Or maybe it's better to say, the cities on the Left Coast live in bubbles. But what does this mean, being in a bubble?
It is usually criticism directed at cosmopolitan myopia. We see mostly our politics, beliefs, and practices, and we have very little idea about what makes rural types tick. Then an election happens, then some buffoon becomes president, then we in the city are surprised and baffled by the scale and size of rural idiocy. This, to my best understanding, is what someone means when they say: "You Seattle city slickers live in a bubble."
The bubble criticism might be old, but I think it became a thing after the Clinton years. During this period, something like dark energy began acting on the differences between politics in the city and its outside areas. Now, dark energy is a force that's unknown but is expanding the universe at a faster and faster rate. Something like this force is at work in the US's political culture.
The present election has revealed that the space between urban politics and rural politics has grown so vast that neither can recognize the other. For the rural areas, Trump is on the right and Joe Biden is a socialist. For many in Seattle, Biden is on the same section of the right (moderates) as the city's mayor, Jenny Durkan. Our left left begins with someone like U.S. House Rep. Pramila Jayapal, passes through Creative Justice co-director Nikkita Oliver, and ends with Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant.
This is our bubble. We want science to determine political decisions (climate change, COVID-19), we want law enforcement not to punish poverty or colored skin, we want our health not to be a bomb that bankrupts us. But those who accuse us of living in a bubble think we need to get out and connect with people who want none of those things.
Not long after terrible election results bombarded the bubbled people in Seattle, Portland, and San Fransisco, Katie Herzog, a cultural critic who once wrote for this blog, tweeted:
Dems and the media have got to ditch this elitist id pol nonsense and find some way to reconnect with the working class or they’re dead. They won’t.
— Kutie Herzog (@kittypurrzog) November 4, 2020
I understand what she is getting at, and I feel that the campus of the consciousness of US workers has locational changes and distortions (it mostly points in the correct direction for those in the city areas, and mostly in the wrong one for those in the country). But what I ask is: Why should I try to reason with people who refuse not to be wrong? Why, indeed, do they not make the effort to understand the people in the bubbles?
Ok, I'm going to be harsh here, so hold on to something. As I wrote in "Trump Won, Even If He Loses," the rural people in the US are much like the rural people in Zimbabwe: they vote for obvious buffoons. In Zimbabwe, it was Robert Mugabe; in the US, it's Donald Trump. During the election, Mugabe would flood the rural areas with bags of sadza (corn meal); in the US, where calories are cheap, its racist windbaggery.
But what I failed to point out in that post is this important difference between the rural people in Zimbabwe and the US: The former tend to know they have less knowledge about the wider world than those who live in the city or who have an education. On average, a Zimbabwean rural person knows they do not know a lot of things.
I recall that at one time in Zimbabwe, Mugabe, facing an education budget that was large and that produced poor results (low passing rates), decided to change the curriculum in rural schools so that students could stop studying things like literature and could instead focus on things like crop rotation.
What did the rural people say to this? "We know what you are doing. You want to keep Shakespeare to yourselves." What was not confused in the rural mind was the status of city students like me attending programs that were internationally recognized. We could become doctors, professors, computer programmers, agricultural economists, broke writers. A strictly rural curriculum would have condemned them to their lot. Rural Zimbabwe knew at least this much. Knowing more made a difference.
This is not the case in the US. And it is at this spot (much of rural America's obliviousness of its stupidity) that work with a shovel will soon hit upon the barely buried dynamite of racism. The bulk here will go so far as to believe what a man with zero experience in immunology has to say on the subject. In this respect, the country Zimbo is a bit better than the American one.
How in the world is a bubble person supposed to communicate with a person whose knowledge of the world is so dim? If you wear a mask, you are a Democrat? Covid cases are increasing because we are testing too much? Anthropogenic global warming is a hoax? MS-13 presents a real threat to national security? The wall will protect us? We in the bubble have a moral responsibility to call such thinking as nothing but stupid.
There should be no conversation with these types, and Biden's promise to represent all Americans is a dream within a dream within a dream. And, to be honest, we should say to those who voted for Trump for feeling-reasons rather than for reasons related to the "icy water of egotistical calculation": Yes, we will leave this utter nonsense, return to our bubbles, and pass laws to decriminalize cocaine and heroin, to fund public transportation, and to root out murderous law enforcement officials. We have lots of work to do in this bubble. We will do our best at a federal level, but we will and we must make progress on a local level.