By now it's a cliché, or at the very least, a commonplace: There are two distinct Americas, red and blue, and in this divided republic "tens of millions of Trump opponents cannot communicate with tens of millions of his supporters. There is no viable vocabulary. There is no shared reality."
That's how the NYT's Roger Cohen frames it, and virtually everyone would agree that Cohen frames it accurately. Political polarization and tribalism and self-reinforcing echo chambers have demarcated red from blue and created a kind of antebellum sectionalism nearly as detached as blue from gray. The only thing that both sides agree on is that there is no common understanding of where we've been, where we are, and where we're going.
From this, Cohen proceeds to frame another cliché — only this time, though just as familiar, it's a peculiar one. "This [absence of a shared reality] is the chasm to which Fox News, Republican debunking of reason and science, herd-reinforcing social media algorithms, liberal arrogance, rightist bigotry, and an economy of growing inequality have ushered us."
"Liberal arrogance." With equal disapproval Cohen heaves it into the cesspool of Fox News, anti-intellectualism, and right-wing bigotry. Such equal-parts damnation is also part of seemingly obligatory both-sides-ism. We are two distinct Americas because we choose to be two distinct Americas; the arrogant blue is as culpable as the anti-intellectual (etc. etc.) red. "America needs the conversations it’s not having," muses Cohen. "They start, for both sides, with listening."
Ah but liberals have listened, and Cohen himself delineates what they've heard from the right: gibberish about "welfare queens" and unlimited guns and wicked government and also wicked environmental regulations and "illegals" taking American jobs and the need to drag a parochial God into public schools and "We lost our discipline and our moral code in this country … [and s]o we need honest Trump to shake things up."
Although Cohen throws "liberal arrogance" in with the sins of the right, it's instructive that he offers no similarly asinine liberal arguments to match the above from the right. The reason for this omission is, of course, that contemporary liberalism is fundamentally rational; it is empirically based and thus proceeds on the basis of the verifiable. There is, it should be admitted, a faction on the left that violates the fundamental rationality of contemporary liberalism. But it is mostly young, largely naive, and has, of late, been rejected by liberalism's main body.
But back to liberals' "arrogance." Is it arrogant to be confidant in sound public policy, to note the social harm of unlimited guns or urge the protection of our planet or argue — empirically — that government can be a force for good? And is it arrogant of liberals to unsympathetically remark on a white working class that not only votes for its own sabotage, but has led the rest of us to this hellish nightmare of a Trump presidency?
For decades the left has warned that the right's fundamental irrationality could bring us to grief. Well, we have arrived. The right doesn't see it because the right chooses not to see it, which is to say, the right is as willfully blind as it is broadly destructive. Is it arrogant of blue America to cease attempted communication with — in effect, to give up on — a red America that has folded its arms in ruinous intent?
Cohen says "there are hateful racists among Trump supporters; there are also many decent, thoughtful, anxious, patriotic Americans who felt they were losing some part of their country’s essence." Let us grant that; let us grant that the thoughtful ones, in voting for Trump, merely experienced some sort of temporary insanity. Accordingly, they will soon flee the irrational herd — but they must first see for themselves the ruin they have caused. No amount of liberal argumentation will lead them back to thoughtfulness; they cannot be reached — for they reside in unreachable red America. So be it. Liberals' only choice is no choice at all. They must simply wait this out. That's not arrogance. It's reality.