Four years ago, after Trump won, there was a lot of talk in the press about “getting outside of our information bubbles.” Liberals hear one set of media voices, the thinking went, while conservatives hear another entirely. The smart thing to do was to make an effort to listen to voices you didn’t really want to hear.
I’m not sure many liberals actually did that. The New York Times’ occasional “Trump voters in this Ohio diner are still supporting Trump” stories may have become self-parodic through repetition, but they also represented a modest attempt to bring new perspectives to the paper’s readers. Those stories were routinely greeted with widespread derision and threats to cancel subscriptions from readers who, it seemed, believed they already understood the right-wing point-of-view well enough, thank you very much. An attempt by The New Yorker to do a live interview of Steve Bannon — yes, an odious figure — produced a near-revolt.
If more liberals had poked their heads outside the their bubble, they might have gained a more nuanced understanding of what Trump voters want. The simplest explanation has been that racism is driving the Trump vote — and that viewpoint has a lot of explanatory power, but it isn’t complete. Yes, Trump is racist. And yes, more than a few of his most vocal fans are racist, too. And Trump voters who weren’t motivated by the president’s racism didn’t consider it a dealbreaker. That is troubling.