What was once an intra-new-class fight over the size and scope of government has become a struggle to define the American nation between the new class on one hand and Donald Trump, his national populists, and a few new-class fellow travelers on the other. The new class has incredible resources at its disposal, from the expansive and appealing ideology of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” to communications, tech, state and local governments, bureaucracies, and the courts. Trump has a Twitter account, half of a cable network, Mitch McConnell, the Supreme Court, and 63 million voters.
One reason the battle is so pitched is that, as the new class multiplied in numbers and strength, the divide between it and the rest of the country grew into the Mariana Trench. The culture of the new class, which originates in Charles Murray’s “super-zips” and extends into the suburbs, has little in common with, speaks even a different language than, residents of exurban and rural America whose votes go to Trump.
It is on the issue of guns that this incomprehension is most pronounced. The cable news anchors expressing frustration and disbelief that the latest shooting may not result in tighter regulation of firearms are sincere. They live safe and satisfying lives without guns; why can’t the rest of the country do the same? Yet the spokesmen for “doing something” do not appreciate the equal sincerity of gun owners, whose weapons are not just possessions but also, on some level, part of their identity.