism, which is a continuation of this theme. The “elites” are the real reason why Trump is doing so well. Not the racism, misinformation, or media hysterics over Hunter Biden, but instead a variation on the “latte-sipping liberal” trope that those of us on the left have heard for decades now.

The absolute rule within the Very Smart and Sensible Members of the Grand American Discourse seems to be that the Trump voter must get every benefit of the doubt, no matter what they do. January 6 insurrection? Obviously, it happened because libs pointed out the famous “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS” t-shirt that Trumpers love so much. Laughing with Trump while he mocks a disabled reporter? It’s those fancy sandwich shops and their four-syllable ingredients. Still supporting Trump despite three and counting indictments for attacking the very basis of our society, democracy? Obviously, this would have never happened if it were not for @mychoicegirl341 on Twitter calling Republicans monsters for forcing a pregnant child rape victim to give birth.

As for liberals, well, we on the left side of things rarely get such “please put the gun down, sir, I am just here to find out how you feel about President Trump” kind of kid-glove treatment. We get told that Black Lives Matter protests are going to destroy the Democratic Party despite most of the protests being non-violent. We get told by people like Professional Silly Boy Chris Cillizza that fighting for women’s health care is a mere trifle and out of touch with what those fabled Real Americans care about.

These are apparently assumptions, because rare is the think-thunk piece about trying to understand where Biden voters are coming from. After Brooks’ penned the latest in a long line of “we must understand the mind of a Trump voter,” Nicholas Grossman wrote about this punditry imbalance over at The Bulwark.

Seeing these arguments, I was struck by the asymmetry of our political moment: I’ve never seen centrists like Yglesias say to people on the right (or center) that it’s important to read progressives (even if they’re super woke, or whatever the left-wing equivalent of Hanania’s racism is). Nor have I seen traditional conservatives like Brooks call for empathy with people on the left, or claim that any left-wing extremism is merely an inevitable reaction to centrist and conservative elites’ mistakes.

Reporters don’t do safaris to “Biden Country,” seeking to understand the voters who put him in the White House. While there are pieces explaining how, for example, black women in Georgia suburbs made a big difference in the 2020 election, there’s nothing approaching the ongoing coverage of white men in Ohio diners.

In case I had a blind spot, I turned to crowdsourcing, asking on social media whether anyone knew of examples of journalists making the case for trying to understand the Biden voter. Few could think of any. The two closest were a September 2019 National Review article by Jim Geraghty called “Inside the Mind of the Biden Voter” and recent podcast interviews by former GOP Rep. Joe Walsh, such as with Charlotte Clymer, a trans woman who’s worked for LGBT rights and pro-choice advocacy groups.

More than 81 million Americans voted for Biden. As Grossman outlines, the only economic group where Trump did well in 2020 was voters with incomes over $100,000. The majority of Biden voters, 53%, did not have a college degree.

The trap that people like Brooks fall into is what they think of as “working-class non-elite Americans”: This group is always thought of as white. But that ignores millions of non-white, and non-straight, Americans who work blue-collar jobs. Again, this makes THEM appear out-of-touch, not the liberals. Perhaps they should try to go to a barbershop in a racially diverse neighborhood in Cleveland and ask them why they support Biden and do not like Trump. Or ask women in a coffee shop about how they feel regarding the increasing attacks by right-wingers on their rights.

This huge blindspot has led them to make one of the biggest political miscalculations in punditry history, the Red Wave That Wasn’t during the 2022 midterms. More recently, their handwringing about how prosecuting Trump will make Americans lose faith in the legal system is proven unfounded based on polling. Instead, most Americans will lose faith in our legal system if Trump skates. Even the Sacred Cow of the Sensible Pundit, “wokeness” is something Americans either don’t care about or support, and as Grossman points out anti-wokeness is an obsession of mainly right winger culture warriors and, well, elite punditry.

Perhaps, the David Brooks of the world should take a little safari to a Blue State. I suggest maybe Minnesota, or a blue area in my home state of Pennsylvania. You know, get out of your “bubble.”

The last word goes to Bruce Springsteen with a reminder of what the American right has done to the working-class, “My Hometown,” a lament of the dying towns during the Reagan administration.