by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Whatever your stance on pickup trucks, one thing is clear: The much-vaunted concept of “Real America,” particularly as it relates to the election of Donald Trump, remains a sore spot for many in the press. It’s been a minor obsession on both sides of the political aisle for a long, long time. What’s less often discussed, however, is this: For the left, the “Real America” stereotype has also become a comforting, well-worn crutch, and a great way to avoid looking in the mirror when it comes to assessing political loss.
It’s a lot more fun, after all, to bemoan how you don’t understand those rednecks in “Real America” than to admit that your team failed. It’s certainly more soothing to blame your overflow of “sophistication” — who among us could possibly understand all those rubes? — than admit that your party’s health-care, foreign-policy, and national-security strategies aren’t exactly knocking the cover off the ball.
Both before and after the election, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy was widely cited, and sometimes even fetishized, as the key to understanding Donald Trump. The book, which highlights Vance’s upbringing in a dysfunctional “hillbilly” culture, is certainly worth reading as a window on a group of Americans, many of them Trump voters, who are too often overlooked. But it doesn’t explain the conservative suburban mother of four who voted for Trump. It doesn’t explain the upper-middle-class Trump voter, socked by Obamacare surcharges and hoping for a tax cut. It doesn’t explain the religious voter horrified by Health and Human Services rules — recently overturned in court — that could penalize doctors for refusing to perform gender-transition procedures.