In President Barack Obama’s exit interview on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he admitted that he did not believe Donald Trump could win the presidency because he was living in “the bubble” of the White House. Obama’s admission is an honest and a welcome one. But he has the excuse of occupying the most unique job in the country. For members of the media, political, and public policy spheres who are tasked with knowing and recognizing trends in the country, there is less of an excuse for the utter failure to recognize what was truly going on in 2016.
The acknowledgement of these bubbles, and the importance of breaking out of them, ought to be part of everyone’s resolution on how to approach the Trump era in 2017 and beyond.
In his 2012 book Coming Apart, Charles Murray offered a “bubble quiz”, a test intended to indicate how close or far one is from the typical experience of life for mainstream white Americans. The test is available online, and with the addition of a query about takers’ zip codes, Murray has now amassed an enormous amount of self-reported data which marks the distance between the experiences of those who thought a Trump election was inconceivable and the white middle and working class voters who elected him. According to Murray, of the 100 zip codes with the “thickest bubbles”, New York City represents 34, with Manhattan accounting for 18; San Francisco is second with 29, followed by Boston with 15. And for those seeking to escape the bubble but can’t afford to fully break from the tenor of those cities, there’s always college towns.