Some of the snoots living in Blue America sneer that the inhabitants of Red America are ignorant, living in a fantasyland. But in many ways, Red America understands Blue America better than Blue America understands Red America. It doesn’t have much choice: The news media, the entertainment business, technology and social media, and the commanding heights of big business live in Blue America and largely share Blue America’s biases, assumptions and points of view. Some of them are at least a little aware of their ignorance — Dean Baquet, the editor of The New York Times, confessed in 2016: “We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.” He might have added guns, farming, and much else to the list of things his staff doesn’t get.
But Blue America sees Red America only in dribs and drabs: When J. D. Vance’s excellent “Hillbilly Elegy” was first published in 2016, the reaction to that book in progressive intellectual circles put me in mind of the death of Tejano singer Selena in 1995: Selena had 100 percent name recognition in 10 percent of the country and 0.00 percent name recognition among the other 90 percent, where people were perplexed by the intense outpouring of grief at her murder. They were seeing the tip of a cultural iceberg.
Urban progressives who were surprised by the Trump phenomenon and shocked by QAnon are the same ones who are made anxious and repulsed by things that are commonplace in the rest of the country, from the customs of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches to gun culture in the South and Southwest.